Jane E. Henney, M.D., Is Sworn in as FDA Commissioner
Jane E. Henney, M.D., was formally sworn in as the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Washington, D.C., on December 15. Vice President Albert Gore administered the oath of office to Dr. Henney, hailed as the first cancer specialist to head the FDA. Key Senate supporters, Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) attended the event. Dr. Henney also acknowledged the support of Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who were not able to be present. The ceremony was attended by many of Dr. Henney's family members as well as representatives of organizations from the health care community, former FDA commissioners, and other past and current officials from the Administration. Dr. Henney is married to Robert Graham, M.D., executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
Dr. Henney has previously worked at the FDA and the National Cancer Institute. A native of Indiana, she most recently was vice president for health sciences at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Her top priorities for the FDA include implementation of the FDA modernization act and strengthening the agency's scientific base.
Five Medical Specialty Societies and AMA Initiate a Quality Care Alert
Five medical specialty societies, including the AAFP, and the American Medical Association (AMA), have jointly issued a Quality Care Alert highlighting data substantiating the effectiveness of beta blockers in reducing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality among patients with acute myocardial infarction. The alert references 10 recent scientific studies and physician-developed guidelines that form a consensus for one possible course of medical treatment for patients who are likely candidates for long-term use of beta blockers following an acute myocardial infarction. At a press event in early December, the participating organizations emphasized that too few eligible patients receive prescriptions for beta blockers even though substantial evidence shows that their use following a myocardial infarction significantly increases a patient's chance of survival. This first Quality Care Alert was mailed to 170,000 physicians nationwide. Future alerts will be issued by this group of associations, and plans are underway to address scientific data pertaining to pneumococcal vaccine in the next Quality Care Alert.
ACAAI Launches a Public Education Campaign on Allergy Treatment
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) has launched a public education campaign to increase understanding of allergy vaccination and encourage people who may be helped by this therapy to consider it. Vaccination against allergy is a well-established treatment that has been called “immunotherapy.” The ACAAI believes that use of the term immunotherapy is confusing and alarming to some people. The ACAAI suggests that use of the term immunotherapy be discontinued and replaced with the term “vaccination.” ACAAI past-president Ira Finegold, M.D., who is heading up the public awareness effort, states “When you tell people they can be vaccinated against allergies, they understand and they want to know more. But when you say ‘immunotherapy,’ they think you're talking about a cancer treatment or who knows what. Sometimes they confuse it with an experimental or dangerous procedure.” As part of this awareness campaign, the ACAAI is offering a patient education brochure titled “You Can Have a Life Without Allergies.” The brochure is available on the ACAAI Web site at http://www.acaai.org/.
Coalition Declares Underdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder a Major Health Problem
A newly formed coalition of representatives in the mental health field has declared the underdiagnosis of bipolar disorder to be a major health problem in the United States, resulting in unnecessary emergency hospitalizations, disability, lost productivity and even death. The coalition representatives include medical experts in bipolar disorder and representatives from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (DMDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health. The coalition has begun work to develop strategies to encourage faster, more accurate diagnosis of this brain disorder. Although bipolar disorder affects nearly 3 million Americans, the coalition believes just as many persons may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The NAMI can be contacted at 703-524-7600 or on the Internet at http://www.nami.org. The DMDA may be contacted at 800-826-3632 or on the Internet at http://www.ndmda.org.
Consumer Ignorance May Help Fuel Antibiotic-Resistant Strains of Bacteria
A study conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists indicates that consumer ignorance may be a major contributing factor to the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, according to a report in the November 23, 1998, issue of Medicine & Health. The study found that 52 percent of consumers believe that antibiotics are the best medicine for treating viral infections; 37 percent said they have stopped taking antibiotics when they felt better; and 25 percent of study participants had saved antibiotics from an earlier illness and used them later without asking advice from a health care professional.