Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Judicial Watch Uncovers FDA Records Detailing 16 New Deaths Tied to Gardasil

/Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has received new documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), detailing reports of adverse reactions to the vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil. The adverse reactions include 16 new deaths (including four suicides) between May 2009 and September 2010. The FDA also produced 789 "serious" reports, with 213 cases resulting in permanent disability and 25 resulting in a diagnosis of Guillian Barre Syndrome.

Adverse report excerpts include:

* A nineteen year old girl with no medical history except occasional cases bronchitis received Gardasil and in 53 days, had "Headache, Nausea, dizziness, chilling, tiredness, shortness of breath, complained of chest plain, severe cramps." She experienced an Acute Cardiac Arrhythmia. Attempts to resuscitate her resulted in a sternal fracture, but were unsuccessful and the patient died. -- V. 356938

* A thirteen year old girl was vaccinated on July 17th, 2009. Ten days later, she developed a fever and was treated. However, "the patient did not recover and was admitted to the hospital on [August 8th]...She developed dyspnoea and went into a coma...she expired [that day] at around 9:00 pm. The cause of death was determined as 'death due to viral fever.' ... This event occurred after 23 days of receiving first dose of Gardasil. -- V. 380081

* Thirteen days after vaccination, a ten year old girl developed "progressive loss of strength in lower and upper extremities almost totally...Nerve conduction studies [showed Guillain Barre Syndrome]." Case was "considered to be immediately life-threatening." -- V. 339375

* One mother of a 13-year old girl who died 37 days after receiving the vaccination noted in a report: "I first declined getting her the vaccination but her doctor ensured me that it was safe..." After her daughter complained of a severe headache, no feeling in her foot and a tingling feeling in her leg, a doctor's appointment was set for October 23, 2009. "My daughter never made it to Oct[ober] 23rd, which is also her birthday," the mother noted. "She passed on Oct[ober] 17th, I found her cold unresponsive in her room at 7am...."

"To say Gardasil has a suspect safety record is a big understatement. These reports are troubling and show that the FDA and other public health authorities may be asleep at the switch," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "In the meantime, the public relations push for Gardasil by Merck and politicians on Capitol Hill continues. No one should require this vaccine for young children."

In 2008, Judicial Watch launched a comprehensive investigation of Gardasil's safety record. All previous FDA documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, as well as a Judicial Watch special report, entitled "Examining the FDA's HPV Vaccine Records: Detailing the Approval Process, Side-Effects, Safety Concerns & Marketing Practices of a Large Scale Health Experiment," are available at
www.JudicialWatch.org (http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=hl94yxbab&et=1103726832989&s=13633&e=0019k-0tTevIIcuiGvoaAfx-_dDjhrytmKNsMXSa7cx1qOpHEE38bsioz_9OSnd-aZhrS_agrrYNSLxUqcZwuD57S3sJcHV_V_w04pJv06yfKf3xNcIuwQ7Dw==).

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Consumer Travel Alliance Analysis Finds Major U.S. Airlines Not Disclosing Most Fees on Websites

/PRNewswire/ -- The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), a non-profit organization promoting consumer interests on travel policy issues, today released an analysis showing that major U.S. airlines are not disclosing the vast majority of existing ancillary fees on their websites, despite regular statements to the contrary by the airlines. CTA and other leading consumer and travel organizations are meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today to support his efforts to bring full transparency to airline fees.

The CTA analysis tracked the time and effort it would take a typical two-bag traveler needing extra legroom to find and calculate the total cost of a flight from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. A video showing the findings of the analysis can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqDrmXp_US8

The analysis found:

* Not a single one of the seven airline websites in the study offered a page or chart with specific fee information regarding extra legroom or seat upgrades.
* Although the airline sites disclosed baggage fees, those fees were often multiple clicks away from the main page and buried in diagrams and legal fine print.
* To compare baggage fees and attempt to find the fees for extra legroom, a typical traveler would have to visit seven different airline sites, view 47 different web pages, and dig through more than 11,000 words of airline fine print.


"The airlines are asking travelers to put on a blindfold and hand over their wallets every time they buy a ticket," said Charles Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. "There is no way for a traveler to find the vast majority of extra fees charged by airlines on their websites, because those fees aren't even listed. That's why two-thirds of air travelers said in a recent survey that they had been surprised by hidden fees at the airport. If airlines want to charge ancillary fees, they should be required to disclose those fees through every distribution channel in which they sell their tickets."

The analysis also refuted frequent airline claims that all of their ancillary fees are listed on their websites. For example, a spokesperson for the airline industry told Bloomberg on September 17th that "fee information is already available on carrier Web sites." In another news story, the same spokesperson said that "airlines post their fees on their websites ..." and went on to claim that "there's nothing hidden about the fees by the US airliners that have fees."

Earlier this year, CTA released the results of a study showing that hidden fees charged by airlines on popular routes can increase the base cost of an airline ticket by an average of 54 percent for a typical traveler with two checked bags and extra legroom, or by an average of 26 percent for a comparable one-bag traveler. One of the routes examined in that earlier analysis was used as the basis for this current review.

Travelers concerned about the issue of hidden fees can visit http://www.MadAsHellAboutHiddenFees.com, a joint effort of the Consumer Travel Alliance, Business Travel Coalition, and American Society of Travel Agents, to sign a petition urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take action to make those fees fully transparent. The three organizations plan to present the petitions to the DOT on September 23rd, "Mad As Hell Day."

Methodology:

The analysis examined a single traveler with two checked bags wishing to obtain extra legroom on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. Base prices for the analysis were drawn from a popular online travel site. The analysis recorded the time and steps required to enter those fees manually, visit each of the websites of the seven airlines flying that route, attempt to locate the fees for checked baggage and extra legroom, and then calculate the full price of each itinerary. The full video analysis can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqDrmXp_US8

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September Named “Mold Awareness Month”

As National Mold Cases Rise, Local Experts Warn of Increased Health Risks

As documented cases of residential mold contamination and related health problems continue to rise across the nation, the indoor air quality industry is on a crusade to educate homeowners about the serious consequences of mold in the home. (September 5 – October 5) has been deemed Mold Awareness Month by the industry because mold spores that commonly grow in summer humidity are often trapped as people close up homes and foundation vents in the fall. Just a few of these spores can make a family sick.

Consider This:

There are an estimated 10,000 mold-related court cases nationwide
There has been a 300 percent increase in litigation involving mold contamination over the past five years.
The average mold claim costs $35,000 and many exceed $100,000.

“We know to check the batteries in our smoke detectors, to change our air filters, to clean out our gutters and rake our leaves, but no one talks to homeowners about the dangers of household mold,” says Jeff Dudan, CEO and founder of AdvantaClean, a national mold remediation company with a locally owned franchise serving the area. “We’re on a mission to teach homeowners how to limit mold growth and keep their families healthy.”

Fast Facts about Mold:

According to the U.S. EPA, the air inside the average American home can be more than 100 times more polluted than the air outside. New homes usually have poorer air quality than older homes because they’re air tight, so spores can’t escape, providing a perfect breeding ground.

Common household molds cause asthma, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes. Infants and the elderly are most the at risk, because they often have weaker immune systems.

Mold is prevalent in most homes and it’s often difficult to eradicate, but all mold requires moisture to grow, so reducing moisture will reduce mold growth.

Where Mold Grows:

Windowsills, closets, wall paper, flooring, in or around showers, dishwashers, washing machines, and even in the soil of potted plants.

Mold can be caused by slow dripping pipes, condensation, standing water on or under carpets and floor boards, leaky dryer vents, broken shingles and wet insulation.

Preventions and Control:

When water leaks, ACT QUICKLY. If you dry wet materials 24 – 48 hours after a leak or spill, mold will not grow in most cases.
Clean and repair roof gutters and leaky roofs regularly.
Point sprinklers away from the home and siding.
Make sure landscapes slope away from your home’s foundation so water doesn’t collect.
Keep relative indoor humidity low, if possible below 60 percent. Humidity is measured most accurately with a moisture meter, a small $10 - $50 instrument found at most hardware stores.
Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers regularly.
Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering and up to 10 minutes afterward.
Use exhaust fans or open widows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or even washing dishes.

Source:  AdvantaClean

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upcoming FDA Hearing on Abuse of Cough and Cold Medications Misses the Mark

/PRNewswire/ -- The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest released the results of a national Teen Substance Abuse survey today, indicating that police officers and high school teachers nationwide believe alcohol and marijuana are the most serious problem substances facing teenagers. These survey results come as the Food and Drug Administration has scheduled an Advisory Committee meeting for September 14 to examine whether abuse of cough and cold medications by teens requires stricter controls on the sale of those commonly used products.

Police and teachers polled do not believe it is a good idea to force Americans to visit a doctor to get a prescription to purchase commonly sold cough and cold medicines. However, an FDA Advisory Committee next week could decide to make more than 100 brand name, over-the-counter cold and cough medicines containing the ingredient dextromethorphan available only through a doctor's prescription or place them behind the counter at pharmacies, forcing customers to receive assistance from a pharmacist or store employee to get the medicines.

When asked which substances pose the greatest negative impact on teens, teachers and police overwhelmingly identified marijuana and alcohol, followed by methamphetamine and cocaine. Additionally, no police and only 1% of high school teachers cited cough and cold medicines as having the greatest negative impact on teens.

When you think of substance abuse,
   which substances do you see as
   having the greatest negative impact
   on teens?                           Police      H.S. Teachers
  ------------------------------------ ------      -------------
  Alcohol//beer                                51%              70%
  -------------                               ---              ---
  Marijuana//pot                               69%              51%
  Prescription drugs//prescription
   pills                                       27%              15%
  --------------------------------            ---              ---
  Methamphetamine//crystal
   methamphetamine                             28%               9%
  Cocaine//coke//crack                         22%               8%
  --------------------                        ---              ---
  Heroin                                       12%               3%
  Ecstasy                                       6%               5%
  -------                                     ---              ---
  Cigarettes//tobacco                           3%               6%
  Inhalants//spray can fumes                    3%               -
  --------------------------                  ---              ---
  Over the counter medicine//non
   prescription medication                      1%               2%
  Cough//Medicines//Cold
   Medicines//DXM                               -                1%

CMPI's study also shows that alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, methamphetamine, cocaine and cigarettes are cited among the top substances posing the most serious problems to teens:

% Selecting as Most/2(nd) Most/
   3(rd) Most Serious Problem
   Substance                          Police      H.S. Teachers
  ----------------------------------- ------      -------------
  Alcohol                                     82%              88%
  -------                                    ---              ---
  Pot                                         76%              75%
  ---                                        ---              ---
  Prescription drugs                          41%              27%
  ------------------                         ---              ---
  Meth                                        32%              22%
  ----                                       ---              ---
  Cigarettes                                  14%              36%
  ----------                                 ---              ---
  Cocaine/Crack                               27%              15%
  -------------                              ---              ---
  Ecstasy                                      5%               9%
  -------                                    ---              ---
  OTC cough and cold medicine                  5%               8%

The survey also reveals that by a margin of two to one, police officers and high school teachers support education efforts as a means to address abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, versus restricted accessibility to consumers.

"Americans expect to be able to buy cough medicines conveniently at the supermarket or their neighborhood corner store," says CMPI Vice President Robert Goldberg, Ph.D. "Overly restricting access to cough and cold products containing dextromethorphan will create more health problems than it will solve, especially during cold and flu seasons. We need to find common sense solutions and invest more resources in education."

The entire Teen Substance Abuse survey is available at www.cmpi.org and the poll was conducted by Fabrizio Ward and Associates.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Low Carb Diet Rich in Animal Fat and Protein Increases Risk of Death

/PRNewswire/ -- Those who adhered to a diet low in carbohydrates but rich in animal-based fats and proteins increased their risk of death - especially by cancer, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, led by Simmons College nutrition professor Teresa Fung, Sc. D.

This study is the first of its kind to demonstrate the link between different types of low carbohydrate diets and mortality. It also sought to determine the long-term impact of low carbohydrate diets, which have been promoted as an effective option for weight loss and improving health.

Conversely, the study found that a diet low in carbohydrates but rich in plant-based fats and proteins was associated with a lower risk of mortality.

Fung, who teaches at the Simmons College School of Health Sciences, led the study with colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health and Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"This research indicates that all low carb diets are not the same, and the differences have an indelible impact," Fung said. "One that is based on plant foods is a better choice than one that is based on animal foods."

The study is based on two cohorts of participants: more than 85,000 women enrolled in the Nurse's Health Study (ages 34 to 59) who provided dietary information for 26 years; and more than 44,500 men enrolled the Health Professional's Follow Up Study (ages 40 to 75) who provided dietary information for 20 years. All participants included in the study were free of heart disease, cancer or diabetes. The Nurses' Health Study is based at Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study is based at Harvard School of Public Health.

In determining health risk, the study created low carbohydrate scores for the women and men, based on a multi-year evaluation of their diet intake with a focus on the proportion of carbohydrates, and fat and protein - whether derived largely from animal or vegetable-based sources.

During follow ups with the men and women, the study found that those who had a diet made up of more animal-based sources and a low-carbohydrate intake , scored higher for association with "all-cause" mortality and cancer mortality., Those who had a diet made up of more plant-based sources and a low-carbohydrate intake, scored lower for association with "all-cause" mortality, and cancer and cardiovascular mortality.

Participants with a higher animal low carbohydrate score were heavier and were more likely to be smokers, whereas those with a higher vegetable low carbohydrate score consumed more alcohol and whole grains. Variations in lifestyle and other dietary issues, such as smoking status, family history of colorectal cancer, aspirin use, and history of hypertension were controlled in the analyses.

The National Institutes of Health funded the study, "Low-Carbohydrate Diets and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: Two Cohort Studies."

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New Survey Shows Consumers 'Mad As Hell' About Hidden Airline Fees: Two-Thirds Say They Have Been Surprised by Additional Fees at the Airport

/PRNewswire/ -- The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) today released the results of an online survey of 1,396 travelers showing widespread surprise and anger over hidden airline fees for services such as checked baggage, advance seating and priority boarding.

Responding to traveler anger, the groups announced the launch of a new website, http://madashellabouthiddenfees.com/, that will allow travelers to tell their own hidden fee stories, create YouTube videos, and sign a petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) urging it to take action to require airlines to disclose those fees in advance through every ticketing channel in which airlines sell their seats. The groups also announced that they were marking September 23rd as "Mad As Hell Day!" and planned to deliver thousands of traveler petitions to the U.S. DOT on that day.

"As we come to the end of one of the busiest air travel periods of the year, millions of Americans are returning from their summer vacations tanned, rested, and mad as hell," said Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. "They are tired of arriving at the airport and finding huge unexpected costs for travel services they thought were part of the ticket price. It's time for consumers, corporate travel managers and travel agents to stand up and say 'we're not going to take it any more!'"

Conducted over the last two weeks before Labor Day, the hidden fees survey found:

-- Two-thirds (66%) of respondents said they had been surprised at the
airport by unexpected fees for things such as checking bags,
requesting a seat assignment, getting extra legroom, or flying
standby.

-- Nearly a third (29%) said they were surprised often or nearly every
time they travel via air by such fees.

-- Nearly two-thirds (65%) said such fees placed some or a great deal of
unexpected financial strain on their budget for the trip, while more
than a quarter (26%) said that those fees placed a great deal of
unexpected strain.

-- A nearly unanimous 99% of respondents said that they think airlines
should be required to disclose all of their fees in advance on every
website that sells airline tickets.

-- When asked to rank the fees they found most annoying, respondents
rated carry-on baggage fees the most annoying, with 91% calling those
fees "very annoying," followed by seat reservation fees (88% very
annoying), checked baggage fees (74%), and telephone reservation fees
(67%).


"Hidden fees are a violation of a traveler's most basic right: to know how much they will have to pay for their trip," said Charlie Leocha, President of the Consumer Travel Alliance. "When two out of every three air travelers say they have been surprised by hidden fees at the airport, you know the current system is broken and needs to be fixed. Airlines should have to share their fees with every traveler, through every ticketing channel in which they participate, to every point of sale."

The three groups have called on Congress and DOT to take swift action to ensure that all ancillary airline fees are fully disclosed to travelers through every distribution channel in which carriers participate so that the total cost of air travel options can be compared among carriers.

"For a travel agent, comparing air travel costs without fee transparency is like trying to read a book with half the pages torn out," said Paul Ruden, Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents. "We must level the playing field to ensure that travel agents and their customers can make apples-to-apples comparisons of the costs of each trip."

Methodology

The survey was conducted among 1,396 air travelers from August 20 - August 31, 2010. Respondents were recruited from the readers of online travel newsletters distributed by organizations such as Consumer Traveler and the Consumer Travel Alliance, and the survey was conducted online via SurveyMonkey. Full results of the survey can be found at http://madashellabouthiddenfees.com/.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

No Specific Cause Found Yet Linking Dry Max Diapers to Diaper Rash

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Health Canada (HC) have reviewed consumer incident reports and other information involving Pampers Dry Max diapers. To date, the review has not identified any specific cause linking Dry Max diapers to diaper rash.

Both agencies will continue to evaluate consumer complaints related to Pampers Dry Max diapers and will provide parents with updated information if this assessment changes. As always, parents and caregivers are advised to seek the attention of a medical professional if they have any concerns about adverse health reactions.

From April through August 2010, CPSC received nearly 4,700 incident reports about diaper rash. Nearly 85 percent of these complaints came in May and then dropped off significantly. As part of its technical evaluation, staff from each agency considered certain characteristics of the diaper, including the materials used, the construction of the diaper, and heat and moisture retention issues.

In addition, CPSC staff reviewed clinical and toxicological data found in published, peer-reviewed medical literature. CPSC also critically reviewed data submitted by Procter & Gamble (P&G) and the results of a human cumulative irritation patch study conducted by P&G in May 2010. Further, chemistry, toxicology and pediatric medicine information provided by Health Canada was reviewed by CPSC.

While the investigation thus far does not find a link between the diapers and the health complaints received, CPSC recognizes the serious concerns expressed by parents. CPSC staff cannot rule out that there may exist a health concern for some babies, especially those babies that may be sensitive and develop rashes or other skin problems as a result of contact with the materials in this or other products.

Most babies exhibit diaper rash at least once in their lifetime. If parents or caregivers believe that their child is suffering from a rash that they believe to be related to a diaper, CPSC staff suggests that they discontinue use of the diaper and contact their pediatrician.

Consumers are encouraged to report any health or safety incidents related to the use of a consumer product. Easy-to-use incident report forms are available on CPSC's website at http://www.cpsc.gov/talk.html or on Health Canada's website at http://www.healthcanada.gc.ca/reportaproduct

Additional information on diaper rash can be found on the American Academy of Pediatrics website at www.healthychildren.org

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Should the Federal Government Try to Curb Obesity?

/PRNewswire/ -- The First Lady and the Surgeon General are trying to rally Americans to fight against the "epidemic" of obesity. Perhaps they will inspire many to follow their leadership by example. Otherwise, the role of the federal government in curbing obesity is questionable, write economists Michael Marlow and Alden Shiers of California Polytechnic State University.

The government's tools are taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, bans on soft drinks in schools, regulations forcing restaurants to post calorie counts, and government-funded motivational programs.

In an article in the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Marlow and Shiers argue that these methods are ineffective or even counterproductive.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks doubled between 1960 and 1980, a period when obesity rates were stable, and has been declining recently. Taxes are more likely to affect the behavior of casual consumers, who are more price sensitive, than of heavy consumers. States with strong restrictive policies on soft drinks in schools have no better obesity statistics than those with no such policies. Calorie labeling laws do not cause consumers to order lower-calorie meals.

The idea of funneling "sin tax" revenues into government programs to discourage unhealthy behavior has been tried with tobacco taxes. Roughly 10 percent of tobacco tax revenue flows into smoking-control programs--which are not very effective--and the rest is used for unrelated government programs.

"We predict government intervention will make obesity worse as it crowds out market-based solutions that effectively tie weight loss to personal responsibility, higher wages, and lower insurance premiums," write Marlow and Shiers.

"The main effect of the campaign will be to extract more money from taxpayers and to expand government."

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