Gray market erectile disfunction medications pose risk to consumers

Did you know the vast majority of online pharmacies are illegitimate? A review by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) found that only 2.4 percent of online pharmacies comply with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards. This alarming statistic sheds light on the growing threat of illegal, online pharmacies – a component of the gray market – to consumer health. While many online pharmacies may present themselves as a legal, safe, and/or cheaper option, purchasing medicines from these websites could come at the cost of safety and security if consumers do not take the appropriate precautions. 

Medications for erectile dysfunction (ED) – which affects 24 percent of men in the United States over the age of 18 – are among the most commonly sold medications on the gray market. Due to a number of factors including the stigma some consumers experience around sexual health conditions and treatments, many patients suffering from ED don’t talk to their doctors or have prescriptions filled. This creates an environment where consumers may instead seek out unsafe, illegitimate online pharmacies to get these prescription medicines.

In accordance with our mission to ensure all Americans have access to safe, effective medicines, the National Consumers League (NCL) partnered with Bayer to develop a white paper, Increased Consumer Risk from Erectile Dysfunction Medication Advertised and Sold on the Gray Market, to analyze the possible dangers consumers face by purchasing ED medications from illegal online pharmacies. NCL presented the paper’s findings in November at the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) Global Foundation’s Spotlight on Illegal Online Drug Sales Research Symposium in Washington, DC.

Based on the research, the white paper recommends five concrete policies to improve consumer safety, including:

  • Enhancing consumer awareness about the gray market and promoting health literacy;  
  • Encouraging healthcare providers to talk about the risks of illegal online pharmacies with their patients;  
  • Supporting collaborative law enforcement actions to combat illegal sales on the gray market; 
  • Increasing access to ED medicines by making them available over-the-counter, with robust consumer education and information programs; and
  • Adding to the body of evidence on the dangers of the gray market.     

To learn more about the research and the dangers of the gray market, read the full white paper here.

Time to talk about women’s sexual health

Sexual health is an integral part of overall health and wellbeing. Research has found that good sexual health offers a host of positive benefits, including improving social and emotional health. But far too often, women’s sexual health concerns are not addressed by healthcare professionals.

 

Although a survey of U.S. women found that seven in 10 have experienced a sexual health issue, a culture of discomfort around women’s sexual health often inhibits open conversation about women’s sexual health concerns even between clinicians and their patients.

In fact, surveys of U.S. women and healthcare professionals have found that each group often looks to the other to start a conversation about sexual health. A poll of U.S. healthcare providers by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and HealthyWomen found that 74 percent of providers rely on their patients to initiate a discussion about sexual health, while a survey of U.S. women found that 73 percent preferred for their clinician to broach the subject.

There are many reasons for this disconnect – from patients’ lack of awareness that their symptoms can be treated, to a lack of training or time for healthcare professionals to address their patients’ concerns, to a general discomfort with women’s sexual health among all parties. The end result is that women often don’t receive adequate care for important sexual health issues.

To help break down these barriers, NCL has joined together with other leaders in the field of women’s and sexual health to launch the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health. The Alliance is committed to working together to help women advocate for their sexual health during clinical visits and to give clinicians the tools they need to ask about and address their patients’ sexual health concerns.

Over the course of the coming year, we’ll be working to raise awareness about the barriers to open conversations about women’s sexual health, and we’ll develop a discussion guide and user-friendly tools to help women and clinicians start and sustain conversations about sexual health concerns. In the meantime, you can find helpful resources from our member organizations at www.advancingwomenshealth.org.

We believe a sea-change is needed to make sure women of all ages and backgrounds have their concerns heard without feeling judged or ashamed. By raising awareness of sexual health issues and working to normalize these conversations, we hope to improve women’s sexual health and overall quality of life.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Nissa ShaffiThis Saturday, October 27, 2018, is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This initiative is a national effort that aims to provide consumers with safe and convenient avenues to dispose of their expired or unused prescription medications. Failure to properly dispose of medications can lead to devastating consequences, as medications can become misplaced, stolen, or misused.

 

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day ensures that used, expired, and potentially highly addictive prescription medications such as opioids do not end up in the wrong hands. In April 2018 alone, national take back efforts were able to collect close to 474.5 tons of prescription medications.

The National Consumers League encourages consumers to clean out their medicine cabinets and participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, October 27, 2018. To find a drug take back location near you, please click here. Drug take back efforts will run from 10 am to 2 pm. To make phone inquiries, call 1-800-882-9539.

In addition to National Take Back Day, consumers can also dispose of unused and expired prescription medications in the following ways:

  • Contact your local pharmacy to see if they offer programs like in-store kiosks to collect unwanted prescription drugs.
  • Use a drug disposal pouch, such as the Deterra pouch, that contain solutions that nullify active ingredients in medications when mixed with water and sealed for disposal.
  • Mix expired and unused drugs with cat litter or old coffee grounds, seal them in an airtight container, and throw it into the garbage.
  • As a last resort, consumers can flush their medications down the toilet, but this method is generally not recommended as the ingredients in some medications can potentially corrupt community water supplies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a list of medications approved for disposal by flushing when other safe disposal options are not readily available.

For more resources on how to safely and effectively dispose of prescription medications, please click here.

Regulations Can Save Lives, Like Ted’s – National Consumers League

Sarah Aillon, NCL internWritten by National Consumers League Intern Sarah Aillon

The Trump administration is waging war against regulations. In January, President Trump announced in his State of the Union address that “in our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.” Since entering Office, the Trump administration rolled back many environmental, and economic regulations which secure the health, safety, and security of the American people. While the Trump Administration boastfully describes these rollbacks as progress, many public protection advocates have sounded their alarms.

Earlier this June, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and Georgetown Law organized a symposium which addressed the threat deregulation poses in the Trump era. Titled, The War on Regulation: Good for Corporations, Bad for the Public, the event featured a wide range of public protection advocates, including the mother of an accident victim, professors, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Their stories prove just how critical many regulations are for individual well-being and what happens when regulations do not monitor dangerous products.

little Ted

Janet McGee, an advocate on the event’s second panel, and described the harrowing death of her 22-month-old son, Ted. In 2016, the toddler was in his room napping. When Janet went in to check on him, she found Ted under a dresser that had fallen on him. Ted was unresponsive and cold but had a faint heartbeat. McGee started CPR and then rushed him to the hospital. Tragically, the boy passed away four short hours after she first found him.

McGee’s story is not outstanding: every 17 minutes someone in the United States is injured by falling furniture, televisions or appliances. These furniture tip-overs kill a child every two weeks.

Voluntary safety standards in the American furniture industry perpetuate the high risk of furniture tip-overs. Voluntary safety standards threaten the consumer’s safety and security. A Consumer Reports investigation tested 24 dressers against the industry’s voluntary safety standards and found only six dressers met the industry’s standards. In response to their findings, Consumer Reports suggested raising the test weight for furniture tip-overs from 50 pounds to 60 pounds and to apply tests to dressers that are 30 inches high and higher. Anchoring dressers to walls with brackets and straps is an effective strategy to prevent the problem, but few consumers are aware of the need to secure their furniture from tip-overs.

Voluntary safety standards make enforcement of furniture safety difficult. Companies can pick and choose what standards they comply with. Voluntary safety standards allow product design to remain poor and increase the threat of injury and death.

Ikea dresser safety diagram

The Ikea dresser responsible for the death of Janet McGee’s son did not meet safety standards. McGee’s Ikea dresser is not the only one from the company to fail their consumers. Over the course of 19 years, 8 children have died from Ikea dressers. As stated by McGee, the longstanding effects of furniture tip-over represent an industry-wide problem. However, with voluntary safety standards, little enforcement or change occurs.

Despite the danger many dressers on the market hold, little has been done to resolve the threat. Safety standards remain voluntary instead of mandatory. “Parents should worry about their children for many reasons, but furniture falling on them should not be one of them,” said McGee. Eventually, Ikea offered to take back 29 million chests and dressers in the Malm line, but very few consumers knew about the recall. Tens of millions of the Malm dressers are thought to still be in use and unsecured today.

McGee’s tragic, cautionary tale is just one example of why consumer regulations are necessary. President Trump’s focus on slashing regulations endanger everyday people, favoring big business at consumers’ expense. Regulatory safeguards enable people to live and work safely. “Strong government rules matter. We cannot, we must not accept a government that works only for a privileged few,” Warren said.

To learn more about furniture tip-over and Janet McGee’s story, click here.

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Sarah Aillon is a rising senior at Dickinson College pursuing dual degrees in Political Science and History. She is passionate about the National Consumers League’s work and is a child labor policy intern with them this summer.

President Trump’s Executive Order threatens rules that have saved millions of lives – National Consumers League

The Trump Administration is waging war on regulations. The President signed an Executive Order this week demanding that with every new regulation, two must be rescinded. This is one of the most arbitrary and dangerous edicts ever sprung on Americans. We call on Mr. Trump to rethink this reckless Executive Order.

The premise of this edict is that regulations are red tape inflicted on well-intentioned corporations by bureaucrats who have nothing better to do than entangle business in useless red tape. That premise is false. Regulations ensure the safety and health of the public, including consumers of all ages. They provide critical protections for babies, toddlers, adult consumers, and workers; they protect our marshlands, wetlands, and wilderness; keep our air and water clean and healthy; ensure that we respect animals and wildlife, and so much more. To propose a blanket policy of eliminating two for every new one without knowing why is foolhardy.

A case in point: this week, three people testified at a hearing organized by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Bill Nelson, (D-FL), and moderated by Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Relatives from two families who had lost a child and another with a near miss caused by dangerously designed products. Regulations are intended to address these gaps.

Think slats in cribs that were so wide that kids heads got caught and they strangled. Not anymore due to regulations.  Think regulations requiring child proof caps on bottles of bleach or medicine . Thousands of kids are alive today because of these regulations. The truth of the matter is–regulations save lives.

One of the witnesses at the hearing rescued his daughter from what could have been a fatal accident. Turns out, the company had already had 80+ incidents, but denied there was a problem when the Dad called to report it.  A mother told of her infant son’s death due to a supplemental mattress in a portable crib that suffocated him. The Grandfather of a girl strangled by a cord in a window blind – a hazard consumer advocates have been in trying to address for years – is one that has killed too many children. He talked about being pro-life, just like VP Mike Pence, but wondered protecting the kids already here isn’t getting the same attention.

Regulations don’t come out of left field. I’ve read and commented on scores of them. They are vitally important, developed in a thoughtful and deliberative manner under the Administrative Procedures Act; they require open comment periods and are frequently revised based on feedback from industry and consumers. Most require a cost-benefit analysis

The National Consumers League has a long record of advocating for consumer protections on products and in the workplace. Safe design of children’s toys and nursery items, such as cribs and high chairs, keep children and teens from working in the fields, where they are exposed to pesticides, heat, and tobacco poisoning. NCL supported regs to reduce worker exposure to coal or silica, which causes illness and sometimes death. We support the CPSC’s proposal for newly designed table saws that will prevent the 35,000 amputations each year from these devices. New technology can prevent nearly 100% of these excruciating injuries that cause lifelong pain and disability. Why wouldn’t we jump at this chance to have this groundbreaking injury prevention?

Let’s imagine a scenario in which we had no regulations to ensure our air quality. Would American cities become like those in India and China where citizens can’t go outside many days? Or imagine that we had no regulations on water quality. Our children might ingest high levels of lead or chemical runoff, leading to high incidences of cancer, which is exactly what happened to the residents of Woburn, MA because of industrial run off in their water. Rather than repealing these vital regulations, Americans should be grateful that we have a democratic process for keeping our families safe.

Below are examples of but a few regulations that save and protect consumers’ and workers’ lives:

Consumer regulations

  • The Refrigerator Safety Act (1956): This rule required all refrigerator doors to open from the inside to prevent children from being trapped and suffocating inside of them. The number of children suffocating in refrigerators has dwindled to almost none since refrigerators were redesigned under this rule.
  • Automatic garage door sensor (1990): A regulation that required garage door sensors preventing children from being entrapped. Since 1982, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had reports of 54 children between the ages of two and 14 who died after becoming entrapped under doors with automatic openers. There have been zero reports of children becoming entrapped under garage doors since this rule went into effect.
  • Trunk Release (2001): During July-August 1998, at least 11 American children died in three separate incidents of car trunk entrapment. Many individuals have died entrapped in trunks over the decades. Consumer advocates succeeded in getting florescent yellow trunk releases required in every vehicle model in the years after 1998. Since trunk releases have been installed, advocates haven’t found a single case of death in cars where those releases were put in. The cost of these trunk releases is de minimus.

Worker regulations

  • Hard hats: An OSHA regulation requires hard hats to be worn in workplaces where there is a potential for injury from falling objects, such as in construction zones or other hazardous locations. There have been many cases in sectors such as industrial, construction, and mining, where hard hats have prevented workers from suffering serious head injuries and sometimes-fatal accidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 almost 393 fatal injuries were caused by exposure to falling or flying objects and equipment at workplaces. Hard hats generally cost less than $10 each.
  • Rule to reduce miners’ exposure to respirable coal dust (2014): According to data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (also known as black lung) was a cause or contributing factor in the death of more than 76,000 miners since 1968. Caused by breathing unhealthy coal mine dust, this disease has cost more than $45 billion dollars in federal compensation benefits. After the 2014 rule’s enactment, we’ve seen the lowest fatal and injury rates in mining history.
  • OSHA rule requiring safety belts and harness working on stored materials in silos, grain bins, or other similar storage areas: Three workers (from Iowa, Michigan, and North Dakota) were killed in 2011 when they were engulfed (buried or trapped) by grain while on the job. In Texas, a fourth worker was also buried in grain, but was rescued and survived. Suffocation from engulfment is a leading cause of death in grain bins and the number of these deaths continues to rise. In fact, the number of deaths more than doubled between 2006 and 2010. These fatalities are preventable if employers follow work practices and provide training and equipment as required by OSHA’s Grain Handling Facilities standard, 29 CFR 1910.272.

Regulations save lives. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If there are unnecessary regulations, let the President and his cabinet secretaries tell us why and make their case. No one wants unnecessary red tape, but if this Executive Order is an excuse to repeal safety and health protections, that’s not okay, and all Americans – including the most vulnerable consumers – our children – will pay the price.

Implementation of automatic braking systems could save lives – National Consumers League

sg.jpgConsumers received some pretty good news this week – 10 automakers will be installing automatic braking systems, representing 57 percent of the auto industry to do so. These systems, which will become standard equipment, use sensors to detect possible collisions. But, there is a catch.

The problem here is that not all automakers will be included, as this is a voluntary effort and there is no “due date” for these systems to be built into cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducts valuable vehicle crash testing and is supported by the insurance industry, will be working on design and implementation.

Here’s the method to their madness: the government agency that regulates auto safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), could write a regulation to require braking systems to be standard equipment, and that takes a minimum of five years. But, if they can get the automakers to do it voluntarily, that speeds up the process. The downside is that automakers tend to drag their feet in implementing a lot of safety technology unless forced to do so by law. Volvo installed the automatic braking systems in several recent models and accidents decreased by 15 percent.

This is a good development for automotive safety because imagine that instead of having to sense that someone was pulling onto the road just as you were driving past or that someone was coming behind you at high speed – an automatic system of sensors would stop your car or the driver behind you. That could prevent countless accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

This is all on a hypothetical basis because we need all automakers to agree to support consumer safety and we need a faster timeline for when this technology will be implemented. The National Consumers League will be ready to cheer on these developments when they occur.

A Connection Between Safety Recalls and Executive Compensation – National Consumers League

sg.jpgThank you to Gretchen Morgenson, writing in this Sunday’s The New York Times, about the connection between outsized executive pay packages and the incidence of safety recalls. 

Morgenson is a hero in the consumer community for her exposés on illegal corporate practices. She describes findings of a University of Notre Dame study that takes a look at companies that rely heavily on stock options in their executive compensation packages and the disinclination to recall a product with safety. What the study, titled “Throwing Caution to the Wind: The Effect of CEO Stock Option Pay on the Incidence of Product Safety Problems,” found that was surprising to me is that “CEO option pay is associated with both a higher likelihood of experiencing a recall as well as a higher number of recalls.”

The researchers studied two industries both regulated by the FDA: food companies and pharmaceutical companies. Other notable findings from the study are:

“Product recalls were less common among companies whose chief executive founded the companies or had long tenure there. The study’s authors speculate that such executives may be more risk-averse because they are generally large shareholders and their personal reputations are intertwined with the company.”

The lessons from this study that boards who are hiring and designing pay and benefits for CEOs should take away is that they need to align the interests of not just shareholders, but also consumers when considering heavy use of stock options in these pay packages. 

Workplace safety standards highlighted in Labor Day accident – National Consumers League

Why is it important to enforce workplace safety standards ? This weekend – ironically, when we were all celebrating Labor Day – a young immigrant from Ecuador named Fernando Vanegas was killed when the retaining wall designed to hold back soil on the base of a building collapsed on him. He was only 19 years old and had previously told his mother about many dangerous conditions at his workplace. “He would always tell me about how he had close calls,” she recounted.

There’s been a surge of fatal workplace incidents in New York City this year, according to the New York Times. The inspectors who investigated the fatality said that basic safety protections were not implemented, including providing adequate building support, compromising the whole structure. Several complaints about this worksite had landed at city offices and the cases were closed once the builder provided paperwork saying problems were being addressed. Inspectors had also cited the building in May and again in July for violations, but apparently the fines and penalties didn’t deter this contractor from exposing workers to dangerous conditions. Clearly the enforcement system isn’t working very well.

When enforcement is lax, employers and builders cut corners. This is the oldest story in the book, and this young man’s parents are mourning the loss of their son, whose only goal was to contribute to the family finances. Going to work shouldn’t mean taking your life into your hands. City inspectors across the country need to shut down construction sites that continually violate the law. It’s so sad for Mr. Vanegas and his family that he had to pay the price with his life. 

Our roads have never been safer, car safety regulations work! – National Consumers League

It’s hard to measure things that don’t happen. But the recent news that Americans killed in traffic accidents has declined to the lowest point since the 1940s – especially in certain states – is evidence that people have not been dying in nearly as large numbers on our highways as they once did. This truly great news can be directly attributed to the years of work by consumer advocates, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and government regulators.

I would like to credit auto manufacturers but it’s hard to do, given that they fought very sensible and lifesaving technologies – like seatbelts and airbags –  tooth and nail  and still fight efforts like making backup cameras standard in all  cars and trucks.  They have developed some tremendous safety technologies – like Electronic Stability Control to prevent rollover in SUVs and cars – and for that we can all be grateful.

Back to these very promising numbers. According to the Iowa State Department of Transportation, there were only 317 fatalities in Iowa in 2013 the lowest number of traffic deaths since 1944. Similar results in Ohio: 982 motorists and pedestrians died in Ohio in 2013, the lowest number since the state began keeping records in 1936. In New Jersey, state police reported 542 traffic deaths on highways and main streets in 2013, another all-time low. Eighty-five people were killed in Wyoming traffic accidents last year, the state Highway Patrol said Monday. The last time there were fewer than 100 deaths in Wyoming was in 1945. The South Carolina Highway Patrol said traffic deaths dropped by 125 over 2012 figures, a decrease of 17 percent.

According to the Washington Post, the national statistics, compiled by the Department of Transportation, won’t be released until later this year. But the early data is encouraging: In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the number of fatalities for the first half of the year had declined 4.2 percent from the same period in 2012.

When I first worked on auto safety for Consumers Union, the number of people dying on our highways each year was well over 40,000. The falling fatality numbers of today are part of a national trend that experts attribute to stronger regulation and better built cars with many safety technologies standard equipment:  head, side and lower body airbags, side, frontal and offset crash testing of cars and awarding five stars to those that perform well and sharing that information with consumers so they can make informed buying decisions. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to prevent often deadly vehicle rollovers. We have cars that are far better designed and today auto makers not only acknowledge that safety helps sell cars but they advertise that their car or van received five star ratings in crash tests. That is progress!

The reduction in numbers is especially good news when we consider that the number of vehicles in the United States has increased significantly. The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported there were 253 million registered vehicles in the United States in 2011, compared with just 161 million in 1980.

The AAA says that younger drivers and passengers are less likely to be involved in fatal accidents than in years past. The number of fatalities among adolescents between age 10-15 fell by almost 4 percent between 2011 and 2012, the last year for which federal statistics are available, while the number of teens who died in accidents fell by 5.7 percent.

How many parents have their teenagers alive and well today? How can we count these priceless lives saved?  These are young people who might have otherwise died on the road  had we not had strong education campaigns about drinking and driving and cars designed to withstand crashes far more effectively.

Consumer advocates and those who support us should be shouting from the hilltops that sensible regulations requiring safer cars and testing of those cars and advertising which are safest has saved thousands of lives this year and will likely continue to do so in the future. NCL is proud to be among the groups that have long advocated for strong safety regulations for automotive vehicles  and we can see from these very uplifting reports, our efforts have paid off handsomely.

Safe foreign travels: learn about human trafficking – National Consumers League

International travel allows you to experience different cultures, but vacations that are meant to be carefree and fun pose some threats as well. Among these threats is the risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking.

An estimated 5.5 million children are victims of human trafficking globally. Everyone, but especially young women, must stay alert when traveling abroad and make responsible, smart decisions to avoid falling victim to ruthless human traffickers. When traveling keep these tips in mind:

  • Know the facts. Before you travel make sure you are informed about the prevalence of human trafficking. Find out information about who are most likely victims, what warning signs to look for, and what steps you can take if you find yourself in a precarious situation.
  • Register with the local U.S. embassy. Know the address and telephone number of the embassy closest to where you are staying. Alert them of your travel plans and keep the contact information with you at all times. Find a full listing of U.S. embassies around the world here.
  • Protect your passport: Do not give your passport to anyone to keep or hold on to. Make sure you keep a copy of your passport information in a safe place where only you can find it.
  • Beware of strangers. Sex traffickers often seem harmless and might be well-dressed, young, and good looking. Don’t ever tell a stranger your full name, where you are going, or if you are staying alone.
  • Avoid unsafe situations. You should avoid traveling alone, at night, or on deserted side streets. If you think you are being followed, find a crowded place. Don’t hesitate to alert police to your suspicions, and give friends and family members a description of the potential perpetrator.
  • Volunteer with caution. When traveling abroad for volunteer opportunities, only pick reputable agencies that have strict protocols and thorough supervision. Before you sign up with an organization do some research to make sure they are a legitimate charity organization. Be aware that there are organizations trying to exploit foreign citizens.
  • Support responsible businesses. If you see a club or bar that employs extremely young looking workers or seems to be engaged in questionable practices, do not give them your business.
  • Buy a TassaTag. These bright, hand-made and fair trade luggage tags support efforts to reduce human trafficking. TassTag stand for Travelers Take Action Against Sec Slavery and Trafficking. Find out how to get a TassaTag.
  • Don’t support trafficking. Don’t give money to child beggars who may be the victims of trafficking. If you give money to these children, you are helping the trafficking industry remain profitable. Instead, donate money to a local charity, school, or clinic.

Efforts to curb human trafficking are ongoing, yet millions of people remain trapped in slave-like conditions around the world. Support responsible businesses and organizations that are fighting to eliminate trafficking and aid former child slaves. To report potential human trafficking activity: call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.