Why won’t New York’s governor Cuomo ban a nasty pesticide that harms children?

Reid Maki is the director of child labor advocacy at the National Consumers League and he coordinates the Child Labor Coalition.

Something really curious is happening in New York State. In June, the New York Assembly passed a bill to ban the nasty pesticide chlorpyrifos, which damages the development of children. But that’s not the weird part.

What’s surprising is that Governor Andrew Cuomo has not signed the bill, despite the fact that the NY Attorney General Letitia James joined five other attorneys general in suing the Trump Administration’s federal Environmental Protection Agency because it overturned an Obama Administration ban on the pesticide.

“Chlorpyrifos is extremely dangerous, especially to the health of our children,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Yet, the Trump Administration continues to ignore both the science and law, by allowing this toxic pesticide to contaminate food at unsafe levels. If the Trump EPA won’t do its job and protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, my office will take them to court and force them to fulfill their responsibilities.”

The other states that joined the suit are Washington, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and California—the latter is the country’s largest agricultural producer (measured by cash receipts) and has decided to remove chlorpyrifos from the market in 2020. 

Studies have also linked chlorpyrifos to autism, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention deficit disorders, and delayed motor development.

Nationally, home use was banned in 2001 because of its impact on children’s developing brains. In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to enact a complete ban on its use, which includes farms.

Chlorpyrifos is also thought to damage male reproductive organs to the point that it can make men sterile.

Since food safety authorities determined that there was no safe exposure level to chlorpyrifos—that any trace of the pesticide was too dangerous—the European Union is expected to ban entry of food products contaminated with the pesticide next year.

In August, the National Consumers League (NCL) and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL co-chairs, joined 80+ groups—including many from New York—on a letter, urging Governor Cuomo to sign the chlorpyrifos ban. We were naïve enough to think he would.

With an avalanche of data suggesting it is too dangerous to use and his own attorney general suing over its use, why has Cuomo seemingly decided not to ban the pesticide? We can only guess. In July, the governor signed landmark legislation to protect farmworkers from labor abuses, ensure equitable housing and working conditions, and grant them collective bargaining, overtime pay, unemployment compensation and other benefits.

Farmworkers are some of the most exploited workers in America, and we applaud the governor for doing the right thing, but he seems to be taking the position that—having done something farm owners didn’t like—he shouldn’t sign the chlorpyrifos ban because they won’t like that either. The farmers see the pesticide as an effective tool to help them grow crops.

The problem is that chlorpyrifos doesn’t just harm those who eat farm produce; It harms the very people that produce crops—the farmers and the farmworkers and the children of both.

Should giving farmworker labor rights mean that it’s okay to endanger their fertility and cause their children to suffer developmental delays or autism? And from the farmers’ perspective, shouldn’t their children be protected from those afflictions? The governor shouldn’t be striving to protect some of the people some of the time, but should protect all of the people all of the time.

AAOA and National Consumers League Raise Awareness About Prescription Opioid Abuse Safety

October 16, 2019

Media contact: press@againstopioidabuse.org or National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Alexandria, VA—Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) and the National Consumers League (NCL) released a new suite of resources to help educate consumers about prescription opioid safety. The AAOA-NCL Consumer Toolkit provides materials to help reinforce the need for patients, caregivers, parents and others to understand their rights, risks and responsibilities associated with prescription opioid use.

Education plays a crucial role in helping consumers understand the importance of safely using, storing and disposing of prescription opioids,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, NCL. “We are pleased to partner with AAOA on this important set of resources, which will provide individuals with actionable steps that they can take to keep prescription opioids secure and prevent misuse and abuse of these medicines among family and friends.”  

The AAOA-NCL Consumer Toolkit addresses common questions that patients may have about their rights, risks and responsibilities associated with prescription opioids, and highlights facts about opioid medications to fill a knowledge gap and prevent misuse before it occurs. The toolkit includes the following resources:

AAOA has taken a leading role in sharing information and fostering communication between patients, consumers and the medical community to help reduce prescription opioid abuse,” said John Parker, Senior Vice President of Communications for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, the founding member of AAOA. “By leveraging NCL’s expertise, our goal is to communicate directly with consumers about the important role everyone has to play in ensuring the appropriate use, storage and disposal of prescription opioids.”  

In August, the AAOA-HealthyWomen Toolkit was released to help educate women, in their role as consumers and caregivers, about what they can do to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids in the home. To learn more about AAOA’s resources, including a series of videos that raise awareness about prescription opioid safety, visit www.AgainstOpioidAbuse.org/Act.

For press inquiries, contact press@againstopioidabuse.org

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About Allied Against Opioid Abuse
Allied Against Opioid Abuse is a national education and awareness initiative to help prevent abuse and misuse of prescription opioids. Founded by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, the initiative is a collaborative effort with diverse partners across the pharmaceutical supply chain, as well as organizations that are experts in public health and healthcare, including Alliance for Aging Research, American Pharmacists Association, American Physical Therapy Association, BeMedWise, Caregiver Action Network, Gerontological Society of America, Healthcare Leadership Council, HealthyWomen, Men’s Health Network, Mental Health America, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration, National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Consumers League, National Transitions of Care Coalition, Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, and the PA Foundation. Our goal is to contribute to solving the opioid crisis in a meaningful way by educating patients about their rights, risks and responsibilities. To learn more, visit www.AgainstOpioidAbuse.org or follow us on Twitter: @AAOA_Tweets.

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 www.nclnet.org.

NCL statement on ACIP pneumococcal vaccine recommendation decision

June 26, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) presented testimony at the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) vaccine committee today in Atlanta, GA in support of keeping an important vaccine to prevent pneumococcal disease on the schedule of recommended vaccines.

“We commend the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)’s 2014 recommendation for coverage of the pneumococcal vaccine. However, we are disappointed with ACIP’s decision today that the vaccine should be administered ‘based on shared clinical decision-making’ in adults 65 years or older who do not have an immunocompromising condition. We think that ACIP’s failing to positively recommend the vaccine is a disservice to patients and is confusing to healthcare providers who administer these vaccines.” 

Nearly one million adult cases of pneumococcal disease are reported in the U.S. each year, resulting in 400,000 hospitalizations. Even in this era of multiple treatment modalities, five to seven percent of those hospitalized will die, and a large percentage of them will be seniors.

“We should strive to keep adult immunizations simple and accessible to ensure increased protection. This decision by the committee could negatively impact the perceived importance of vaccines and could compromise vaccine uptake, in turn posing a greater risk of infection amongst older Americans and those they come into contact with.”

NCL will continue to educate consumers about the importance of vaccines in protecting the public health and work to dispel the myths about the safety of vaccines.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League to testify at CDC ACIP in support of pneumococcal and other vaccines

June 25, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) will present testimony at the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) vaccine committee on June 26 in support of keeping an important vaccine to prevent pneumococcus disease on the schedule of recommended vaccines.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is revisiting their 2014 recommendation for the pneumococcal vaccine. NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg will present testimony before the committee of vaccine experts in the defense of maintaining the current recommendation of keeping the vaccine, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 13 (PCV13), on the schedule for adults. NCL also recently joined a letter to ACIP with other health advocates urging the committee not changing the existing recommendation for coverage of the pneumococcal vaccine.

“…[n]early one million adult cases of pneumococcal disease are reported in the U.S. each year, resulting in 400,000 hospitalizations. Five to seven percent of those hospitalized will die, and a large percentage of them will be seniors…..Saving these costs is entirely feasible given that we have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent the pneumococcal illness.”

NCL has a long history of supporting childhood and adult vaccines as enormously safe and effective in reducing illness and death. NCL has sounded alarms about the outbreak of measles across the country, with 1,044 cases this year in the U.S.– the largest since 1992. NCL points out that communities of color and other lower-income Americans are particularly benefitted by keeping important lifesaving vaccines on the schedule.

The group letter noted, “We also recognize that many Americans, especially seniors, will not be able to afford vaccination if it is not provided by Medicare. Cutting back or eliminating Medicare coverage will affect older adults, especially in underserved populations that already see lower rates of vaccination.”

NCL strongly encourages the committee to maintain coverage for the pneumococcal vaccines to prevent disease and save lives.

Testimony will take place on June 26-27, 2019 at the CDC Tom Harkin Global Communication Center at the CDC’s main campus at 1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30329.

To view NCL’s official statement to the ACIP panel, click the following link: bit.ly/2XAIok2.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

Imposters, information theft, and internet scams: the dangers of unregulated online pharmacies – National Consumers League

By NCL Food Policy and LifeSmarts Caleigh Bartash

With technology improving rapidly over the past few decades, online retailers have proved more convenient, reducing the market share of brick-and-mortar retailers. However, the convenience of purchasing prescription medication online or over the phone can inadvertently trap consumers in internet scams.Countless issues can arise from ordering prescription medication online. Unapproved internet dealers often evade government recognition or detection, failing to comply with drug safety regulations. Consumers can receive counterfeit, contaminated, or expired drugs. In some cases, these drugs may contain deadly opioids like fentanyl. Unauthorized medications can also have varying amounts of a medicine’s active ingredient — if they contain the correct ingredient at all.

Consumers may be attempting to access medications that they have previously been prescribed. However, they face security threats as soon as they give their personal details to an illegitimate pharmacy. These sellers have poor security protections, with leaks of sensitive customer information all too common. Illegitimate online sellers may even outright sell consumer data to scammers. Moreover, these websites can trick unsuspecting consumers into downloading viruses which further risk personal property and information.

Counterfeit drugs, unauthorized data sharing, and cyber attacks are dangerous, but now, a new threat has emerged involving counterfeit letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Last week, the FDA released a press announcement alerting consumers to fraudulent warning letters claiming to be sent from the government. They advised that any consumer who received a warning message is likely the victim of a scam.

The July 2018 FDA press announcement is unique in that it is targeted directly to consumers. Commonly, these warning letters are used as a tool to inform the public about drug safety issues and are typically sent exclusively to manufacturers and companies creating products under their jurisdiction. FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb summarized the FDA’s policy, stating “we generally don’t take action against individuals for purchasing a medicine online, though we regularly take action against the owners and operators of illegal websites.”

What’s next for those that received a warning letter? The FDA requests that potential victims contact them with information, including pictures and scanned documents if possible, in an effort to help them investigate the scams. Consumers can use the email address FDAInternetPharmacyTaskForce-CDER@fda.hhs.gov as the primary channel for communicating with the agency about suspicious warnings.

The best way to avoid falling victim to any scam involving illegal internet pharmacies is to abstain from suspicious websites. How do you distinguish fake internet pharmacies from safe ones? The FDA offers guidance with their BeSafeRx campaign. Asking a few simple questions at the doctor’s office or calling a certified pharmacist can help consumers protect themselves. Safe online pharmacies usually offer information including address, contact information, and state license. Consumers should be wary if the pharmacy does not require prescriptions to access pharmaceutical drugs. Other warning signs include international addresses, clear spam messages, and unreasonably low prices.

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Have more questions about fraud? NCL’s Fraud.org site has prevention tips, an outlet for consumer complaints, and an experienced fraud counselor to teach you how to avoid common scams. And for those wanting to learn more about proper medication consumption, our Script Your Future initiative has helpful advice and information so you can navigate your prescriptions with the utmost confidence.

Endometriosis: In need of attention! – National Consumers League

Zoe PharoZoe Pharo is a rising sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, MN and is excited to be a health policy intern with the National Consumers League this summer.

Endometriosis is estimated to affect close to 200 million women worldwide, but we often hear very little about its prevalence.

 

On behalf of the National Consumers League, I attended a June 19 panel on endometriosis, hosted by the Society for Women’s Health Research. Panelists included Linda G. Griffiths, PhD, Professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stacey Missmer, ScD, Scientific Director of the Boston Center for Endometriosis; and Robert N. Taylor, MD, PhD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah. The panel was moderated by the Society for Women’s Health Research’s President and CEO, Amy Miller, PhD.

What is endometriosis? 

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that is typically only located inside the uterus is found elsewhere in the body. While it is estimated that close to 200 million women worldwide will experience endometriosis, we often hear little about its prevalence. Even as awareness of endometriosis increases—thanks to Lena Dunham and other celebrities sharing their struggles with the disease—numerous challenges still remain, including the following:

  • Many women face delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis;
  • Funding for research has been slashed and continues to decrease under the Trump Administration;
  • Subtypes of the disease have yet to be identified;
  • Data on the prevalence of endometriosis does not exist; and
  • There is no standardized way to measure the amount of pain felt by women with endometriosis, often resulting in upsetting and discouraging interactions when women try to talk to their clinician, family members, colleagues, spouse, or others about their experiences.

What are the symptoms of endometriosis? 

Common symptoms of endometriosis include infertility, back and pelvic pain, digestive problems, painful sex, and painful menstrual cramps. The most visible symptoms of endometriosis are the lesions that often accompany the disease. However, there is no conclusive research on the relationship between lesions and pain or infertility. It is important to note that many women with endometriosis never present with any outwardly visible symptoms. Further, medical professionals do not have a standard way to measure pain. As Dr. Robert N. Taylor said, “Pain is a highly complex behavior” and is therefore hard to study and model.

Additionally, a patient diagnosed with endometriosis may present with comorbidities. Endometriosis has been found to lead to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other autoimmune diseases.

Why the delay in diagnosis?

Diagnosis of endometriosis is delayed an average of six to seven years, partly because, as Dr. Taylor said, “American medicine has lagged behind in the teaching of sexuality.” Healthcare providers and women’s health advocates need to create spaces where women are comfortable discussing their sexual health and any painful symptoms that may point towards a diagnosis of endometriosis.

Even when women do discuss their symptoms, delayed diagnosis can be due to symptoms that overlap with other gynecologic and gastroenterological processes. For example, a common misdiagnosis is IBS. In addition, for many years, the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis was by operating, using laparoscopy or excision. Surgical diagnoses come with risks, so we are beginning to move towards alternative methods that do not rely on such invasive procedures. However, even newer medical treatments, such as suppressing hormone production, can have negative consequences in young women.   

What can policymakers, healthcare providers, and advocates do?

Policymakers can appropriate additional funding for endometriosis research. First and foremost, endometriosis is an economic problem, representing an annual $69.4 billion economic burden in the United States. Despite this burden, funding for endometriosis is shrinking, at the same time that endometriosis is becoming more prevalent in the population.  

As Dr. Linda Griffiths pointed out, research on endometriosis is not what is funding many scientists’ careers. Dr. Griffiths described her research on endometriosis as a “hobby,” and advocated for more basic research on the biology of endometriosis and on potential subtypes of the disease. Future research should also look at selective groups that have yet to be studied. In addition, it is important to reconsider how to effectively judge pain. Currently there is no standard algorithm. This is troubling to Dr. Griffiths, as she recounted a time when she vomited from the intensity of her own endometriosis pain.  

Dr. Griffiths also recommended routine and accurate collection of data, which currently does not exist for endometriosis. We need to consistently measure the prevalence of endometriosis in various populations as well as the efficacy of potential treatments.  

Dr. Stacey Missmer recommended the implementation of policies to enable women to report their symptoms and be taken seriously when they do so. Electronic medical records might provide a way to alter clinician-patient interactions. Dr. Missmer said she envisions an electronic drop-down option for immediate entry, perhaps asking patients, “Are you experiencing pelvic pain?”

Finally, we need to talk openly about the physical and psychological effects of endometriosis. NCL is working closely with leading organizations in the women’s health space to consider the most effective ways to bring down barriers to better outcomes in women’s reproductive health.

Vaccine-averse ‘Hotspots’: A danger to all – National Consumers League

By Melissa Cuddington, NCL public policy intern

Think that measles has been eradicated from the United States? Think again. According to a report published earlier this month by PLOS Medicine, measles is still spread by unvaccinated children and foreign visitors to the United States. This spread is seen in “hotspots,” otherwise known as areas where the risk of disease is higher because parents choose to abstain from getting their children vaccinated. Parents continue to claim non-medical exemptions for issues of philosophy, and that’s dangerous.

A recent Washington Post article shined a light on the growing problem the anti-vaccination movement is creating: 18 states still allow parents to opt their children out of school immunization requirements. These hotspots are located across the country both in urban, metropolitan locations, such as Houston, Austin, and Pittsburgh and in rural areas as well.

In many of these urban centers, too many children are being exempted from immunization requirements, making it easier for vaccine-preventable diseases to spread and infect others. The Post article notes that these urban centers have busy airports, opening up the possibility for diseases to spread to the un-vaccinated.

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who remain unvaccinated are most likely the cause of the increased occurrence of measles and other contagious diseases being spread throughout the United States. The CDC also predicts the reemergence of these diseases if parents continue to skirt vaccination requirements.

Many of these diseases from the past are easily preventable if parents get their children vaccinated at a young age. Medical research shows that if children do not receive the measles vaccination (MMR) 12 to 15 months after birth, they are at risk of exposure.

Sadly the anti-vaccination movement in the United States has been going strong. At some point, parents need to consider that the decision not to get their child vaccinated is not just personal—it’s a communal one. The choice to abstain from vaccination puts vulnerable adults and children at risk. As the research demonstrates, this decision could expose others to possibly fatal diseases, which are entirely preventable with immunization.

As a consumer advocacy organization that champions vaccinations for all who can safely be vaccinated, NCL pushes against these non-medical exemptions. It is dangerous for parents to be making decisions for their children that can have adverse effects on others. NCL encourages state and federal health officials to support laws that don’t allow personal preference to prevent children from being immunized. California’s law is a good model and would keep us all safe from totally preventable diseases.