MT Weekly: Foodborne Illness Outbreaks, Sackler Steers Opioids to China
American Medical Association Issues Urgent Call for Vaping Products Ban
On Tuesday, the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest association of physicians and medical students, issued an urgent call for a total ban on the sale and distribution of all e-cigarette and vaping products. The ban excludes products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as tobacco-cessation tools, which would be available by prescription.
According to a press release, the medical association held a House of Delegates meeting to deliberate over prospective policies amid the vaping uproar, in an effort “to prevent another generation from becoming dependent on nicotine.” As of Wednesday, 2,290 cases of the disease, which was first identified in April, and 47 related deaths had been reported across 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Despite President Trump’s proposal for a sweeping ban on all flavored vaping products, which was made in September, Trump reversed course due to concern for job loss in the vaping industry. According to a Washington Post report, Trump balked on the ban the evening on Nov. 4, the night before the ban was to be announced.
Two Foodborne Disease Outbreaks Strike the United States
As of Thursday, 11 people in three states — Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin — have contracted Hepatitis A, a viral liver disease, and six have been hospitalized. The FDA has “potentially linked” the outbreak to conventional (non-organic) fresh blackberries from Fresh Thymes Farmers Market grocery stores. Because the originating distribution center ships to Fresh Thymes in eight other states — Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania — the FDA is urging consumers not to eat fresh conventional blackberries purchased between Sept. 9 and 30 in all 11 states.
On Friday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Food Safety Alert advising consumers not to eat romaine lettuce from the Salinas California region due to E. Coli contamination concerns. The alert applies to all forms of romaine including whole heads and pre-packaged. Harvest location information can be found on a sticker, label or printed on the package. As of Friday, 40 people across 16 states have been sickened by E. Coli, including seven hospitalizations. On Thursday, Missa Bay, LLC, recalled more than 97,000 pounds of chicken or meat-containing salad products packaged between Oct. 14 and 16. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a spreadsheet of recalled items.
Study Indicates Significant Annual Rise in Anal Cancer Rates
Research + Findings
Diagnoses and deaths by squamous cell carcinoma of the anus, the most common type of anal cancer, increased nearly 3% annually between 2001 and 2016 according to a study published Tuesday. Increases were greatest among male black millennials, white women, and individuals 50 and older.
Although anal cancer has long been considered rare and only high-risk individuals are screened, during the 15-year period nearly 69,000 Americans were diagnosed and more than 12,000 died. Anal squamous cell carcinoma is caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) and can be prevented by HPV vaccination. Anal cancer risk factors include smoking, a history of cervical or vulvar cancers and HIV.
Sackler Family Pushes Opioids in China, Under Affiliate Company
Thousands of lawsuits have accused Purdue Pharma, owned by the billionaire Sackler family, of making false claims to promote overprescription of its opioid painkiller, OxyContin, thereby fueling the calamitous U.S. opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in September.
Now, an Associated Press report reveals how the Sacklers’ Chinese affiliate, Mundipharma, is pushing OxyContin in China through similarly egregious marketing tactics. Such methods include falsely informing doctors that OxyContin is less addictive than other opioids, urging higher doses known to be dangerous, and permitting company sales reps to impersonate physicians when visiting patients in the hospital.
New HIV Vaccine Proves Effective Against Multiple Strains
Researchers from two nonprofits, California-based Scripps Research and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, headquartered in New York City, have jointly overcome a major challenge to HIV vaccine development. When tested in rabbits, their vaccine elicits antibodies effective against a variety of HIV strains as they bind to critical sites of the virus that do not vary much from strain to strain.
Scientists have been working for more than 35 years on an HIV vaccine. The results were published Tuesday in the journal Immunity.
By Carah Wertheimer
Carah Wertheimer is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of specialization include food, health, environment, social justice and community reporting. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, The Denver Post, The Daily Beast, the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and other publications.