Health Highlights: March 13, 2017

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Consumer Advocates Pan Trump’s Choice for FDA Head

A former top official in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the administration of President George W. Bush is President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the agency.

The nomination of Scott Gottlieb, 44, was welcomed by drug industry executives but criticized by consumer advocates, who said he is too deeply tied to pharmaceutical companies, The New York Times reported.

Gottlieb is a partner at a venture capital fund with extensive links to the medicine and biotech industries.

“He is basically entangled in an unprecedented web of ties to big pharma,” Dr. Michael Carome, director of the health research group at the consumer organization Public Citizen, told The Times.

“He is someone who has been an industry shill and has spent most of his career dedicated to promoting the financial interests of pharmaceutical corporations,” Carome said.

But there was positive reaction from the drug industry.

“I think Scott is science-based, he’s patient-focused, he’s got strong management skills and he’s intellectually tough, so he will use all of that to make sure the FDA and industry are all acting in the interests of patients,” Dr. Leonard Schleifer, chief executive of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, told The Times.

Gottlieb — a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank — had a number of roles at the FDA during George W. Bush’s presidency, including deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs.

His longstanding ties with the drug industry include serving as a consultant or board member for several companies, and he received more than $400,000 in payments from pharmaceutical companies between 2013 and 2015, according to a federal database, The Times reported.


Workers Could be Penalized for Refusing Genetic Testing

Workers who refuse to undergo genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs could face significant penalties from their employers under a bill approved by a U.S. House committee.

Existing federal laws protect genetic privacy and discrimination, but the bill passed last week by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to bypass those rules if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program.

Such programs are increasingly popular and employers can get large health insurance discounts for workers who voluntarily participate in a program where they have to meet certain health goals.

The bill — which is under review by other House committees and would also have to be considered by the Senate — has been heavily criticized by House Democrats and a large number of organizations, the Post reported.

Nearly 70 consumer, health and medical groups — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes and the National Women’s Law Center — sent a letter to the House committee expressing their opposition to the bill.


Jane Austen May Have Died of Arsenic Poisoning: Article

Jane Austen may have been poisoned, according to an article published on the website of the British Library.

The novelist died July 18, 1817 at age 41, but the cause of death remains a mystery. Suggestions include stomach cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma or an adrenal disorder called Addison’s disease, the Washington Post reported.

However, the library article suggests the author of “Pride & Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility” died of arsenic poisoning. But there was no nefarious plot or assassin. Rather, the source of the arsenic was likely tainted water or a medicinal mistake.

There are a number of clues, including Austin’s progressively failing eyesight and skin discoloration, according to the library article. It also noted that accidental arsenic poisoning in the 1800s was not unheard of, the Post reported.


Vulto Cheese Recall Expanded

A recall of raw milk cheeses linked with a deadly listeria infection outbreak has been expanded by Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y.

The expanded recall includes all lots of Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden & Walton Umber. The company previously recalled Heinennellie, Miranda, Willowemoc and Ouleout cheeses.

The outbreak has caused 6 illnesses and 2 deaths.

The production and distribution of the cheeses has been halted while the Food and Drug Administration and the company investigate the source of the problem. Consumers with the recalled cheeses should return them to the place of purchase for a refund. For more information, call Vulto Creamery at 607-222-3995


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