Public Health News Roundup: September 25
State AGs Urge FDA to Adopt New Regulations Covering E-cigarettes
The Attorneys General of 41 states are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to follow through on a pledge to issue regulations that would expand its oversight to include e-cigarettes. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, they asked “the FDA to move quickly to ensure that all tobacco products are tested and regulated to ensure that companies do not continue to sell or advertise to our nation's youth.” The FDA was given authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco in 2009, as well as the authority to expand its authority after it issued new regulations. Last week a similar plea related to FDA authority was made to President Obama by the American Academy of Pediatrics and 14 other public health organizations, including the American Lung Association and American Heart Association. E-cigarettes continue to increase in sales (a projected $1.7 million in 2013) even while dropping in price. At the same time, there are no advertising restrictions for e-cigarettes. "Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight ensuring the safety of the ingredients in e-cigarettes,” according to the Attorneys General’s letter. Read more on tobacco.
Expert: People Should Get Now-available Flu Vaccine As Soon As Possible
This season’s influenza vaccine is now available and people shouldn’t hesitate to go ahead and get it, according to Stephen Russell, MD, associated professor in the general internal medicine division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a lead physician at the university’s Medicine Moody Clinic. This year’s vaccine protects against four types of flu viruses (as opposed to the three of previous vaccines) and comes as either a traditional shot or a nasal spray. "Contrary to some beliefs, getting the flu shot in September is a good thing and will offer protection for the entirety of the flu season," he said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for people ages 6 months and older, particularly for seniors, pregnant women, caregivers and people with chronic medical conditions. "Many people will say they do not need the vaccine, as they have never had the flu before, but that is like saying you don't need to wear your seatbelt because you have never had a wreck," Russell said. "You may have been fine in the past, but that should not offer security or protection for future exposures to the flu." Read more on influenza.
Study: Losing 10 Percent of Weight Can Greatly Reduce Arthritic Knee Pain, Put Off Knee Replacement
Losing just 10 percent of their weight could go a long way toward easing the knee pain from osteoarthritis in overweight and obese people ages 55 and older, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That would mean better knee function, improved mobility, enhanced quality of life…and reducing the odds of needed a knee replacement. "We've had a 162 percent increase in knee replacements over the last 20 years in people 65 and over, at a cost of $5 billion a year," said lead author Stephen Messier. "From our standpoint, we think this would be at least a good way to delay knee replacements and possibly prevent some knee replacements." The study tracked 454 overweight and obese people in three groups—diet-only, exercise-only and a combination—finding that people who did the combination were the most successful at losing weight and thus reducing knee pain. "We're not talking about people getting down to ideal body weight," said Patience White, MD, the Arthritis Foundation’s vice president of public policy and advocacy. "They just have to lose 10 percent of their total weight. Someone who is 300 pounds only needs to lose 30 pounds. I think that's within reach for people." Read more on obesity.