Jun 11, 2019

The rise of unproven billion-dollar health care industries

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Photo: Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The FDA has its work cut out for it as it tries to rein in unregulated and unproven industries that are racking up public attention and billion-dollar profits.

Why it matters: "I think the FDA is taking on industries where there is a potent political constituency trying to resist regulation. And that's hard," former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

Driving the news: A judge sided with the FDA earlier this month, in a ruling that will stop stem-cell treatments at a Florida clinic, NY Times reports.

  • The clinic injected patients with extract made from their own stomach fat, claiming it contained stem cells that could treat a range of illnesses. Some patients went blind after the fat extracts were injected into their eyes.
  • The ruling may influence similar cases, but many other stem cell clinics may continue operating, hoping the FDA doesn't broaden its crackdown. The agency can't go after every clinic, so instead it goes after the most risky actors.
  • One recent study found more than 700 stem cell clinics in the U.S., but the author called that a substantial undercount.

The agency is also just beginning to wade into the discussion around CBD, which is being marketed as a therapy for a huge number of ailments.

  • "It's a remarkable phenomenon going on now with this particular chemical ... being presented as pretty much magic — as curing everything. It's commercially driven with massive amounts of money promoting this," said Robert DuPont, president of the Institute For Behavior and Health.

Yes, but: The risks of these two unproven areas aren't comparable.

  • Stem cell clinics have badly harmed their customers.
  • CBD regulation is more comparable to dietary supplements — looking out for unproven claims or companies that aren't safely manufacturing products, former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan said.

Go deeper: FDA plans to discuss legally marketing CBD products

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Heat wave melts 20% of snow cover from Antarctic island in days

The effects of February's record heat wave on Eagle Island in Antarctica. Photo: NASA

Antarctica's Eagle Island now has a side that's almost ice-free following this month's searing heat wave in the region, images released by NASA show.

Why it maters: "The warm spell caused widespread melting on nearby glaciers," NASA said in its report. It's the third major melt event of the 2019-2020 Southern Hemisphere summer, following warm spells in January and last November, according to the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Bernie Sanders wins Nevada caucus

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waves to supporters at a campaign rally on Friday in Las Vegas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is projected to handily win the Nevada Democratic primary caucus, becoming the clear frontrunner among 2020 Democratic presidential primary election candidates.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state with a diverse population to hold a nominating contest, highlighting candidates' abilities to connect with voters of color — particularly Latino voters.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting these are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the United States.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel and Lebanon, while Iran reported its sixth death from the virus. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 Friday to 433 on Saturday and Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 by Saturday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 hours ago - Health