Jelly Beans, Booze, and B-Vitamins

The FDA’s policy guidelines on nutritional fortification include the so-called “jelly-bean rule:” the FDA considers it inappropriate to fortify candy or soda with nutrients because to do so would allow “misleading health claims” to be made about a putatively unhealthy product. Candy companies that tried to add vitamins their products to market them as “healthier” have already been targeted by the FDA. But take a quick glance at the shelves of any convenience store: the “healthy”, vitamin enriched snacks and drinks are so full of sugars, flavors and sweeteners that it would take a doctorate in metaphysics, rather than medicine, to distinguish them from the candy and soda. So, maybe the FDA’s stance on adding a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down has relaxed. With that in mind, here’s a little thought experiment. I’d like to bring a proposal back from the eighties: that inexpensive alcoholic beverages be fortified with allithiamine, a fat-soluble analogue of Vitamin B1.[1] Why? The fortification could dramatically reduce the incidence of Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s Syndrome among the homeless and alcoholic population.

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Heather Howard on ‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry and Frank Pasquale

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Health policy researcher Heather H. Howard returns to the pod and, not surprisingly, Medicaid was the focus of our talk. Howard is a lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where she teaches courses on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the social determinants of health, and state and local health policy. She works with states implementing health reforms and served as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Health and Senior Services from 2008-2010. She tweets at @HeatherHHoward.

We discussed various Medicaid issues; the extent non-expansion was driven by policy or politics, work requirements under Section 1115 waivers, state administrative costs associated with draconian Medicaid expansion criteria (particularly when compared to the macroeconomic effects of a robust healthcare system), cost-sharing and the “private option” in existing state plans, and the likelihood of Section 1332 waivers moving states to universal care or, at least, meaningful innovation.

Our lightning round addressed various issues, including an Altarum study on the macroeconomic effects of the ACA, and state AG’s actions regarding mHealth apps and privacy.

The Week in Health Law Podcast from Frank Pasquale and Nicolas Terry is a commuting-length discussion about some of the more thorny issues in Health Law & Policy. Subscribe at iTunes, listen at Stitcher Radio, Tunein and Podbean, or search for The Week in Health Law in your favorite podcast app. Show notes and more are at TWIHL.com. If you have comments, an idea for a show or a topic to discuss you can find us on Twitter @nicolasterry @FrankPasquale @WeekInHealthLaw.