Consumer Health Digest #12-01

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 5, 2012

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Publishing groups trying to block open access to government-funded research. The main lobbying group representing publishers is making another push back against open-access efforts affecting scientific journals. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and its Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division have endorsed the proposed "Research Works Act" (HR 3699), which would generally prohibit federal agencies from freely distributing journal articles that report on federally sponsored scientific research. The current National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy requires that that the public requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication and requires that these papers be accessible to the public no later than 12 months after publication. HR 3699 was introduced by Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). UC Berkeley evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen has noted that the bill's language is deceptive and that last year Maloney received campaign contributions from 11 senior executives of Elsevier, a major journal publisher. [Eisen M. Elsevier-funded NY Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney wants to deny Americans access to taxpayer funded research. It is NOT junk Blog, January 5, 2012] Eisen also believes that scientific societies who belong to the AAP should suspend or withdraw their support for the AAP until it recognizes the importance of public access to scientific research and immediately ceases to oppose efforts to provide it.

Some bone marrow donors may be compensated. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with plaintiffs in a lawsuit which argues that the government should permit compensation to bone marrow donors. [Cancer patients win bone marrow legal fight against U.S. Attorney General: Cancer patients in California and elsewhere may now offer modest compensation for bone marrow donors. Institute for Justice news release, Dec 1, 2011] In the United States, the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) prohibits the interstate sale of body parts, but because the need greatly exceeds the number of donors, proposals have been made to provide financial aid or material incentives to donors or their heirs. This could come in several ways: (a) burial expenses, (b) rebates or deferral of state and federal income taxes, (c) a fixed grant for the surviving spouse and/or dependent children, and (d) a government-sponsored or paid-for insurance policy payable to a designated beneficiary. In 2010, a bone marrow specialist, the mother of three children who needed a bone marrow transplant to save their lives, and several other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit that argued that the government should not put bone marrow obtained through apheresis (a procedure in which cells are obtained through a procedure similar to ordinary blood donation) in the same category as donation of solid organs, such as kidneys, and should permit compensation to attract more donors. The Appeals Court concluded that the NOTA should not be interpreted to prohibit apheresis. The plaintiffs included, which is seeking to offer donors $3,000 in the form of a scholarship, housing allowance, or gift to charity. The U.S. Attorney General has the right to seek further review in the U.S. Supreme Court or from the full Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wakefield sues critics. Andrew Wakefield, who lost his British medical license after triggering a scare that linked autism to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, has filed a defamation suit in Texas against the British Medical Journal (BMJ), its editor (Fiona Godlee), and investigative reporter Brian Deer. In 2010, the British Medical Council found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him from the physician register. The suit is mainly concerned about an article written by Deer and and an accompanying editorial, published a year ago in the BMJ, which discussed Wakefield's conduct and a Lancet article he wrote that was later retracted. In 2004, Wakefield sued Deer, along with Channel 4 and 20/20 productions, over a documentary on MMR, but later dropped the action and agreed to pay legal costs. In response to news of the current suit, Deer and the BMJ noted the judge in the previous case concluded that Wakefield appeared to be using libel proceedings for public relations purposes and to deter critics. [Statement on behalf of the BMJ and Brian Deer, Jan 2012]

American Dietetic Association assumes new name. The American Dietetic Association, which is the world's largest association of food and nutrition professionals, has changed its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is now the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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This page was revised on January 8, 2012