On Friday, major changes to nutrition labels became final. Changes mandate that calorie counts must be displayed in large, bold type, and portion sizes must reflect how much Americans actually eat. Further, the amount of added sugar to products must be listed on an individual line. These changes are designed to make food and beverage labels more noticeable and easier for consumers to understand. Straightforward labels are an attempt to confront the obesity epidemic (two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children and teens are either overweight or obese (2011-2012 data)). These changes may make it easier for consumers to understand the nutritional content of their food and may incentivize manufacturers to reduce added sugar. Companies with more than $10 million in annual sales must institute label changes, the first major ones since the introduction of the food label in the 1990s, by July 2018. All food and beverage companies must make the changes by July 2019.
Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have successfully performed the first penis transplant in the United States. The surgery was performed on a Massachusetts man whose penis was removed several years ago to prevent his penile cancer from spreading. Two penis transplants have previously been performed worldwide: one, in China, failed in 2006, but one in South Africa in 2014 succeeded, with the recipient later fathering a child. Although the procedure is still highly experimental, doctors at Johns Hopkins plan to develop the procedure, which will benefit the numerous military veterans who sustain genitourinary injuries in combat. Challenges associated with the transplant include finding compatible donors, immune rejection, and the long-term side effects caused by immunosuppressant medications. Despite these challenges, the procedure has great potential to improve the quality of life of patients in need of a transplant. This surgery comes soon after the first uterus transplant performed in the United States failed.
The latest anti-tobacco campaign is trying a new approach, one that tobacco companies have been utilizing for decades to recruit new customers: producing ads for a specific target population. In the campaign, titled Fresh Empire, the FDA is trying to harness hip-hop “sound, style, and swagger” to reach minority black and Hispanic teens, who disproportionately suffer from the consequences of smoking. The campaign features videos with community role models, dancers, DJs, beat-boxers, and rappers, promoting the message that “you can be hip-hop and tobacco free.”
Despite fears that the campaign would be corny and forced, initial feedback from youth is positive. The $128 million dollar campaign, paid for by tobacco industry fees, is based on research showing that youth exposed to targeted messages were more likely to respond favorably to the message. The campaign differs from older campaigns, which took a more generalized, one-size-fits-all approach. It also parallels new FDA regulations on e-cigarettes that have been targeting teen tobacco use, limiting e-cigarette marketing and sales to those under 18.
To watch some of the new ads or learn more about the campaign, check out the article.
Shocking many back in 2012, the FDA, along with the AMA, chose not to support mandatory training in pain management for all doctors. With the fast growing number of deaths related to inappropriate opioid use, controversy surrounding mandatory training within an already packed medical school curriculum was, as it is now, great. The recommendation had come from a panel of experts who proposed government regulations that would force medical schools to incorporate into their curricula CDC guidelines on how to treat pain. At present only one-quarter of medical schools that belong to the American Association of Medical Colleges have done so. The concern among medical school leaders has been, and still is, that committing to one federal guideline could lead to a situation where lawmakers impose legislative agendas on physicians that are not necessarily in the interest of patient care. Physicians already feel constrained and pressured by government regulations and are wary about anything that tells them how to practice medicine. Now, in 2016, a spokesperson for the FDA has indicated that the organization has changed its position on the issue, stating that it does support mandatory training for physicians. A new FDA panel of outside experts is expected to make its final recommendation this week.