HEALTH

NY AG brings herbal supplement fight to Congress

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK —– As part of the latest salvo from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York against the dietary supplement industry, Schneiderman announced Thursday he and Attorney General Greg Zoeller of Indiana today are leading a bipartisan group of 14 attorneys general calling on Congressional leaders to launch a comprehensive inquiry into the herbal supplements industry. The group has sent a letter asking for Congress to consider a more robust oversight role for the Food and Drug Administration with respect to herbal supplements. 
 
“It is unfortunate that the New York State Attorney General has spearheaded a request for Congress to spend taxpayers’ money to ‘launch a comprehensive congressional inquiry into the herbal supplements industry’ when the industry is already amply regulated on a federal level by FDA and FTC," charged Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "In fact, concerns raised in that letter about alleged widespread safety issues are not true, based on government’s post-market surveillance system which demonstrates relatively few safety issues for these products, particularly in comparison to other industries regulated by FDA."
 
Mister noted that the "serious concerns" raised by Schneiderman have been widely criticized not only by the supplements industry, but also critics of the herbal supplements industry and a number of journalists. 
 
"Despite these considerable doubts, the NY AG refuses to share his test results and methodology with FDA, with the media who continue to report on this story, with the companies implicated in those results, or even with the other state AGs he has persuaded to join in his campaign. In fact, an agreement between the NY AG and one of these companies earlier in the week explicitly stated that there were no issues with the herbal supplements being investigated, and because of this, the products were returned to the store shelves."
 
“Attorney General Schneiderman has admitted that the federal Good Manufacturing Practices currently in place for dietary supplements are sufficient, and companies such as GNC are in compliance with those, but yet he moves forward in his request to spend federal taxpayer dollars on an investigation into an industry that is fully regulated by the FDA," added Daniel Fabricant, CEO and executive director of the Natural Products Association. "The Natural Products Association regards this most recent action by Attorney General Schneiderman as added harassment based on science fiction. For the past two months, the attorney general has continued to escalate his attack on the supplement industry without any legitimate data to back up his arguments.
 
“My focus is on ensuring the best consumer protections for dietary and herbal supplements, and eliminating potential false or deceptive labeling that could be harmful to consumers,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “My fellow attorneys general and I are urging Congress to consider stronger federal oversight of the herbal supplements industry so that members of the public have full information about a product they are ingesting.”
 
The letter to Congressional leaders is co-signed by Attorneys General George Jepsen, D-Conn.; Karl Racine, D-D.C.; David Louie, D-Hawaii; Lawrence Wasden, R-Idaho; Greg Zoeller, R-Ind.; Tom Miller, D-Iowa; Jack Conway, D-Ky.; Maura Healey, D-Mass.; Jim Hood, D-Miss.; Joseph Foster, D-N.H.; Joey San Nicolas, D-Northern Mariana Islands; Kathleen Kane, D-Pa.; and Peter Kilmartin, D-R.I. 
 
In February of 2015, Schneiderman asked major retailers to halt the sale of certain herbal supplements following DNA tests that failed to detect plant materials listed on the labels of the majority of products tested. Earlier this month, Schneiderman announced the formation of a multi-state coalition as part of an expanded probe of the herbal supplement industry.
 
Earlier this week Schneiderman announced a historic agreement with GNC to implement landmark reforms for herbal supplements. Under the agreement, GNC, one of the nation’s largest supplement retailers, will use DNA barcoding to authenticate plants used in supplements and adopt new testing standards to prevent contamination. 
 
 
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Medical coalition targets blood pressure of 130/80 for heart disease patients

BY Michael Johnsen

DALLAS — A new scientific statement issued jointly by three medical organizations earlier this week and published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, addresses how low to aim when treating patients with high blood pressure who also have vascular diseases.
 
The document provides an up-to-date summary on treating hypertension in patients who have both high blood pressure and have had a stroke, heart attack or some other forms of heart disease, said Elliott Antman, president of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
 
“The writing committee reinforces the target of less than 140/90 to prevent heart attacks and strokes in patients with hypertension and coronary artery disease,” he said. “This is important since confusion has arisen in the clinical community over the last year regarding the appropriate target for blood pressure management in the general population.”
 
The current statement is issued jointly by the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and American Society of Hypertension. The writing committee consisted of internationally recognized experts in the fields of cardiology and high blood pressure research.
 
According to the statement, while a target of less than 140/90 is reasonable to avoid heart attacks and strokes, a lower target of less than 130/80 may be appropriate in some individuals with heart disease who have already experienced a stroke, heart attack or mini-stroke or who have other cardiovascular conditions such as a narrowing of leg arteries or abdominal aortic aneurysm.
 
Blood-pressure lowering can be done safely, and the vast majority of individuals will not experience problems when standard medications are used, the committee wrote. However, the statement recommended that clinicians use caution in patients with coronary artery blockages, advising that blood pressure should be lowered slowly, and not strive to decrease the diastolic (lower number) blood pressure to less than 60 mm Hg, particularly in patients more than 60 years old.
 
The statement offers specific, evidence-based recommendations and contraindications to help clinicians select which anti-hypertensive medications to use in patients with various types of heart disease. For most patients, that will mean taking a beta-blocker by itself or in combination with other classes of drugs.
 
“In the spectrum of drugs available for the treatment of hypertension, beta-blockers assume center stage in patients with coronary artery disease,” said Clive Rosendorff, chair of the writing committee, professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and director of graduate medical education at the Veterans Administration in the Bronx. In addition to their effect on blood pressure, beta-blockers slow the heart rate and reduce the force of cardiac contraction, both of which reduce the heart’s consumption of oxygen. They also increase blood flow to the heart by prolonging the time between contractions, which is when blood flows into the heart muscle.
 
“In addition to treating hypertension, this statement also recognizes the importance of modifying other risk factors for heart attack, stroke and other vascular disease, including abdominal obesity, abnormal cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking,” Rosendorff said.
 
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Dieters will draw motivation from new weight-loss visualization app

BY Michael Johnsen

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Visual Health Solutions on Friday introduced the Visualize You Weight Change Viewer mobile app, an ultra-sophisticated weight-loss activation tool that uses a photo to display the effects of weight loss on a user's facial appearance in unprecedented detail. Unlike conventional photo manipulations that only stretch or pinch images, the Visualize You Weight Change Viewer app generates a facial image that reflects actual weight-change dynamics aligned with an individual's target weight-loss goal.
 
The mobile app — developed with The Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, and UnitedHealthcare — is meant to motivate individuals embarking on a formal healthy weight program, and enhance compliance. It will be demonstrated for the first time on television on "The Dr. Oz Show" on April 8.
 
A UnitedHealthcare-sponsored version of the app is now available for free in the Apple App Store or on Google Play. A non-sponsored version can be downloaded for $1.99.
 
"The Visualize You – Weight Change Viewer app is a major step forward in helping people approach weight loss in a more informed, educated and fun manner," stated Michael Roizen, chairman of wellness at the Cleveland Clinic.  
 
"The app provides a new perspective on tackling obesity by arming individuals with a visual image of their goal which provides a motivational boost," commented Holly Wyatt, associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. "Visualize You – Weight Change Viewer is a breakthrough in that it uses scientifically based algorithms to provide an unparalleled visual representation of what an individual will look like if they change behavior and lose weight. The app offers individuals a clear-cut end goal for weight loss and provides them with an important tool to activate and achieve a successful program."
 
The mobile app is an extension of a successful PC-based weight loss visualization program that Visual Health Solutions developed with UnitedHealthcare last year. 
 
"The Visualize You – Weight Change Viewer app is a unique digital tool that can help people reach their weight loss goals," said Brad Hunt of UnitedHealthcare. "We're pleased to support individuals through the use of the app, as they work toward a healthier future."
 
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