Monday, July 30, 2012


Walt Disney announced that it's going to stop advertising junk food to kids on its TV channels, radio station and website by 2015. It's eliminating ads for sugar-laden fruit drinks, candy and snack cakes.Recently, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined a plan to ban large-size sugary beverages sold at the city's restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. Some states and cities are working on "soda taxes" on sugary drinks. And in recent years, major health groups have discouraged the consumption of large amounts of added sugars.

The motivation is clear: The US is in a full-fledged state of hand-wringing about overweight Americans who are among the most obese in the world and are heavier than they've ever been before.

Increasingly, the focus is being placed on sugar, the sweetener with a history that goes back 8,000 years. The American Heart Association says in a statement that research has tied a high intake of added sugars to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Diabetes educators often advise people with diabetes and pre-diabetes to watch their sugar intake, especially their consumption of sugary beverages. Nutritionists have said for years that sugar represents empty calories with no nutritional value.

The consumption of added sugars, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, among some people in the country "is out of control," says Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont.
Americans adults consume an average of 22 teaspoons a day, or about 355 calories, from added sugars, Johnson says. Every teaspoon has 15 to 16 calories.

You don't remember adding 22 teaspoons of sugar to your coffee or cereal? People are downing table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (in soda), maple syrup, honey, molasses and other caloric sweeteners. Added sugars make their way into many prepared and processed foods and beverages, from soda, sweet tea and lemonade to energy drinks and sports drinks.

One 16-ounce serving of regular soda, the proposed NYC cap, contains the equivalent of at least 12 teaspoons of sugar, says Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitia . "Many of my clients don't realize how much hidden sugar creeps into their diet, even in foods that don't seem sweet, like salad dressing, soups and crackers."

Sugar is "toxic" in the amount it's consumed by Americans, says pediatric endocrinologist Rob Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco and one of the country's most vocal critics of added sugars. A little bit is OK, but it's the quantity that people are consuming that's harmful, Lustig says. "Everyone knows the dose determines the poison. I agree with that. There is a threshold, and right now we are way above that threshold."

The heart association recommends that most American women consume no more than 6 teaspoons a day, about 100 calories, from added sugars, Johnson says. For men, it's 9 teaspoons or about 150 calories. Kids should limit their intake to about the same amount, she says.


WASHINGTON — It would seem a business executive’s dream: legally pay a competitor to keep its product off the market for years.

Congress has failed to stop it, and for more than a decade generic drug makers and big-name pharmaceutical companies have been winning court rulings that allowed it.

Until this month. On July 16, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia issued a decision that the arrangement is anticompetitive on its face. It potentially sets up a confrontation before the United States Supreme Court. If it were to accept the case, the outcome could profoundly affect drug prices and health care costs.

The Philadelphia ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals conflicted with decisions from at least three other federal circuit courts, giving the Supreme Court a strong reason to hear the case within the next few years.

“The Third Circuit has rebalanced the issue and teed it up for the Supreme Court,” said Eleanor M. Fox, an antitrust expert and professor at the New York University Law School. The agreements between generic and branded drug manufacturers “are cases of competitor collaboration, which the Supreme Court has called ‘the supreme evil of antitrust.’ ”

The stakes are enormous for brand-name drug makers, which would face lower profits, and for pharmacies, insurance companies and patients, who could benefit from the savings.

In the case of Cipro, a powerful antibiotic with annual sales exceeding $1 billion, Bayer paid $400 million to a generic drug maker, Barr Laboratories, and other companies. In exchange, the generic makers said they would withhold their own lower-priced generic versions of the drug until 2003, when Bayer’s patent on the brand-name drug expired.

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that a Senate bill to outlaw such payments would save the federal government $4.8 billion over 10 years and would lower drug costs in the United States by $11 billion. The legislation remains stalled in the Senate. The federal government is a major buyer of drugs through Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, which has greatly increased its scrutiny of what it calls “pay-for-delay settlements” between generic and branded drug companies, said that the appeals court decision “puts us one step — and a very important one — closer to solving this very real problem.”

Mr. Neas said that through 2010, generic drugs had reduced drug costs for Americans by $931 billion, a third of that resulting from patent settlements between big-name drug makers and generic manufacturers.

The agreements are the result of a 1984 law that made it easier for generic drugs to gain Food and Drug Administration approval and a 2003 amendment, which required branded and generic drug makers that entered into patent settlements to file their agreements for review to the F.T.C. and the Justice Department.

The agreements generally work like this: A generic-drug maker comes up with a chemical equivalent to a large-selling, patented drug and applies to the F.D.A. to sell it, arguing that the patent is invalid.

Rather than spend years and millions of dollars defending its patent, the branded company often offers a settlement: it pays the generic company to keep its drug off the market for a time period, perhaps also offering to let the generic company market an “authorized” generic version later on.

Pharmaceutical makers say that the agreements are a cost-effective way of settling patent litigation.

If the courts do not settle the issue, the pending Senate bill, supported by Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, would do away with the payments between branded- and generic-drug makers. When the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill one year ago, Mr. Kohl said the deals undermined basic capitalism.“There’s no room in a competitive marketplace,” he said, “for these kinds of back-room deals.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012


A first-of-a-kind study looking at older women finds damaging eating disorders are common — and 62% of those surveyed say their weight or shape has a negative impact on their lives.
Historically, eating disorder research has focused on teens and young women, but the study out Thursday in the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows 13% of women ages 50 and older struggle with the problem — some for the first time in their lives. Eating disorders are more common in women than men and include purging, binge eating, excessive dieting and excessive exercising.
The researchers surveyed 1,849 women online from across the nation in attempt to find out how older women feel about their bodies and to estimate the prevalence of eating disorders. There are 53 million women in the USA older than age 50, the authors write, noting previous studies have reported a lower risk for eating disorders as women mature...Read more.