Daily Rounds: Dining With Drug Reps, Arsenic And Brown Rice; Hopeful MS Drug; A Gentle Death

This article is more than 8 years old.

Health Officials Scale Back Ban on Drug Device Companies Buying Doctors Meals ( — "Drug and medical device makers once again can treat Massachusetts doctors to meals and drinks in restaurants, under new regulations that weaken the state’s strict ban on gifts to health care providers. The change drew strong criticism from the state’s major consumer advocacy group, but was applauded by the pharmaceutical industry’s national trade organization. The state Public Health Council approved the emergency regulations Wednesday. Governor Deval Patrickin July signed a state budget that scaled back the restrictions imposed in 2008, and allowed companies to pay for “modest” meals and refreshments for doctors as part of informational sessions about their products. Patrick and the legislature left it up to public health officials to define “modest.” Health officials did not establish a dollar limit. Instead, they decided that meals must be modest by local standards and “similar to what a provider may pay’’ for a meal when eating out, said Iyah Romm, director of policy, health planning and strategic development for the Department of Public Health."

FDA Weighs Federal Standards To Limit Arsenic Exposure In Rice (NPR) — "Consumer Reports says you may be able to cut exposure to inorganic arsenic by using LOTS of water when you cook it. It recommends six parts water to one part rice, and draining the excess water off. The Environmental Working Group suggests trying different grains and introducing babies to foods like sweet potatoes and squash instead of rice cereals. Some governments are going even further. In the United Kingdom, the parents of toddlers and preschool children are advised to limit rice milk due to the levels of arsenic."

Pill Found Promising In Treatment Of MS (The new York Times) — "The two new studies, published online in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the drug BG-12, developed by Biogen Idec, reduced relapse rates in patients with relapsing M.S. by about 50 percent. The drug also significantly reduced the frequency of new brain lesions often associated with these attacks, and slowed the progression of disease compared with a placebo. The studies were Phase 3 trials, a last step on the road to drug approval. The Food and Drug Administration is required to make a decision about the drug’s approval before the end of this year. “This drug is clearly quite effective in managing disease and reducing disability, and the safety profile looks quite good,” said Timothy Coetzee, the chief research officer at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, who was not involved in the studies."

Going Gently Into That Good Night (Narratively) — "I believe that the power to make choices about how and when we die, when terminally ill, should be a basic human right. But there are various arguments against it. My favorite one says that it’s not for mortals to make such decisions because we are in God’s hands, however fumbling they may be. If God wants you to die in a certain manner, the logic seems to go, then that’s because it’s part of His plan. But what if God really doesn’t care one way or the other? It would be quite an administrative headache, after all. Consider that across the globe, roughly 150,000 people die every day, at a rate of about 107 people per minute. A little human intervention could go a long way during that last bumpy stretch."

This program aired on September 20, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.