FDA

Healthcare.gov's troubles are symptomatic of a much larger problem of congressional malaise toward new technologies.

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Diet Soda Will Kill Us All!

Not really. But it won't help anyone much, either.

We used to worry it led to cancer. Now we fear it causes obesity. Does it?

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Imagine a politician held a press conference in order to boast about a plan that would take health insurance away from tens of millions of people, while effectively eliminating the federal government except for entitlements and defense spending. You probably can’t, because no politician would ever do that. Except Paul Ryan just did. No, he didn’t put it in quite those terms.

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On Wednesday, members of the gluten-free community gathered in Washington, D.C. for the first Gluten Free Food Labeling Summit. In recent years, gluten-free foods have become more common in the United States as more and more people are diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the body cannot absorb gluten, a "protein composite" present in wheat, rye, and other grains. However, though Congress tasked the FDA with finalizing labeling standards for gluten free foods back in 2007, the FDA still has not completed that task, a failure that the summit planners hoped to spotlight.

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I am a zinc fan. Glenn Beck is into gold, and I am into zinc. (Perhaps there's something about being a political pundit that naturally lends itself to a fascination with one of the inert metals.) I used to pop zinc lozenges obsessively at the first sign of a cold. Later I discovered zinc nasal swabs -- a colleague and I used to study the chart on the Zicam box showing the supposed dramatic severity and duration of cold symptoms experienced by users of its product. I evangelized for the use of zinc and became a bit of a zinc bore.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] On one level, it’s hard not to see the regulatory review Barack Obama announced this week as a bit of a stunt. The idea, after all, isn’t to revisit the regulations his administration has supported in areas like health care, finance, or the environment. (Not something I’d like to see, to be sure.) The idea is to root out regulations from earlier eras that have either outlived their usefulness or contradict one another. This is all perfectly fine, and it could be effective politically.

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You may have read about the first FDA-approved test of embryonic stem cells in humans. What's actually happening? And what does it mean for the stem cell debate? The basic idea is to grow nervous system cells (called oligodendrocytes) from human embryonic stem cells, and then transplant those into an injured spinal cord so that they can help nerves grow back. Geron, which is sponsoring the trial, has tried the treatment in rats.

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Who is responsible for an outbreak of salmonella that's sickened 1,500 people and led to the recall of a half-billion eggs? Last week, I suggested that a significant portion of the blame belongs with the administration of George W. Bush--which was, in turn, channeling the anti-regulatory zeal of the Bush Administration. Tevi Troy held several positions in the Bush Administration, culminating in the two years he spent as deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. In other words, he's familiar with these issues and what was going on behind the scenes.

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A few years ago, I wrote an article on Ralph Nader, and I recall coming across this story from 1980 in the Christian Science Monitor, in which the reporter feels compelled to define "hummus": Mark Green, who's just taken a leave of absence as head of Congress Watch to run for the New York legislature, has watched Nader, too, for years as a friend and disciple. He says, "Ralph reminds me of a camel -- he has the discipline to go for 10 or more hours without eating, but when he does it's in such volume that he seems to be storing it away for the future.

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Like Michelle, we’re happy to see The New York Times giving front-page space to the new recommendations for mammograms and pap smears. And we, too, hope that the revised pap smear guidelines aren’t subjected to the same shameless politicization that quickly engulfed the mammogram ones. But we want to quibble with Michelle's point that “cervical cancer simply doesn't terrify women en masse the way breast cancer does.” Breast cancer is indeed a much bigger threat to women.

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