World news wrapup: 15 August 2019

Don't drink bleach: Image courtesy FDA
Don't drink bleach: Image courtesy FDA

Don’t drink bleach, says FDA; growing opposition to NZ direct-to-consumer prescription ads; Walgreens to close more stores

United States: The Food and Drug Administration has taken the step of warning consumers not to drink bleach as a remedy for autism, cancer, or any other condition.

The agency says it has received many reports that “treatments” sold online – such as “Miracle” or “Master” Mineral Solution or other sodium chlorite products are making people ill, and urged Americans who have been using them to stop immediately.

“The FDA first warned consumers about the products in 2010. But they are still being promoted on social media and sold online by many independent distributors,” the FDA said in a statement.

When mixed according to package directions, the products of concern become a strong chemical that is used as bleach, it warns.

“Some distributors are making false—and dangerous—claims that Miracle Mineral Supplement mixed with citric acid is an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial liquid that is a remedy for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, and other conditions.

“But the FDA is not aware of any research showing that these products are safe or effective for treating any illness. Using these products may cause you to delay other treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective.

“The bottom line: Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them.”


New Zealand: More than half of Kiwis want direct-to-consumer medicines advertising banned, according to the results of a new survey by Consumer.

Alongside the United States, New Zealand is one of only two developed nations which permit the practice.

Consumer, which has for some time been lobbying against direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising, found that 57% of consumers supported a ban, in favour of a health information service which would provide independent information about treatment options.

Meanwhile 28% were undecided and 15% preferred to retain the status quo.

The survey found most consumers had a negative opinion about the information provided in such advertising, with only 8% saying they strongly agreed the information was unbiased and comprehensive, and 59% disagreeing.

The study comes at a time where the Ministry of Health has opened a consultation on whether direct-to-consumer prescription advertising should continue or be stopped.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners’ president Dr Samantha Murton told Health Central that since 2017, the organisation has also been lobbying against this advertising.

“GPs are concerned that patients will seek out products that are not appropriate or necessary, because they have been exposed to persuasive advertising,” she said.


Deerfield, Illinois: Walgreens plans to close another 200 stores in the United States, reports CBS San Francisco, in a bid to save money.

The pharmacy giant operates more than 18,000 stores around the world, of which nearly 10,000 are in the US.

It has already reportedly closed 195 US stores, and in May, announced that it would close another 200 in the UK.

According to a regulatory filing, the plan to close the additional 200 US stores is part of a bid to save US$1.5 billion in the next couple of years.

A spokesperson would not divulge which locations would be shuttered.


United States: Following two recent high-profile mass shootings, two health stakeholder bodies have released statements calling for steps to be taken to prevent gun violence.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists said it expressed a “deep sense of sadness” over the killings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where at least 31 people were shot. It also pointed at that these shootings came closely after another in Gilroy, California, where three people were killed.

“ASHP is planning a special session with more than 100 member leaders during ASHP Policy Week in September to explore additional roles ASHP and hospital and health-system pharmacists can play in helping to prevent gun-related injury and death, and other causes of violence,” it said.

“Pharmacists are vital members of the healthcare team who are dedicated to the preservation of life, and are committed to working toward a goal of ending all forms of violence.”

Meanwhile the American Public Health Association also expressed sorrow and said that “the time for this to end is now”.

“As the nation comes together to mourn this tragic loss of life, we must also come together in a call to action. Gun violence is preventable,” it said.

“Our lawmakers must act. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which will require checks for all gun purchases, keeping firearms away from people who are legally prohibited from owning them.

“The House also included funding in its version of the fiscal year 2020 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill for gun violence prevention research, which will allow scientists to determine the best ways to prevent and address gun violence.

“We call on legislators in the Senate to immediately follow the lead of their colleagues in the House and pass these critical public health measures.

“But we must go further. We call on Congress to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines that expired in 2004.

“To delay any longer will only mean more devastating and needless loss of life. Failure to act is unacceptable.”

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