Nysha Recent News

Public Health and Policy

Albany leads against ‘Tide Pods’

Albany, NY — State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-27th Dist.) and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-36th Dist.) introduced legislation this past Feb. 6 that would mandate child-resistant packaging for Tide Pods detergent packets in New York State.


Laundry detergent contains several chemicals that can be poisonous if ingested, and a number of young people around the country have suffered severe reactions in recent years upon accidentally or even purposely eating the colorful packets.


The American Association of Poison Control Centers has reported 154 calls to poison control centers relating to teenagers ingesting the pods this year, up from 53 cases last year.



Big flu season boosts healthcare industry

New York, NY — While the flu has been sending Americans to doctors and even hospitals in droves this season, it’s also been giving a shot in the arm to the entire healthcare industry, too.


Hospitalization rates for flu have reached record levels, according to the CDC.  (New York State alone reported a 35-percent increase in confirmed flu cases the first week of February, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ordering of financial aid to hardest-hit counties.)


This is leading to higher revenue from increasing hospital visits and drug sales for care providers and other companies all along the pharmaceutical supply chain.


Pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have likewise seen a surge in vaccine sales.


Drug distributors like McKesson, which move medications from factories to pharmacies, and retailers like CVS, are financially benefiting for higher demand for flu medications.


Laboratory companies like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp are also receiving a boost as more sick patients are being sent by doctors for tests and blood work.



House fine-tunes calorie information label rule

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act on Feb. 6.  The bill changes the requirements of a new federal nutritional rule that is slated to go into effect on May 7, 2018.


Under that rule, food establishments with 20 or more locations have to include the calories of each item on their menus.  The newly-passed bill modifies that requirement, giving restaurants and retailers more flexibility on what calorie information must be displayed, and where.


The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to pass and then head to the White House for signing.



Principled professor protests pediatric placebo

Seattle, WA — If you know that a certain treatment is good for people, it is unethical to conduct a placebo study in which you provide that treatment to only half the participating people.

That is the essential complaint made to the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH) this February by University of Washington asthma researcher Dr. Bruce Davidson. 

Dr. Davidson objects to an asthma study in which only 200 of 400 children with severe asthma and low vitamin D are being given vitamin D—compared to the other 200 getting a placebo.

The five-city government-funded study is exploring whether dangerous asthma attacks in kids is preventable with regular vitamin D, a vitamin long associated by many studies with many health benefits—including, apparently, significantly milder asthma.

The principle at play here is not without precedent: A recent pediatric cancer treatment placebo study was successful enough to stop mid-study to give placebo patients the actual treatment.



Purdue calls off Oxycontin marketing to docs

Stamford, CT — Responding to the ongoing opioid painkiller overdose crisis, Purdue Pharma announced on Feb. 10 that it has halved its salesforce—which will also no longer visit doctors’ offices to promote its Oxycontin product to physicians.



Miami battling biters with bug-carrying mosquitoes

South Miami, FL — By releasing millions of non-biting mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacteria into a targeted neighborhood over the next six months, this Florida city is hoping to drastically reduce the number of biting mosquitoes.

The plan is simple: Use infected mosquitoes to spread Wolbachia to non-infected mosquitoes; Wolbachia renders mosquitoes unable to have children.  The plan hopes to drastically reduce South Miami’s number of mosquitos—and thus, numbers of biting mosquitoes carrying the dangerous Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya viruses.

In 2016, Miami-Dade County was the epicenter of the first U.S. outbreak of the Zika virus—prompting a successful mosquito eradication campaign and one of America’s most successful mass disease containment efforts.