Improving medication adherence for people with HIV – National Consumers League

By Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy For the last several days I have been in Miami at the 8th International Conference on HIV Treatment and Prevention Adherence.  The conference hosts over 400 delegates from more than 30 countries, who work directly providing care to HIV patients or on HIV research.  The conference provides a forum where state of the art science and adherence research for treating HIV are presented, discussed, and translated into evidence-based approaches. While there has been remarkable progress in HIV medicine over the last several years, allowing us to imagine an end to the HIV pandemic, this is tempered by the real world challenges around adherence and prevention.  The keynote speaker, Dr. Badara Samb, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, made a call to action to treat 15 million with HIV by 2015.  Globally, 34 million people are living with HIV. He noted that there are still barriers to care – millions do not have access to treatment, and millions of others who are HIV positive don’t know it yet since they have not been screened. Many people who do know their status, are not getting treatment due to stigma associated with being HIV positive. General sessions and research presentations focused on various aspects of adherence.  Dr. Ira Wilson, Brown University, moderated an interactive panel of HIV health care providers about how to talk to patients about adherence. The discussion included the following tips:  ask patients open-ended questions about adherence, be non-judgmental, don’t make assumptions about a patient’s ability to understand instructions and information, and ask questions about a patient’s life in order to learn about medication-taking behavior. I was invited to give a workshop on NCL’s Script Your Future campaign to raise awareness of the importance of adherence.  While the campaign currently focuses on three chronic condition areas – respiratory, diabetes, and cardiovascular – there was interest in expanding our campaign to include HIV, since many of those with HIV suffer from other chronic conditions as well. The research and clinical work showcased at the conference, along with the clear dedication and commitment of these health care professionals, is key to the ongoing treatment and prevention of HIV.  

NCL calls on Congress to pass comprehensive device unlocking legislation – National Consumers League

June 6, 2013

Contact: Ben Klein, NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC – In a letter to the House Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, the National Consumers League today called for legislation that would permanently allow consumers to unlock mobile devices without violating copyright laws.

The full text of the letter is available here.


About the National Consumers League 
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Will repackaging medicine prevent suicides? – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
This week Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel wrote a persuasive column in the New York Times laying out a strategy for reducing suicides. He suggests that by simply changing the way we package medication, as Britain has done, we could sharply reduce the number of people who take fatal doses of medicine. Emanuel, the brother of the Mayor of Chicago and a physician who comments frequently on health policy, notes that every year one million people attempt suicide, more than 38,000 succeed.

It turns out that suicides and poisonings from medication have been steadily climbing since 1999. He says that “a good way to kill yourself is by overdosing on Tylenol and other pills”.  Emanuel argues that if we make it hard to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 capsules that can easily be dumped out and swallowed, we can prevent many deaths. If pills were packaged in blister packs of 16 to 25, anyone who wanted to use them to commit suicide would have to work really hard. The fact is that suicides occur all too often when a person is at a particularly low moment. Research shows that if the opportunity to take pills – or use a firearm – is effectively diminished – often the moment passes and the person lives. Emanuel cites very persuasive data from Britain. In 1998, Britain changed packaging for the active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, requiring blister packaging of 16 pills when sold over the counter in places like convenience stores and for packages of 32 pills in pharmacies.  The result, published in an Oxford University study, showed that over 11 years or so, suicide from Tylenol overdoses declined by 43%. Accidental poisonings declined as well. The number of liver transplants attributable to Tylenol toxicity went down significantly. In fact, in 2011 the makers of Tylenol added protective flow restrictors and dosing syringes to all liquid infant and children’s medicines, to prevent accidental overdose.  There is already a precedent here in the US to modify packaging to prevent adverse events; this isn’t a new concept for industry. Not only can repackaging acetaminophen-containing products reduce incidence of suicide caused by overdosing, but it will also prevent accidental poisoning of children. Manufacturers should work with the FDA to learn from Britain’s example and continue to improve packaging. With a change in packaging, which comes with a cost to manufacturers of course but could be carried out over time, we could potentially save thousands of lives.

NCL mourns the loss of Senator Frank Lautenberg – National Consumers League

June 3, 2013

Contact: Ben Klein, NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League mourns the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Senator Lautenberg was a giant in promoting the health and safety of consumers. His effective legislating against smoking and drunk driving no doubt make him responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Senator Lautenberg was an early proponent of strict laws curbing drunk driving, pushing a measure that committed all 50 states to reducing blood alcohol levels of drivers to .08. He successfully worked to set a nationally enforced age for the legal alcohol consumption at 21 years old, and followed that with a law requiring those with histories of drunk driving to have  ignition interlocks (which prevent a vehicle from starting if a sensor detects alcohol on a driver’s breath) installed on their cars and trucks (Public Law No. 110-244). That law was enacted in 2008.

The Senator also successfully argued for a ban on smoking in federal buildings and on airplanes, noting with regard to planes, “With this legislation, nonsmokers, including children and infants, will be free from secondhand smoke. Working flight attendants will avoid a hazard that has jeopardized their health and their jobs.”

Countless thousands of Americans today have clear lungs and greatly improved health as a result of Senator Lautenberg’s efforts against smoking; others are alive as a result of the Senator’s early work to adopt stricter drunk driving laws. The Senator also championed another critically important public health issue, strict gun control, and worked to protect battered spouses by restricting the abusive partner’s access to firearms.

Senator Lautenberg’s pioneering leadership on drunk driving, smoking, and gun control make him one of the great champions of public health measures that make us all safer, healthier, and more secure. 

We salute the legacy of this great Senator, whose work left an indelible mark on America.  


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

How does the new pork slaughterhouse program affect food safety? – National Consumers League

By Zoe Stahl, Food and Labor Policy Intern
Zoe Stahl, a food and labor policy intern at NCL this summer, is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, where she is pursuing a dual major in Art History and Environmental Science. Zoe is interested in food policy, sustainability, and labor issues. 

Last month, the Office of the Inspector General, essentially USDA’s internal watchdog, released a scathing report of pork slaughterhouse inspections. What particularly concerns NCL is the report’s review of the pork slaughterhouse pilot program, which increased line speeds and reduced the number of inspectors.

The report raised a number of issues with the pilot program. First, the USDA failed to conduct a comprehensive review to gauge whether it has increased food safety and plant efficiency as intended. Despite limited oversight, the report still found major flaws with the inspections. With three of the plants receiving most noncompliance reports (formal write-ups of food safety violations), the program may increase the potential for food safety risks.  This is not surprising considering these plants have faster production lines and fewer inspectors, limiting their ability to improve food safety and to comply with food safety regulations.  Even more alarming, inspectors failed to manually inspect the internal organs in which disease and contamination may lurk.

A similar program has been piloted in poultry slaughterhouses and might be expanded to all poultry plants. This is a program that NCL, along with a robust coalition of food safety and workers’ rights groups, has been fighting against. As in swine slaughterhouses, the program would increase the speed of the poultry line and replace inspectors with plant workers, who would not be required to receive any new training. Workers would have only a third of a second to examine the chicken, meaning contamination and defects could go undetected. It is not only a food safety issue, but also a worker safety issue. Faster line speeds mean higher rates of repetitive-motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, for slaughterhouse employees. And many of these workers, who are often new, undocumented immigrants, women or non-native English speakers, may be hesitant to speak up for fear of being fired or, even worse, deported.

Given the findings in pork slaughterhouses, you may be wondering how USDA could even consider industry-wide implementation. Here at NCL, we are too. NCL’s conviction that implementing this program is a bad idea has now only deepened given the overwhelming evidence.