Healthcare News May 5, 2012

  • FDA: New drug shortages have dropped

    A federal effort to stem the shortage of lifesaving drugs in the United States is already seeing results, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote Thursday.

    “Today’s six-month check-up demonstrates what government and industry can accomplish when we work together,” Margaret Hamburg wrote in a blog post.

    “While there’s no simple solution, we are making progress.”

    The post comes six months after President Obama signed an executive order stepping up federal efforts against drug shortages, in part by empowering officials to better track them. 

  • Collins: Obama health agency might be leading groups to break the law

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) questioned whether the Obama administration is putting groups that receive its health grants in hot water by asking them to lobby on state and local policy.

    In a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Collins wrote that the administration’s primary disease agency has asked grantees to use their awards “to change state and local policies and laws” about junk food and other health concerns, potentially in violation of federal law.

    The letter cited guidance found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website related to a federal anti-obesity and anti-smoking program.

    In the document, recipients of program grants are directed to use the strategies outlined to produce certain outcomes, such as reforming local zoning laws to “reduce [the] density of fast food” restaurants in a neighborhood.

    Collins wrote that if awardees follow that guidance, they could be in violation of a portion of the U.S. code that prohibits the use of federal funds “to influence in any manner … an official of any government.”

    “While I strongly support the wellness and prevention mission of the CDC, I also support the safeguards Congress has put in place on the use of federal funds to protect against waste and abuse of tax dollars,” Collins wrote.

  • Pelosi condemns Obama administration for Calif. medical marijuana crackdowns

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the recent federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in California and touted her support for policies that would strengthen the rights of cannabis patients.

    “I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California,” she said in a statement earlier this week.

    Pelosi joins other lawmakers in criticizing the recent crackdown,
    including Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who
    called the recent government actions “bad politics and bad policy.”

    The efforts “undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws,” Pelosi said.

    Federal authorities have shut down more than 200 dispensaries in the Golden State — where the sale and consumption of marijuana is permitted in some cases — since President Obama took office in 2009, according to Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group.

    Officials sent warning letters to an additional 10 cannabis dispensaries in Santa Barbara County this week, calling them “illegal marijuana stores,” according to reports.

    Pelosi, who represents part of San Francisco, called the matter a “states’ rights issue” and asked the federal government to respect the wishes of the people in the states who voted to legalize medicinal marijuana.

    “I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that … prevent the federal government from acting to harm the safe access of medicinal marijuana provided under state law,” she said.

    While campaigning for president in 2008, Obama advocated a more hands-off approach to the enforcement of federal laws concerning the drug.

    “What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism,” he said in an interview with the Marijuana Policy Project.

    “We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with.”

    Faced with questions, Obama has since sought to clarify his administration’s position on the issue, telling Rolling Stone earlier this month, “What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana.”

    He added that he can’t “nullify congressional law.”

    Medical marijuana is currently legal in 16 states.

  • Report: Romney’s 2012 health plan could weaken his Massachusetts reforms

    A news report suggests Romney’s federal healthcare plan would undermine the policies he enacted as Massachusetts governor.

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