Tagged Legislation

California Lawmakers Consider Mandatory Labels On Salon Products To Protect Workers

Beauty salon workers who paint the nails and treat the hair of millions of Californians are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals — and they may not know it, advocates say.

The advocates are asking California lawmakers to approve legislation requiring cosmetic companies to list the ingredients of beauty products used in professional salons. The bill, which passed the Assembly health committee Tuesday, will next be heard by the environmental safety committee.

Ingredient labels are now required on retail beauty products like makeup or shampoo, but federal law on labeling doesn’t apply to cosmetic products such as hair-straightening treatments or nail polishes used in salons.

In addition to requiring a list of ingredients on the salon product, the Assembly bill would require the label to flag any hazardous chemicals. The manufacturer would also be required to print its website address on the product and list its ingredients on the site.

“Nobody’s minding the store” when it comes to protecting the health of the workers who handle these products every day, said Nourbese Flint, policy director for Los Angeles-based Black Women for Wellness, an advocacy organization that is co-sponsoring the bill.

Use Our Content

“Hair stylists in black beauty salons are some of the backbones of the black community in terms of economic entrepreneurship,” said Flint. More transparency about salon product ingredients would help the cosmetologists “make better, healthier choices for their bodies and their clients.”

A cosmetics industry trade group, the Personal Care Products Council, opposes the bill. During the hearing in the Assembly health committee, Tom Myers, general counsel for the group, said the bill is unnecessary because the industry already sends out safety information to salons.

The council also opposes the measure because it would impose “unworkable, state-specific labeling requirements on global brands,” according to a legislative analysis.

Nail care products such as artificial nails and polishes contain chemicals like formaldehyde, which is a probable carcinogen, and toluene, which has been shown to cause birth defects when inhaled by pregnant women.

A 2015 study looking at birth outcomes among California cosmetologists and manicurists found that, overall, these workers had a higher rate of gestational diabetes, and babies born to Vietnamese manicurists were smaller than those born in the general population.

Hair-straightening treatments such as the Brazilian Blowout have been known to contain formaldehyde. The U.S. Department of Labor found that workers using such products in one beauty salon were exposed to as much as five times the accepted limits of exposure to formaldehyde.

Dr. Thu Quach, a researcher at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, says informing workers of potential risks is especially important given their level of exposure to salon products. Beauty salon workers may absorb chemicals both through their skin and the air they breathe, Quach said. A cosmetologist could apply a chemical-laden treatment to customers 10 times a day, or work in a space where chemicals are recirculating in the air all day, she added.

“Workers are exposed at much higher levels, so why would they not have the same right as consumers to know what they’re being exposed to?” said Quach, who is also a Steering Committee member of the California Health Nail Salon Collaborative, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Supporters hope new labeling requirements on salon products would pressure manufacturers to change the chemical formulations in their products.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Categories: Public Health

Tags: ,

Non-Profit Linked To PhRMA Rolls Out Campaign To Block Drug Imports

A nonprofit organization that has orchestrated a wide-reaching campaign against foreign drug imports has deep ties to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the powerhouse lobbying group that includes Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Bayer.

A PhRMA senior vice president, Scott LaGanga, for 10 years led the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a nonprofit that has recently emerged as a leading voice against Senate bills that would allow drug importation from Canada. LaGanga was responsible for PhRMA alliances with patient advocacy groups and served until recently as the nonprofit’s principal officer, according to the partnership’s tax forms.

In February, LaGanga moved to a senior role at PhRMA and stepped down as executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines — just as the group’s campaign to stop import legislation was revving up.

Both PhRMA and the partnership have gone to great lengths to show that drugmakers are not driving what they describe as a “grass-roots” effort to fight imports — including an expensive advertising blitz and an event last week that featured high-profile former FBI officers and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

The partnership’s new executive director, Shabbir Safdar, said LaGanga resigned from the group to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“That’s why Scott’s not executive director anymore,” he said. PhRMA declined to make LaGanga available for an interview.

A Kaiser Health News analysis of groups involved in the partnership shows more than one-third have received PhRMA funding or are local chapters of groups that have received PhRMA funding, according to PhRMA tax disclosures from 2013 to 2015. Forty-seven of the organizations listed in the ads appear to be advocacy organizations that received no money from PhRMA in those years.

The Senate push to allow Americans to buy pharmaceuticals from Canada comes as more patients balk at filling prescriptions because of soaring drug prices. Prescription medicines purchased in the U.S. can run three times what they cost in Canada, data from the company PharmacyChecker.com show. In 2016, about 19 million Americans purchased pharmaceuticals illegally from foreign sources through online pharmacies or while traveling, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll; many survey respondents cited pricing disparities as the reason.

The U.S. drug industry has strongly opposed efforts to open the borders to drug imports, but PhRMA is not mentioned in the partnership’s recent advertising blitz. The nonprofit said its grass-roots effort is supported by 170 members, including professional organizations and trade groups.

The nonprofit describes PhRMA as a dues-paying member with no larger role in shaping the group’s activities. Partnership spokeswoman Clare Krusing would not say how much each member contributes. PhRMA spokeswoman Allyson Funk declined to say whether PhRMA funds the partnership.

“PhRMA engages with stakeholders across the health care system to hear their perspectives and priorities,” Funk said. “We work with many organizations with which we have both agreements and disagreements on public policy issues, and believe engagement and dialogue are critical.”

LaGanga is listed as the nonprofit’s executive director on each of the partnership’s annual tax filings since 2007, the earliest year for which they are available from ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer.

LaGanga wrote a 2011 article about the partnership’s origins. Published in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, it described “public-private partnerships in addressing counterfeit medicines.” His PhRMA job was not disclosed.

From 2010 to 2014, the organization hosted a conference called the Partnership for Safe Medicines Interchange. At a 2013 event posted to YouTube, LaGanga thanks pharmaceutical companies for sponsoring the event, most of them PhRMA members.

The partnership recently launched its ambitious ad campaign — including television commercials, promoted search results on Google and a full-page print ad in The Washington Post and The Hill. The group’s YouTube page shows recent commercials targeted to viewers in 13 states.

“We don’t disclose specific ad figures, but the campaign is in the high six figures,” Safdar said.

The campaign warns against the alleged dangers of legalizing Canadian drug imports. The commercials ask voters to urge their senators to “oppose dangerous drug importation legislation.”

The newspaper ad reads, “Keep the nation’s prescription drug supply safe. Urge the Senate to reject drug importation measures.” Its splash headline declares that “170 healthcare advocacy groups oppose drug importation,” touting a letter to Congress signed by its many members. It lists 160, and PhRMA’s name is not included.

“Having a big membership allows the coalition to present what looks like a unified show of grass-roots support … but it does raise questions about which members of the coalition are really driving and funding the group’s policymaking,” said Matthew McCoy, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania who studies patient advocacy groups.

The list of “grass-roots groups” includes at least 64 trade organizations representing the biomedical industry, professional associations representing pharmacists, a private research company and two insurance companies.

One group that signed the letter, the “Citrus Council, National Kidney Foundation of Florida Inc,” represents a single volunteer, according to an email from the group. A spokesman for the National Kidney of Foundation of Florida said the volunteer’s views contradict the position of the umbrella group, and said the foundation supports “any sort of drug importation that allows our patients to have access to drugs at the best price.”

Two of the hepatitis advocacy groups listed — the National Association of Hepatitis Task Forces and the California Hepatitis C Task Force — are run by the same person: Bill Remak. Remak said the groups receive small amounts of PhRMA funding.

“I don’t enjoy having to take this extreme position of saying we shouldn’t import at all, but until we have some oversight regime, some way of protecting consumers, it’s a really tough call,” he said in an interview.

“Current drug importation proposals do not appear to have equal safety and chain-of-custody accountability laid out adequately for patient safety concerns,” said William Arnold, president of the Community Access National Network, an advocacy and support group for people living with HIV/AIDS or hepatitis in Washington, D.C. His group did not accept money from PhRMA from 2013 to 2015.

Last week, the partnership hosted a panel at the National Press Club featuring former FBI director Louis Freeh and former FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach. The discussion focused on the health and legal dangers of online pharmacies.

“You can talk about lowering prices, but if a drug comes with a high probability of toxicity and death, that comes at a high cost to the patient,” von Eschenbach said. “That’s what’s at issue with drug importation.”

Each speaker argued that the bill co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would be harmful to patients. That legislation would provide a mechanism for Canadian drug manufacturers to sell to U.S. consumers and pharmacies. Sanders introduced the bill in February. Around the same time, the partnership sent emails to member organizations seeking help to stop such a measure.

In the House, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) introduced a similar bill to Sanders’, along with 23 other Democrats. In January, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also introduced a bill to allow drug imports from Canada.

Speakers at the partnership event claimed importation would lead to a flood of counterfeit medicines laced with arsenic, fentanyl and lead paint.

“These drugs are manufactured in jungles, in tin drums, in basements … those are the sort of sanitary conditions we’re talking about here,” said George Karavetsos, a former director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

Josh Miller-Lewis, Sanders’ deputy director of communications, refuted those arguments in an interview. He said Canadian drugmakers can apply for licenses, and all drugs would have to come from FDA-inspected plants.

Both von Eschenbach and Karavetsos have ties to the pharmaceutical industry: Von Eschenbach left the FDA in 2009 to join Greenleaf Health, which counsels pharmaceutical clients, before starting his own consulting company; and Karavetsos counsels pharmaceutical clients at DLA Piper, a Washington, D.C., law firm.

This isn’t Sanders’ first attempt to legalize importation. But Politico reported in October that PhRMA is bolstering its war chest by another $100 million a year, suggesting to many industry watchers that drugmakers are gearing up for a ferocious fight.

“I think it’s safe to say pharmaceutical corporations are prepared to spend some fraction of their multibillion-dollar profits to fight drug importation and any other policy that might end the plague of overpriced medicine,” said Rick Claypool, research director for Public Citizen, a watchdog group critical of the drug industry.

Categories: Health Industry, Pharmaceuticals

Tags: , , ,

As California Weighs Soda Warning Labels, Tax In Berkeley Shown To Dilute Sales

A new study of the soda tax in Berkeley, Calif., shows that residents are doing what public health experts had hoped — they’re ditching sugary drinks and opting for healthier beverages.

The study, the largest to date of Berkeley’s soda tax, comes as California lawmakers this week again consider legislation to put a warning label on sweetened beverages — a bill that died in committee three times in three years.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, shows that a year after Berkeley’s soda tax took effect in 2015, the city saw a nearly 10 percent drop in purchases of sugary drinks and a nearly 16 percent increase in sales of bottled water.

The study looked at 15.5 million supermarket checkouts in the city, evaluated prices in 26 stores and surveyed 957 adult residents by phone.

Use Our Content

Dr. Lynn Silver, the lead author of the study and a senior adviser with the Public Health Institute in Oakland, Calif., said that researchers were pleasantly surprised to see the significant increase in the sale of water.

Silver said that before voters passed the 1-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax in 2014, researchers were not sure if the small additional cost to buy soda would be enough to make a difference in a prosperous city like Berkeley. But the study’s findings show that it’s “been a home run,” she said.

However, while purchases of sugary drinks dropped in Berkeley, they rose in surrounding Bay Area cities by 6 percent — prompting the question of whether residents simply shifted their soda buying to other cities without a soda tax. Silver said that residents surveyed did not report significant changes in where they purchased their beverages after the tax took effect.

The study, Silver said, also showed that overall beverage sales went up in Berkeley. If people were buying beverages elsewhere, that overall number would have most likely dropped, she explained.

Last year, voters approved a similar soda tax in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif., as well as in Boulder, Colo., Cook County, Ill., and Philadelphia. Santa Fe, N.M., and Seattle are considering soda taxes.

Researchers believe soda taxes in those communities could have a greater impact than in Berkeley because per capita consumption of sweetened beverages is about three times lower in Berkeley than the country as a whole, Silver said.

Meanwhile, in the California Legislature, a bill reintroduced by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) would require that sugar-sweetened drinks of 75 calories or more per 12 ounces be labeled with the following message:

STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.

“Consumers have the right to know about these potential harmful health impacts, and [this bill] will empower Californians to make healthy beverage choices,” Monning said in a press statement.

The bill also would require owners of vending machines selling sugary drinks to place a safety warning on the machines’ exteriors.

A spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, an industry group, said in an emailed statement that consumers have more information than ever before to make informed food and beverage choices.

“Singling out one common grocery item for a misleading warning label will do nothing for real public health challenges like obesity and diabetes, which have multiple risk factors,” the spokeswoman wrote.

If the bill passes, labeling would be required starting July 1, 2018. The legislation is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Health Committee.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Categories: California Healthline, Public Health

Tags: , ,

Florida Congressman Draws Jeers At Home For Backing Failed GOP Health Care Plan

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — A Republican congressman who in 2010 lost both legs after stepping on a roadside bomb in Afghanistan told an occasionally raucous town hall meeting here that he supports his party’s push to repeal the Affordable Care Act because Americans should be free to go without health care if they so choose.

“There are positives and negatives” in the health law known as Obamacare, said Rep. Brian Mast, who noted he gets his health care from the Veterans Health Administration. “I’m not going to pretend this is the easiest thing to work through.”

That was clear Saturday morning in the high school auditorium where about 150 constituents from Mast’s South Florida district west and north of West Palm Beach sometimes booed the congressman during the two-hour meeting. They held up red placards when they didn’t like what they heard and, less often, green ones when they did. Roughly half of the 35 questions that Mast took concerned health care.

No one spoke in favor of the GOP health bill that Mast was prepared to vote for last month. It was pulled by House leaders before a vote because of lack of support.

Use Our Content

Party leaders and the Trump administration are negotiating elements for a new plan to bring to Congress. At the same time, some Republicans back in their home districts for the Easter recess have endured similarly heated town hall meetings with constituents.

After his meeting, Mast told Kaiser Health News that his constituents’ lack of support for the GOP health bill shows the proposal needs more work before a vote. But he offered no solutions.

Many people at Saturday’s meeting asked why Mast wanted to gut the federal health law that helped them survive serious illnesses and sought to defund Planned Parenthood.

Susan Stutz, 48, of Port St. Lucie, said her health coverage under Obamacare is affordable and it has helped her and her sister get vital regular screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Both are at high risk for the diseases.

“If you take away the ACA without a realistic plan to replace it and defund Planned Parenthood, you take away my ability to know every six months if I have cancer,” she told Mast. “What am I supposed to do to stay alive?”

Rep. Brian Mast, who lost both legs while serving in the Army in Afghanistan, chats with Randi Solomon, a constituent who worries about losing her Obamacare coverage, at a town hall meeting in Loxahatchee, Fla. (Phil Galewitz/KHN)

Randi Solomon, 56, of Royal Palm Beach, said Obamacare coverage has helped her obtain back surgery and afford medications for asthma and high blood pressure. “I am really worried,” Solomon said.

Several women at the meeting asked Mast why he wanted to defund Planned Parenthood since federal law already banned federal funding of abortions. Mast replied that the nonprofit provides 300,000 abortions a year and that his concern is preserving the rights of unborn children.

Mast, 36, said he strongly supported retaining the health law provision that prohibits insurers from charging higher rates to people with preexisting illnesses. Unlike the current law, the GOP health plan would allow that benefit only for people who continuously maintain coverage.

“Preexisting conditions is something that I live with. … [It] touches our lives in personal ways, and that is never something lost on me,” said Mast, who has two prosthetic legs and spent the entire meeting in one spot leaning on a cane.

Even constituents who opposed Mast’s ACA opinions Saturday saluted his courageous service in the Army.

Mast was elected to represent the state’s 18th Congressional District after the two-term Democratic incumbent Patrick Murphy vacated the seat to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio. The large district includes the wealthy haven of Jupiter Island and impoverished rural towns along Lake Okeechobee. Along with its many retirees, the region counts on tourism and agriculture as mainstays of its economy.

The town hall meeting took place about 15 miles northwest of where President Donald Trump spent the day at his West Palm Beach golf course.

Mast gained national publicity in March when he delivered an impassioned plea to his House GOP colleagues to unite to pass the GOP health plan, likening the effort to his military unit working together to beat the enemy combatants in Afghanistan.

Scott Webber, 62, of Hobe Sound told Mast that Obamacare provided affordable coverage for him and his wife and asked Mast how he could support the GOP bill when it received so little support in public polls.

Mast responded that Obamacare premiums are in a “death spiral” because too few young, healthy people have signed up, which has forced up prices. “I hope we can get to a point so you can have lower deductibles and lower premiums,” he said.

Categories: Insurance, Repeal And Replace Watch, The Health Law

Tags: , , , ,