Headlines: May 28, 2010

Meg Larkin

            In health reform news, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is urging employers to comply with some of the law’s mandates ahead of schedule. More specifically, Secretary Sebelius is urging employers to extend coverage to children of employees up to age 26 before that requirement formally takes effect.  More than 65 insurers have already agreed to allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans before the bill comes into effect, but the Obama administration is having less success in getting employers to adopt the measure early. The Obama administration asserts that the inclusion of young adults up to age 26 on employer sponsored plans should not raise premiums because young adults are healthier on average than the rest of the population.  Critics say that the young adults taking advantage of their parents insurance are more likely to be ill and unable to work, causing employee health care premiums to rise.

            In regulatory news, the FDA is considering further penalties for drugmaker Johnson & Johnson after its recall of a number of children’s medicines earlier this year.  The recall affected a number of products, including children’s Tylenol, and it was based on concerns that the affected materials either contained more of the active ingredient or contained outside contaminants.  Following congressional hearings, the F.D.A. is considering criminal penalties, product seizures, and other sanctions.  The F.D.A. cites a pattern of violations an issues with quality control as its reasons for considering additional penalties.  According to the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson has said that it is, “making improvements in every part of its manufacturing and quality control operations, including organizational changes, employee training and new procedures for investigating product problems.”

            In news from the Gulf of Mexico, reports of illnesses among clean up crews off the coast of Louisiana are causing concerns about the health risks posed by the recent oil spill.  According to the Washington Post, “In the latest incident, seven workers were hospitalized Wednesday after complaining of nausea, dizziness and headaches, prompting the Coast Guard to order all 125 boats working in the Breton Sound area to return to port as a precaution.”  It is unclear at this point whether the illnesses were due to the oil and other chemicals used in the clean up, or whether they’re the product of working long hours on boats in the sun.  Local, State, and Federal officials, as well as independent experts have been actively monitoring levels of risky chemicals in the cleanup work environment to determine what if any safety measures need to be taken.  Anecdotal reports have raised concerns that cleanup workers may need more training and equipment to be safe in their work environment.

            Finally, in global news, a new study has found that tobacco companies are directing their advertising at young women.  According to the Boston Globe, tobacco companies are trying to attract young women in the developing world with “flavored products and glossy feminine packaging.”  The study by the CDC showed that women Bangladesh, Thailand, and Uruguay were more aware of tobacco advertising than men.  The World Health Organization expects the number of female smokers to double worldwide by 2025.


Meg Larkin is a law student at Boston University.  Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns.