HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Public Health Trumps Corporate Speech

Reversing its previous deference to corporate speech interests, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit came down in favor of consumer protection in a July 29 decision. In American Meat Institute v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the court upheld a federal government regulation requiring meat companies to disclose the countries of origin for their products. If your beef comes from Argentina or Canada, you will know that from its label.

More importantly, the court gave the Food and Drug Administration greater freedom to reduce tobacco use in the United States. In explaining its reasoning, the court repudiated the logic of an earlier decision by the court that rejected the FDA’s graphic warnings for cigarette packs. According to the meat labeling opinion, the cigarette warning decision did not allow sufficient leeway for the government to mandate warnings or other informational disclosures to consumers.

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will restore the D.C. Circuit’s previous balance, but for now, the tide has turned in favor of the public’s health.

August 28, 2014 in FDA, Public Health | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

SCOTUS Embraces Regulatory Synergy in POM Wonderful

A great post by my colleague Diana Winters, cross-posted from Bill of Health

By Diana R.H. Winters

While today’s unanimous (sans Justice Breyer, who recused himself) decision by the Supreme Court in POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co. was certainly not a surprise, especially after the clear tenor of the oral argument, the case may have some implications for FDA law going forward. In this case, POM Wonderful sued Coca-Cola under the Lanham Act, alleging that the label on Coca-Cola’s pomegranate blueberry juice was false and misleading, and that this deception caused it to lose sales. Coca-Cola argued that because its label complied with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, POM’s Lanham Act claim should be precluded. The district court and the Ninth Circuit agreed.

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June 12, 2014 in FDA, Food | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 25, 2014

FDA Regulation of E-Cigarettes—A Gateway to Teaching Administrative Law

 

It’s likely that most readers of this blog already know that the FDA just announced its intent to extend its regulatory powers to E-Cigarettes.   E-Cigarettes have proven to be a "high interest" topic in both my "Constitutional Issues in Health Law" and "Legal Issues in Human Subject Research Classes."  The struggle between the FDA and those it wishes to regulate raise questions about the powers of all three branches of Government.  It can serve as a proxy for all administrative agencies in an Admin Class or as a direct source of study in a public health, environmental or (of course) food & drug law class.

The FDA's current struggles include energy drinks, body building supplements and truth in calorie reporting (no more hiding calories by assuming unrealistic serving sizes).

But back to E-Cigarettes.  

Here is the text of the proposed rule.  And here is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ list of reasons why the FDA is justified—and should—be able to do this.

The FDA’s relationship with regulating tobacco products has been a complicated one.  This book review by Margaret Gilhooley can bring you up to date on the history of FDA’s failed attempts to obtain jurisdiction.  It was not until June 22, 2009 that the FDA finally did get regulatory power when President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) that the FDA got any authority to regulate tobacco products—and that only through the filter (sorry) of protecting children.   And that still remains the outer limit—protecting children. 

So any regulation of E-Cigarettes has to be along the lines of making them less available to minors.  That’s why what sounds like a relatively weak reason—“even if they are harmless, they are a gateway for children to real cigarettes” is important because that is the statutory basis of the FDA’s power.  It’s not surprising that the FDA’s announcement has been met with immediate protest from Vapers.  New York’s ban (and remember, all the FDA’s done is to announce it intends to assert its authority to look into the product’s safety) has sparked considerable push-back based on issues of “personal liberty.” Apparently this anti-regulation movement is not restricted to the U.S.

   Vapers have had little success persuading cities to exempt e-cigarettes from public spaces, but they have been able to prevent outright bans and to allow the creation of “vaping lounges” –-the English majors among you know these better as modern day equivalent of a legal opium den—perhaps inhabited by today’s Keats, Shelleys and Coleridges.  We even have them in Lubbock.  

The FDA’s goal is to build on the actions of the cities that are equating e-cigarettes with “old style” tobacco to keep e-cigarettes as an “adults only” product.

 

April 25, 2014 in Constitutional, Drug and Device, Environmental Health, FDA, Food, Obama Administration, Policy, Proposed Legislation, Public Health, Public Opinion, State Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Resources for Learning About (and Tracking) Violations of Research Law and Ethics

Even health law professors who do not teach a class in research law may be asked to participate in their university's programs for training researchers.  Now that the government is back in business, this seemed like a good time to feature some resources to help bring you up to speed.  The information below focuses on some of the main Federal Government sources of not just information but very high quality educational material.  All of this information is accurate as of today--but any web resource can suffer from link rot, and a direct Google search should lead you to all of these sources and more.

The most general place to start is actually not in the Federal Government, but rather CITI on-line training resources.  Although today their website says that these materials are no longer available to the public for free, it is likely that anyone associated with an institution that conducts federally funded research is a subscriber.   The unavailability of CITI to the public is unfortunate, but the amount of training provided for free by the federal government is beyond the scope of any individual human's ability to absorb information--everything from this point on is free!

 The Federal Government's regulation of research misconduct, research integrity and protection of human and animal subjects of research (yes, all of these things are different) is scattered not just among the various entities sponsoring research, but also within agencies.  While all have adopted "The Common Rule" when it comes to humans, in fact there can be significant differences in policies and regulations (especially in situations not involving humans).  Here are some places to start looking. 

   The location of this information depends both on the kind of research and the source of funding.   For research funded by the department of health and human services (biomedical research primarily) the relevant agency is the Office for Research Integrity (ORI) which " oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the exception of the regulatory research integrity activities of the Food and Drug Administration" and this is the website that tracks cases they are and have investigated.

Here's a movie they produced on avoiding research misconduct.  It's available with  Spanish and  Chinese subtitles

If the research safety violations involves people, you need to go to the entity within HHS currently known as the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP)(remembering the "s" at the end of "Protections" shows you to be an insider).  This is a vast repository of both reference material and current reports of active cases--you might want to look at this overview first.

If you are getting funding directly from the National Institutes of Health, you will want to check in with Human Subject Research Protections (HSRP) program (note the "s") and their rules and guidance.  More information to be found here.

NIH also sponsors its own Human Subject Research Protection Online Training.  Also available in Spanish.

Research under the supervision, although not necessarily funding, of the FDA is monitored its Bioresearch Monitoring (BIMO) program is a comprehensive program of
on-site inspections and data audits designed to monitor all aspects of the
conduct and reporting of FDA regulated research.   This is not to be confused with the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations which has a broader scope and covers not just research but all FDA monitored activities.

Actually,  "all" is an understatment because Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts are tracked elsewhere and there may be some spillover. Ditto MedWatch: The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.  If the violations directly concern human safety you should check here and in general at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is another major source of information.  The research it sponsors differs from that sponsored by NIH because it extends far beyond biomedical activities.  Indeed, NSF is the place to look for information about social science or behavioral research.

Here's where to look for  human subjects.  For more general wrongdoing, consult the NSF Office of the Inspector General.

The National Academy of Engineering has devoted considerable resources to issues of research ethics, misconduct and integrity which are available in its online Ethics CenterTexas Tech University also provides extensive resources in Engineering Ethics through the Murdough Center.

The Institute of Medicine is often asked by Congress to investigate issues in Biomedical and Health Research.

The Department of Energy is a major player in the field of research ethics/human subject protection (it does considerable nuclear and genetics research) and has many resources.

It's very hard to distinguish between "bioethical" issues and "legal" issues when it comes to research, so another very important source of information is the Presidenial Commission for the Study of Bioethics.  which recently put out a remarkable report on Human Subject Research Violations which took place during the 1940's in Guatemala. (spoiler, the U.S. Public Health Service was giving people syphillis).

In future posts, I will dig deeper and provide more governmental and private sector resources.

October 18, 2013 in FDA, Fraud and Abuse, Genetics, Health Law, HHS, Public Health, Research, Research Ethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)