July 21, 2018 - July 27, 2018
Health official who urged abstinence
says views have changed
Robert Redfield Jr., director of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, is photographed at the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta,
Thursday, June 28, 2018. Redfield, 66, rose to prominence as a top
researcher into the emerging AIDS epidemic. He has earned praise for his
extensive experience treating HIV patients as well as drug addicts. (AP
New York (AP) - The head of
the nation’s top public health agency once opposed condoms and needle
exchange programs as ways to stop the spread of sexually transmitted
This week, in one of his first
media interviews since taking office, Dr. Robert Redfield Jr. said his
views have changed.
“I think the data is just clear
that these strategies work. When you see evidence that these strategies
work, you need to embrace them,” said Redfield, director of the
Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Redfield, 66, rose to prominence as
a top researcher into the emerging AIDS epidemic. He has earned praise
for his extensive experience treating HIV patients as well as drug
But he also made headlines more
than two decades ago when he was scrutinized for overstating the
effectiveness of an experimental AIDS vaccine. And he was criticized for
being out of step with the public health community on some issues.
In a 1987 booklet on AIDS aimed at
young people, Redfield and his co-author offered no advice on condoms or
other preventive measures, preaching that the best way to avoid AIDS was
to avoid sex until marriage. They wrote, in all caps: “DON’T ENGAGE IN
INTIMATE CONTACT AT ALL. IF YOU HAVE HAD THAT KIND OF CONTACT IN THE
PAST, STOP NOW.”
The booklet came out at a time when
prominent public health leaders, including U.S. Surgeon General C.
Everett Koop, endorsed condoms as one way of preventing the spread of
the AIDS virus.
In a foreword to a 1990 book
entitled “Christians in the Age of AIDS,” Redfield wrote: “It is time to
reject the temptation of denial of the AIDS/HIV crisis; to reject false
prophets who preach the quick-fix strategies of condoms and free
needles; to reject those who preach prejudice; and to reject those who
try to replace God as judge.”
Research showing needle-exchange
programs work emerged in the 1990s. “Science evolves,” Redfield said.
Until this year, Redfield sat on
the board of Children’s AIDS Fund International, an organization that
has long prioritized abstinence before marriage in preventing the spread
Redfield told The Associated Press
this week that it has become clear to him that condoms and needle
exchanges work as part of comprehensive programs to stop the spread of
certain infectious diseases.
“One thing I can commit to is CDC
is not an opinion organization. It’s a science-based, data-driven
organization,” he said.
The CDC investigates disease
outbreaks, researches the cause and frequency of health problems, and
promotes prevention. It has nearly 12,000 employees and 10,000
Redfield was appointed in March.
Like his predecessor, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Redfield had been avoiding
contact with the media. He said he wanted 90 days to learn about the
agency but is now prepared to become more of a national spokesman on
health issues, as some earlier CDC officials have been.
Redfield told the AP his priorities
for the agency include work to identify and stop infectious disease
epidemics around the world, with a keen eye on newly emerging forms of
flu and on germs that develop resistance to existing medications.
Another priority will be ending
AIDS. He told CDC employees in late March that it’s possible to end the
U.S. AIDS epidemic in less than seven years.
Asked about it this week, he backed
off a specific timetable, saying his earlier statement was “an
aspirational goal” and “no one can predict how long it will take.”
But he said he is encouraged that
the number of HIV cases diagnosed in the U.S. was down in recent years,
to just under 40,000 in 2016. If more people can be diagnosed and put on
virus-suppressing medications, that will cut down the number of people
who can spread the disease. Condoms, clean needles and a pill that can
protect a patient from developing an infection are also important, he
“We do have the tools to end this
epidemic. Let’s use them,” he said.
July 14, 2018 - July 20, 2018
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem
plays a game at the Paris Games Week in Paris. The World Health
Organization says that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as
a new mental health condition, in a move that some critics warn may risk
stigmatizing its young players. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu, File)
Keaten & Maria Cheng
Geneva (AP) -
Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds.
The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a
danger in the real world: spending too much time playing.
In its latest revision to a disease
classification manual, the U.N. health agency said Monday that
compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health
condition. The statement confirmed the fears of some parents but led
critics to warn that it may risk stigmatizing too many young video
WHO said classifying “gaming
disorder” as a separate addiction will help governments, families and
health care workers be more vigilant and prepared to identify the risks.
The agency and other experts were quick to note that cases of the
condition are still very rare, with no more than up to 3 percent of all
gamers believed to be affected.
Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of
WHO’s department for mental health and substance abuse, said the agency
accepted the proposal that gaming disorder should be listed as a new
problem based on scientific evidence, in addition to “the need and the
demand for treatment in many parts of the world.”
Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for
the British Psychological Society, warned that the new designation might
cause unnecessary concern among parents.
“People need to understand this
doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is
an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for
help,” she said.
Others welcomed WHO’s new
classification, saying it was critical to identify people hooked on
video games quickly because they are usually teenagers or young adults
who don’t seek help themselves.
“We come across parents who are
distraught, not only because they’re seeing their child drop out of
school, but because they’re seeing an entire family structure fall
apart,” said Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioral
addictions at Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was not
connected to WHO’s decision.
Bowden-Jones said gaming addictions
were usually best treated with psychological therapies but that some
medicines might also work.
The American Psychiatric
Association has not yet deemed gaming disorder to be a new mental health
problem. In a 2013 statement, the association said it’s “a condition
warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be
considered for inclusion” in its own diagnostic manual.
The group noted that much of the
scientific literature about compulsive gamers is based on evidence from
young men in Asia.
“The studies suggest that when
these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in
their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a
drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance,” the
association said in that statement. “The gaming prompts a neurological
response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the
result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”
Dr. Mark Griffiths, who has been
researching the concept of video gaming disorder for 30 years, said the
new classification would help legitimize the problem and strengthen
“Video gaming is like a
non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view,” said
Griffiths, a distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at
Nottingham Trent University. “Gamblers use money as a way of keeping
score whereas gamers use points.”
He guessed that the percentage of
video game players with a compulsive problem was likely to be extremely
small - much less than 1 percent - and that many such people would
likely have other underlying problems, like depression, bipolar disorder
WHO’s Saxena, however, estimated
that 2 to 3 percent of gamers might be affected.
Griffiths said playing video games,
for the vast majority of people, is more about entertainment and
novelty, citing the overwhelming popularity of games like “Pokemon Go.”
“You have these short, obsessive
bursts and yes, people are playing a lot, but it’s not an addiction,” he
Saxena said parents and friends of
video game enthusiasts should still be mindful of a potentially harmful
“Be on the lookout,” he said,
noting that concerns should be raised if the gaming habit appears to be
“If (video games) are interfering
with the expected functions of the person - whether it is studies,
whether it’s socialization, whether it’s work - then you need to be
cautious and perhaps seek help,” he said.
FDA OKs first drug made to reduce excessive sweating
Food and Drug Administration approved Qbrexza, the first drug developed
to reduce excessive sweating, a common condition that can cause anxiety.
(Dermira Inc. via AP)
Linda A. Johnson
U.S. regulators on
Friday approved the first drug developed specifically to reduce
excessive sweating, a common condition that can cause people anxiety and
affect their social lives.
The Food and Drug
Administration approved Qbrexza for excessive underarm sweating and will
be available in October. The drug is inside a cloth wiped over the skin
daily to block sweat glands from activating.
Dermira Inc., refused to disclose the price, as drugmakers normally do.
An estimated 15.3
million Americans have some form of excessive sweating, but only 1 in 4
get treatment. Current treatment options include Botox injections,
surgery to remove sweat glands, procedures using lasers and other
devices, and drugs approved for other conditions that block the body’s
chemical messengers to reduce sweat production throughout the body.
Side effects of
Qbrexza include blurred vision, constipation, burning and itchy skin,
head and throat pain, and dry mouth, eyes and skin.
Dermira said in one
study, 53 percent of patients reported Qbrexza reduced sweat production
by roughly half, versus 28 percent in a comparison group using a
nonmedicated cloth. (AP)
July 7, 2018 - July 13, 2018
California moves to declare coffee safe from cancer risk
California State health officials proposed a
regulation change Friday, June 15, 2018, that would declare coffee
doesn’t present a significant cancer risk, countering a recent
California state court ruling that had shaken up some coffee drinkers.
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Los Angeles (AP) -
California officials bucked a recent court ruling Friday and offered
reassurance to concerned coffee drinkers that their fix won’t give them
The unprecedented action by the
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to propose a regulation
to essentially clear coffee of the stigma that it could pose a toxic
risk followed a review of more than 1,000 studies published this week by
the World Health Organization that found inadequate evidence that coffee
The state agency implemented a law
passed by voters in 1986 that requires warnings of chemicals known to
cause cancer and birth defects. One of those chemicals is acrylamide,
which is found in many things and is a byproduct of coffee roasting and
brewing present in every cup of joe.
If the regulation is adopted, it
would be a huge win for the coffee industry which faces potentially
massive civil penalties after recently losing an 8-year-old lawsuit in
Los Angeles Superior Court that could require scary warnings on all
coffee packaging sold in California.
Judge Elihu Berle found that
Starbucks and other coffee roasters and retailers had failed to show
that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any cancer risks. He had
previously ruled the companies hadn’t shown the threat from the chemical
The state’s action rejects that
“The proposed regulation would
state that drinking coffee does not pose a significant cancer risk,
despite the presence of chemicals created during the roasting and
brewing process that are listed under Proposition 65 as known
carcinogens,” the agency said in a statement. “The proposed regulation
is based on extensive scientific evidence that drinking coffee has not
been shown to increase the risk of cancer and may reduce the risk of
some types of cancer.”
Attorney Raphael Metzger, who won
the court case on behalf of The Council for Education and Research on
Toxics, said he was shocked the agency would move to nullify the court
decision and undermine its own report more than a decade ago that
drinking even small amounts of coffee resulted in a significant cancer
“The takeaway is that the state is
proposing a rule contrary to its own scientific conclusion. That’s
unprecedented and bad,” Metzger said. “The whole thing stinks to high
The National Coffee Association had
no comment on the proposed change. In the past, the organization has
said coffee has health benefits and that the lawsuit made a mockery of
the state law intended to protect people from toxics.
Scientific evidence on coffee has
gone back and forth many years, but concerns have eased recently about
possible dangers, with some studies finding health benefits.
Big Coffee didn’t deny that
acrylamide was found in the coffee, but they argued it was only found at
low levels and was outweighed by other benefits such as antioxidants
that reduce cancer risk.
The state agency’s action comes
about a week after bipartisan bills were introduced in both houses of
Congress to require science-based criteria for labels on food and other
products. One of the sponsors, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, alluded to
the California coffee lawsuit as an example of misleading warnings.
“When we have mandatory cancer
warnings on a cup of coffee, something has gone seriously wrong with the
process,” Schrader said in a news release. “We now have so many warnings
unrelated to the actual health risk posed to consumers, that most people
just ignore them.”
The lawsuit against Starbucks and
90 companies was brought by the tiny nonprofit under a law that allows
private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the
state and collect a portion of civil penalties for failure to provide
The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic
Enforcement Act, better known as Proposition 65, requires warning labels
for about 900 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.
The law has been credited with
reducing cancer-causing chemicals, but it has been criticized for
leading to quick settlement shakedowns and vague warnings that are often
FDA clears 1st generic film strip of addiction drug Suboxone
Linda A. Johnson, AP
U.S. regulators have
approved the first generic version of an under-the-tongue film
for treating opioid addiction.
The Food and Drug
Administration on Thursday approved a generic version of
Suboxone, a film strip that dissolves under the tongue. Used
daily, it reduces withdrawal symptoms, cravings for opioids and
the high from abusing them.
The medication combines
buprenorphine and naloxone. It’s used along with counseling and
other behavioral therapy.
The generic version will be
sold by partners Mylan N.V. and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories SA.
They didn’t immediately respond to questions about when their
version will be available or what it will cost.
Brand-name Suboxone film
costs about $200 a month without insurance.
The FDA said the approval
was aimed at making the treatment available to more people.
June 30, 2018 - July 6, 2018
Fewer US teens smoking, doing drugs ... and drinking milk
Nearly 20 years ago, about nearly half of
high school students said they drank at least one glass of milk a day.
But now it’s down to less than a third, according to a survey released
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, June 14,
2018. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)
York (AP) - Fewer U.S. teens are smoking, having sex and doing drugs
these days. Oh, and they’re drinking less milk, too.
Less than one-third of
high school students drink a glass of milk a day, according to a large
government survey released Thursday. About two decades ago, it was nearly
Last year’s survey
asked about 100 questions on a wide range of health topics, including
smoking, drugs and diet. Researchers compared the results to similar
questionnaires going back more than 25 years.
One trend that stood
out was the drop in drinking milk, which started falling for all Americans
after World War II. In recent decades, teens have shifted from milk to soda,
then to Gatorade and other sports drinks and recently to energy drinks like
Monster and Red Bull.
The survey showed
slightly fewer kids are drinking soda and sports drinks now, compared to the
last survey in 2015.
One caveat: Most
students were not asked about energy drinks so how many kids drink them now
isn’t known. A study from a decade ago estimated that nearly a third of kids
between the age of 12 and 17 were regularly drinking energy drinks.
Kids have shifted from
a dairy product rich in calcium and vitamin D to beverages laden with sugar
and caffeine, which is likely contributing to the nation’s obesity problem,
said Barry Popkin, a University of North Carolina researcher who studies how
“This is not a healthy
trend for our long-term health,” he said.
For teens, the
government recommends 3 cups daily of dairy products - milk, yogurt or
The survey by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducted every two years.
About 15,000 students at 144 high schools were surveyed last year. The
surveys are anonymous and voluntary, and there’s no check of medical records
or other documents to verify answers.
Some of the findings:
- Not as many teen are
having sex, although there wasn’t much change from the 2015 survey results.
Last year, about 40 percent said they’d ever had sex, down from 48 percent a
- There was no
substantial recent change for cigarette smoking, either. About 9 percent are
current smokers, down from more than 27 percent when the survey started in
1991. Ditto alcohol, with 30 percent saying they currently use alcohol, down
from 51 percent in 1991.
- Marijuana use seems
to hovering, with about 36 percent of students saying they had ever tried
it. But overall, illegal drug use seems to be falling, including for
synthetic marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, inhalants, and LSD and other
hallucinogenic drugs. For the first time, the survey asked if they had ever
abused prescription opioid medications. About 14 percent did.
- Another first-time
question: Have you had a concussion from a sport or physical activity at
least once in the previous year? Nationally, 15 percent said they had. The
finding may sound high but it’s not far off from what’s been reported by
some other researchers, said Michael Collins, who runs a University of
Pittsburgh-affiliated sports concussion program.
NIH ends alcohol study, citing funding, credibility problems
evaluates the aroma of a wine in California. On Friday, June 15, 2018,
National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins announced the NIH
is shutting down a study that was supposed to show if a single drink a day
could prevent heart attacks, citing ethical problems that would undermine
the credibility of its findings. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Washington (AP) - The U.S. government is
shutting down a study that was supposed to show if a single drink a day
could prevent heart attacks, saying ethical problems with how the research
was planned and funded undermine its credibility.
The National Institutes of Health used money from the
alcohol industry to help pay for a study that ultimately was expected to
cost $100 million. It’s legal for NIH to use industry money in addition to
taxpayer dollars for research as long as certain rules are followed. The
problem: An NIH investigation concluded Friday that a small number of its
employees had close contact with industry officials that crossed those
Some of those interactions “appear to intentionally
bias” the study so that it would have a better chance of showing a benefit
from moderate alcohol consumption, said NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak.
Those employees, from the NIH’s National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, then kept their interactions with industry
secret, he said, even after the NIH started the normal process for asking
companies or other outside groups to help fund a research project.
Those actions cast “doubt that the scientific knowledge
gained from the study would be actionable or believable,” Tabak told a
meeting of the NIH director’s advisers.
Another concern: Some outside experts who had reviewed
the study plans raised concerns that it was too small and too short to
address the potential problems of a daily drink - such as an increased risk
of cancer or heart failure - and not just potential benefits such as a
lowered risk of a heart attack.
“Purely on scientific grounds, I never really quite
understood why this trial was being done,” Dr. M. Roy Wilson of Wayne State
University told NIH Director Francis Collins after hearing the
investigation’s conclusions. People who have a glass or two of wine -
himself included, he said - “don’t do it for health reasons.”
The research was supposed to track 7,800 people who
were assigned to take either a drink a day, or totally abstain, for several
years. Only 105 people had enrolled by last month, when Collins temporarily
suspended the study after a New York Times article first raised
questions about the funding policy violations.
On Friday, Collins announced he was completely shutting
down the research. “This is a matter of the greatest seriousness,” he said.
The study was being led by Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center in Boston, which said in a statement that it was “deeply
committed to ensuring the scientific and ethical integrity of any research
study involving our investigators” and would review NIH’s findings.
In a statement late Friday, the lead researcher, Beth
Israel’s Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, said he and rest of the research team were
“deeply disappointed” in NIH’s decision.
“We stand fully and forcefully behind the scientific
integrity” of the study, Mukamal said. He added that “every design
consideration was carefully and deliberately vetted with no input or
direction whatsoever from private sponsors, who have had no contact” with
study staff since the trial began.
Aside from how alcohol can impair behavior and
judgment, scientists have long debated if drinking various amounts can truly
translate into a specific health benefit. What the NIH’s alcohol research
agency calls “low-risk” drinking is no more than seven drinks a week for
women and no more than 14 drinks a week for men.
Asked if it would be possible for NIH to try to answer
some of those health questions after the financial controversy, Tabak
responded, “It would not be an easy study to conduct.”