A Citizen’s Pathway Gone Astray –Delaying Competition from Generic Drugs

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In a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, Robin Feldman and Connie Wang write that pharmaceutical companies have become adept at converting regulatory pathways into vehicles for profit-boosting strategies.  They study the “citizen-petition process” that the Food and Drug Administration implemented in the 1970s to give the average citizen a way to voice concerns.  Using 12 years of FDA data, they found that the “concerned citizen” is frequently a drug company raising frivolous or questionable claims in a last-ditch effort to hold off competition.

New Danone Public Benefit Corporation: Wave of the Future for Corporate America?

The tie up between Danone’s North American dairy business and WhiteWave has created one of the top-15 U.S. food and beverages companies by sales, as well the country’s no. 1 dairy business (excluding cheese), reports Fortune.  But the new unit, called DanoneWave, now tops another ranking and one that has nothing to do with food: On April 12, the day the acquisition of WhiteWave was approved, the newly formed enterprise received its status of “public benefit corporation”—the largest company in the U.S. to have that distinction. A benefit corporation has a certain legal framework that is meant to hold a company to a higher standard than the pure pursuit of profit. Instead, it’s mandated to balance the interests of all stakeholders, rather than prioritize shareholders, and is required to create a positive impact on society.

Big tax cuts for the rich leave less for the poor

A group of conservative think tanks wants the nation’s tax system to look more like North Carolina’s, writes the Center for Public Integrity.  In Washington, D.C., the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans have been considering a similar approach — lower federal income-tax brackets and a tax on imports — that some tax experts say would have comparable outcomes. Some of the same conservative groups that convinced states to change their tax systems have advised the Trump administration on economic and tax policy.  But so far, for the working poor, that hasn’t been a great deal. While Congress prepares for the tax debate, single-parents in Asheville worry that the proposed federal tax changes would only make life harder, as North Carolina’s tax reforms did. “They’re going to come for every little penny that you have,” said one. “Where is the help when we need it?”

Countermarketing Unhealthy Food: An Effective Strategy for Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases? Lessons from Tobacco

Image from Youth Food Educators of East Harlem

Countermarketing campaigns use health communications to reduce the demand for unhealthy products by exposing motives and undermining marketing practices of producers. These campaigns can contribute to the prevention of noncommunicable diseases by denormalizing the marketing of tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy food. By portraying these activities as outside the boundaries of civilized corporate behavior, countermarketing can reduce the demand for unhealthy products and lead to changes in industry marketing practices. Countermarketing blends consumer protection, media advocacy, and health education with the demand for corporate accountability. Countermarketing campaigns have been demonstrated to be an effective component of comprehensive tobacco control. This review describes common elements of tobacco countermarketing such as describing adverse health consequences, appealing to negative emotions, highlighting industry manipulation of consumers, and engaging users in the design or implementation of campaigns. It then assesses the potential for using these elements to reduce consumption of alcohol and unhealthy foods.

Full citation: Palmedo PC, Dorfman L, Garza S, Murphy E, Freudenberg N. Countermarketing Alcohol and Unhealthy Food: An Effective Strategy for Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases? Lessons from Tobacco. Annu Rev Public Health. 2017;38:119-144.

Unhealthful Food-and-Beverage Advertising in Subway Stations: Targeted Marketing, Vulnerable Groups, Dietary Intake, and Poor Health

Unhealthful food-and-beverage advertising often targets vulnerable groups. In this study, investigators systematically assessed all print ads (n = 1586) in all subway stations in the Bronx  (n = 68) in 2012. There were no ads promoting “more-healthful” food-or-beverage items (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, water or milk). There were many ads for “less-healthful” items (e.g., candies, chips, sugary cereals, frozen pizzas, “energy” drinks, coffee confections, hard alcohol, and beer). Ad placement did not relate to the number of riders entering at stations. Instead, exposure to food-or-beverage ads generally, and to “less-healthful” ads particularly (specifically ads in Spanish, directed at youth, and/or featuring minorities), was directly correlated with poverty, lower high-school graduation rates, higher percentages of Hispanics, and/or higher percentages of children in surrounding residential areas. Additional analyses suggested correlations between ad exposures and sugary-drink consumption, fruit-and-vegetable intake, and diabetes, hypertension, and high-cholesterol rates. Subway-station ads for “less-healthful” items were located disproportionately in areas home to vulnerable populations facing diet and diet-related-health challenges. The fact that uneven ad placement did not relate to total rider counts suggests ads were not directed at the largest possible audiences but rather targeted to specific groups.

Full citation: Lucan SC, Maroko AR, Sanon OC, Schechter CB. Unhealthful Food-and-Beverage Advertising in Subway Stations: Targeted Marketing, Vulnerable Groups, Dietary Intake, and Poor Health. J Urban Health. 2017;94(2):220-232.

New York City Is Oversaturated with Licensed Tobacco Retail Outlets

For more than a decade New York City has led a historic and successful effort to reduce smoking, driving down smoking rates to historic lows. Despite these efforts, about 950,000 people still smoke and significant disparities persist by education, household income and mental health.  One reason why tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable disease and death in New York City is the overwhelming number of places where tobacco can be legally purchased in the five boroughs.  In a new report, the American Cancer Society Cancer Actions Network recommends that New York City should:

• Establish a cap on retail tobacco licenses

• Restrict access near youth-service entities

• Restrict retail outlet proximity to each other

• Restrict all tobacco sales in pharmacies

• Add restrictions on other tobacco products

Questions for Trump’s FDA Nominee

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The Food and Drug Administration’s approach to consumer protection faces a potential turning point when a Senate committee takes up President Trump’s nomination of Scott Gottlieb to head the agency, writes POGO, the nonprofit  Project on Government Oversight.  Trump has called for slashing FDA restraints on pharmaceuticals, and with Gottlieb’s appointment he would entrust the task to a doctor and former FDA official who has been immersed in the pharmaceutical industry. One of The FDA’s main missions is making sure that prescription medicines sold to the public are safe and effective. The FDA gets much of its funding through so-called “user fees” paid by pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and the money comes with strings attached, giving industry extraordinary leverage over its federal overseer. In Gottlieb, Trump  has chosen a potential FDA commissioner whose financial disclosures list line after line of payments from drug and biotech companies.

Tracking the Effects of Corporate Practices on Health