Monthly Archives: July, 2013

FDA Proposes Limit on Arsenic in Apple Juice

logo1The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it is proposing to establish a maximum level of arsenic acceptable in apple juice. The threshold, 10 parts per billion, is the same as the Environmental Protection Agency’s requirement for drinking water.

The agency will accept public comments on the proposed action for 60 days.

Nearly two years ago, reports from the TV show of Mehmet Oz, MD, and later Consumer Reports, raised alarms about the amount of arsenic appearing in apple juice. The FDA’s own subsequent investigation found that overall arsenic levels were generally below the 10 ppb threshold. Of those that were higher, the levels of inorganic arsenic — identified as a known carcinogen — were all below 10 ppb.

Organic arsenic, which is normally found in the earth’s crust, is essentially harmless, according to the agency. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “Good” news that might not last

Dear Research Advocate:

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to increase NIH funding by $307 million in FY14, an increase largely due to the unwavering support of Labor-HHS subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin and Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski. The Senate bill also increases funding for the CDC by $1.6 billion over FY13. It is important to note that the Senate bill does not include sequestration reductions, but Mikulski has vowed to fight these dangerous, continued cuts. (See my brief statement on this week’s Senate action.) We all realize that these proposed funding levels are not adequate to capitalize on the current opportunity in science and respond robustly to the needs of patients and their families, but they are significantly better than what the House has in store. The overall funding level in the House Labor-HHS bill, which includes NIH, CDC and AHRQ, is 26% less than the Senate’s proposal, leaving the outcome of any kind of budget deal bleak indeed. “Compromise” between the two houses would be significantly worse than a continuing resolution, and sequestration is still in place. In short, the welcome action of the Senate is not likely to become the law of the land.  We have work to do!

Congress can be an insular place, as evidenced by cuts policy makers are weighing for research and other basic government functions. Outside Congress, the implications of underfunding are all too real. Take the story of Navy veteran and cancer patient Bryan Fazio, who exemplifies American values and whose story is a testament to the importance of continued research. We may lose this amazing young man, but with continued research we can save others struggling with this disease. Please join me in contacting Members of Congress and urging them to support robust funding for health and research during the FY14 appropriations process and beyond.

Lawmakers across the pond recognize the importance of investing in research. British Chancellor George Osborne announced a capital investment commitment of £1.1 billion ($1.661 billion) a year in the science budget through the end of the decade, influenced by the strong case made by the U.K. National Academies for the economic benefits of research (see report). The U.K., under a conservative government and with an austerity budget, has made a national commitment to science and research. They are not alone. Australia’s federal government recently announced a $13.5 million ($12.42 million U.S.) investment in research to improve primary care, including a research partnership with Canada. Other nations are following suit and ramping up research; isn’t it ironic that the U.S. wrote the playbook but now appears to be ceding global leadership? I don’t think it is a choice the American people are making. Based on our polling data and a number of recent radio interviews around the nation, I have come to the conclusion that Americans are taking for granted that policy makers are giving research a high priority, and since policy makers are not hearing from their constituents, they are not thinking twice about cutting research as part of deficit reduction. People are surprised to find out that research isn’t the priority it once was; surprised to learn about cuts that have already occurred; and openly shocked to hear about further cuts being proposed. I implore you to join me in setting the record straight and connecting the dots for people you know who might be taking research funding for granted. We must inform Americans and then translate the shock of understanding into advocacy. We have been urging more Americans to speak out via Twitter using the hashtag #curesnotcuts. Please join in.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Major Study Finds That Overall Population Health in U.S. Has Improved, But Has Not Kept Pace With Other Wealthy Nations

Americans are living longer lives but are spending more years afflicted with major illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and mental and behavioral disorders, according to a study published online in the Journal of American Medical Association. Researchers show that the overall population health improved in the U.S. in the last few decades, however, illness and chronic disability now account for nearly half of the country’s health burden.

The objective of the study was to measure the burden of diseases, injuries and leading risk factors in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 and to compare these measurements with the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The researchers found that U.S. life expectancy for both sexes increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010; during the same period, healthy life expectancy increased from 65.8 years to 68.1 years. During this time period, improvements in population health in the U.S. did not keep pace with other wealthy nations. The authors note that the U.S. spends the most per capita on health care across all countries yet lags behind other high-income countries for life expectancy and many other health outcome measures.

In a recent national public opinion poll, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say that their quality of life has been improved by medical research and that the cost of health care is the most critical health issue in America today. We must continue to urge policy makers about the importance of funding medical research if we want to live healthier – not just longer – lives.

The full study is available online: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710486

Editor’s Note: This study is supported in part by the Intramural Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Stadium Expansion at the University of Nebraska Includes Concussion Research Facility

The University of Nebraska isn’t the first school to integrate academic concussion research into its football program; the Matthew Gfeller Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has performed groundbreaking work for years now, and the Virginia Tech/Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences has made incredible strides in understanding if and how football helmets can protect against concussions.

Nebraska is the latest entrant; the hope is that the school’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior can lead to further understanding and better diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. The center — CB3 as it’s known, according to this Associated Press story — will be located within a newly expanded portion of Memorial Stadium, where the Cornhusker football team plays its home games. The video above details the CB3 and other features of the expansion. Continue reading →

Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley’s Statement on Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Markup of FY14 Bill

July 9, 2013

 The Senate subcommittee markup of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education FY14 spending bill goes a step in the right direction in softening the blow sequestration has dealt to the hopes and expectations of patients and their families. Sequestration’s across-the-board spending cuts have sent no-confidence signals across the full ecosystem of medical research and innovation in the public and private sector. There’s a reason that, according to a recent national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America, nearly half of Americans (48%) do not believe we are making enough progress in medical research in the U.S. This nation can’t push ahead forcefully with one hand tied behind its back. Our global leadership in research and development is at risk as other countries accelerate investments in research and development and roll out the welcome mat for young scientists unable to secure grants in the U.S. as a result of spending cuts. We commend Senators Tom Harkin and Jerry Moran and members of the subcommittee for their efforts to restore the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, and urge the full committee to do still more. There’s no downside to doing all we can to support research that will help us improve health, drive our economy and contribute to the nation’s security. That’s the track record of the NIH; this is not the time to shortchange it.

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The Science Policy Group at the University of Pennsylvania

By Shaun O’Brien, co-president of the Penn Science Policy Group. O’Brien is a fifth-year immunology graduate student at the Perelman School of Medicine (a Research!America member).

Shaun O’Brien

Shaun O’Brien

In response to the need to voice the concerns of young biomedical graduates and post-docs over the federal funding climate, graduate student Mike Allegrezza founded the Science Policy Group at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past 6 months, our group has been involved in advocacy efforts along with examining other specific issues pertaining to careers, graduate education and other hot-button issues.

In terms of advocacy, the group has been very active in opposing sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts for federal agencies, and educating the public about the impacts of sequestration on medical research. In the time leading up to the sequester, our group wrote an op-ed for The Daily Pennsylvanian, had terrific op-ed pieces by Alana Sharp and Ellen Elliot on the group blog, participated in interviews with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and even had Nicole Aiello, a third-year doctoral student at Penn, do an interview with NPR! Continue reading →

A First Glimpse of the “Armadillo’s Ears”

By Peter J. Hotez

An excerpt of a blog post by Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, published in The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) blog. Peter Hotez, MD, PhD is the founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of the Departments of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine (Research!America member) where he is also chief of a new Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. Hotez is the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and the Baker Institute Fellow in Disease and Poverty at Rice University.

Dr. Peter Hotez- Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Peter Hotez
Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.

The National School of Tropical Medicine, launched at Baylor College of Medicine in 2011, was established to offer a potent North American colleague to the century-old British tropical medicine schools in London and Liverpool and tropical disease institutes in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Basel, Hamburg, and elsewhere in Europe.

An essential cornerstone of the National School is translational research and development, with several core faculty members actively engaged in developing new diagnostics and vaccines for the 17 major diseases of poverty known as the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The NTDs represent a group of parasitic and related infections that actually cause poverty because of their long-term and disabling effects on childhood cognition and physical fitness and development, adult productive capacity, and the health of girls and women. They are the most common afflictions of the extremely poor in developing countries. Continue reading →

Does Spanish Austerity Provide a Glimpse into the Future of American Research?

Spain’s economy was harshly affected by the 2008 financial crisis and, later, the eurozone crisis. (Just this week, the country’s budget minister said Spain has reached a turning point and may at last be emerging from its financial troubles.) Its efforts to slash government spending left few unaffected, and a recent article by Agence France-Presse detailed the effects on Spanish researchers.

The Prince Felipe Research Center, in the coastal city of Valencia, lost around half of its funding from the Spanish government; as a result, it closed half of its 28 labs and let go 114 workers. María Jesus Vicent told the wire service that her lab had made great strides in prostate cancer research, but there’s no money to move forward into animal testing.

The fallout is obvious: fewer people employed (in a country that already has a staggering unemployment rate) and medical breakthroughs left on the shelf. Less obvious is this anecdote from the story, which demonstrates a near elimination of return on investment: “Now the center’s hi-tech installations are falling into disuse, with its two mechanized operating theaters for animal research now being used for training courses instead.” Continue reading →

Guest Post: LFA’s National Lupus Advocacy Summit

By Sara J. Chang, Government Relations and Public Policy Manager, Lupus Foundation of America.

Lupus“We are lupus activists, and we’re here to tell our stories and make our voices heard throughout Capitol Hill!” That was the empowerment felt during the Lupus Foundation of America’s biennial National Lupus Advocacy Summit held June 24-25, 2013.  It is always an energizing and rewarding event for our lupus activists and 2013 was no exception.  We had meetings with 176 Congressional offices, involving 220 people representing 30 states. Our online activists also came out in force, generating 3,503 emails and phone calls to Congress during the two-day event!

We took to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $32 billion and to pass H.R. 460, the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act (PATA), to ensure access to treatments for lupus and other chronic conditions.  Lupus activists reinforced their request when they presented more than 30,000 petition signatures collected from individuals calling upon Congress to expand the medical research effort on lupus. (You can still sign the online petition at www.cruelmystery.org.) Continue reading →

Neglected Tropical Diseases: Topic of Capitol Hill Briefing/Meetings

On June 17, Research!America hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on neglected tropical diseases in partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), The American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Research!America also led a series of Hill meetings last week with influential congressional offices to discuss some of the successes of USAID’s NTD program and to highlight the need for continued investments. USAID’s NTD program – which was authorized by Congress in 2006 – has helped to deliver more than 580 million treatments to approximately 260 million people through mass drug administration campaigns. We were joined by Georgetown University, Baylor College of Medicine, the Global Network for NTDs, IMA World Health and the Latin America Society for Chagas (LASOCHA). The group – which represented a broad range of partners from organizations that implement USAID NTD programs to patient advocates to leading NTD expert, Dr. Peter Hotez – discussed the importance of the USAID NTD program to their work and updated staffers on emerging issues in NTD prevention and treatment. Continue reading →

The 4th Annual Unsung Heroes of Public Health Awards

CPH

The nominations for the CPH Foundation Fourth Annual Unsung Heroes of Public Health Awards are now open. These awards highlight the return on investment of the nation’s behind-the-scenes disease control and prevention efforts, applaud the staff who run them, and educate policy makers and others about how public health works to save lives, prevent injuries, limit disease outbreaks – and so much more. The awards ceremony will take place December 4, 2013.

Nominations are currently being accepted for the following awards:

  • The Rock in the Pond Award recognizes an individual for outstanding work on a community-based or state-wide public health effort that produced significant positive health outcomes. Past winners of this award include Wade Norwood (2012), Dr. Luis Garcia (2011) and Janet Zola (2010).
  • The Wavemaker Award recognizes a visionary whose work on a large-scale multi-state, regional, national or international public health program has successfully impacted a major public health challenge. Past winners of this award include Matt McDaniel (2012), Dr. Lynn Silver-Chalfin (2011) and Dr. Cecilia Rosales (201). Continue reading →