Genomic data sharing: How much oversight is necessary?

By Mahsa Shabani

Introducing data sharing practices into the genomic research has brought a number of concerns in research ethics and governance to the fore. For instance, research participants and the general public raised concerns about potential privacy issues in personal genomic data protection, as well as the scope of the secondary uses. In order to address such concerns, Data Access Committees (DACs) were seen crucial in the governance of main genomic databases such as the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP) and the European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA). Surprisingly, the component of access review, the structure, and the functionality of such committees have been barely scrutinized to date.

In a recent study published in Genetics in Medicine, we solicited the opinion of 20 DAC members and experts on genomic data access. Specifically, the interviewees were asked about the goals of access review and their experiences with reviewing the ethical and scientific aspects of proposals. The respondents unanimously agreed that the complexity of the access review should correspond with the concerns associated with genomic data sharing. In this regard, privacy risks often seemed possible, yet were not viewed as an imminent threat. The respondents could only recall a few examples of re-identification of genomic data in the past, yet could not promise full privacy protection given the evolving nature of the field. Regardless of the scarcity of such incidents, the controlled-access model is generally considered necessary to maintain public trust. As a DAC member put it: “I think the future of science depends upon high levels of public trust and you can only have high levels of public trust if people feel the data sharing is being managed.” Continue reading

Discussion of Drug Addiction: Is It All About Race?

By: Matthew Ryan

During the Presidential primary season, one public health issue has gotten particular attention: heroin drug addiction. Candidates from both parties have spoken eloquently and passionately about the need to resolve drug addiction with public health solutions. The current language and proposals are far different from tough law-and-order rhetoric from the 1980s during the cocaine addiction epidemic. These differences should not be overlooked: they should inform how race impacts our perceptions as both public health practitioners and policy-makers.

In a post on Medium, Jeb Bush spoke vulnerably about his daughter’s heroin addiction. He wrote, “As a father, I have felt the heartbreak of drug abuse. I never expected to see my precious daughter in jail… She went through hell… and so did I.”

Carly Fiorina has also spoken powerfully about losing her stepdaughter to drug addiction. In an email to supporters, she was emphatic, “If you’re criminalizing drug abuse and addiction, you’re not treating it—and you’re part of the problem.” Continue reading

Hospitals’ Exposure to Products Liability Suits

By Alex Stein

The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut has recently delivered an important decision that opens up new possibilities for suing hospitals and clinics. This decision allowed a patient alleging that hospital employees injected her with a contaminated medication to sue the hospital in products liability. Gallinari v. Kloth, — F.Supp.3d —- (U.S.D.C. D.Conn. 2015), 2015 WL 7758835. Continue reading

EEOC Tries to Harmonize ACA’s Promotion of Employer Wellness Programs with GINA’s Ban Against Employer Access to Genetic Information of Employees and Employees’ Family Members

[Cross-posted from the Genomics Law Report blog]

By

Gina-name-tagThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits employers from requesting genetic information (defined broadly) from their prospective, current, or former employees. GINA contains only six limited exceptions to this prohibition, one of which is an exception for wellness programs in which the employee’s participation is voluntary.

On October 30, 2015 the EEOC issued a proposed ruleto amend GINA regulations in an attempt to harmonize them with the Affordable Care Act’s promotion of employer wellness programs to lower health care costs. The proposed rule tries to clarify that employers are permitted to offer incentives for an employee’s spouse to participate in a voluntary wellness program (but not the employee’s other dependents). The permissible incentives are capped at 30% of the total cost of the plan in which the employee and dependents are enrolled. The EEOC’s expressed intent is to treat GINA’s Title I (health insurance) and Title II (employment) provisions similarly. The proposed rule would allow employers to request current and former health status information from an employee’s spouse as part of their participation in the employer-sponsored wellness program. And there’s the rub: the current or former health status of an employee’s spouse is the employee’s own “genetic information” as the term is statutorily defined in GINA. The EEOC has prepared a Q&A page to explain the proposed rule, and the Congressional Research Service issued a report (R44311) on the topic on December 17, 2015. Continue reading

Monday, Feb. 1, Health Law Workshop with Michelle Mello

HLS Health Law Workshop: Michelle Mello

February 1, 2016 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Hauser Hall 105
Harvard Law School, 1575 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Presentation Title: “Reforming the Medical Liability System in New York: Outcomes of the New York State Medical Liability Reform and Patient Safety Demonstration Project.” To request a copy in preparation for the workshop, please contact Jennifer Minnich at jminnich at law.harvard.edu.

Michelle M. Mello is Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford School of Medicine. She is a leading empirical health law scholar whose research is focused on understanding the effects of law and regulation on health care delivery and population health outcomes. She holds a joint appointment at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Health Research and Policy. Continue reading

TOMORROW, 1/29! Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review Symposium


MORE SEATS AVAILABLE! Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review
January 29, 2016 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein West AB 
Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA

The Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review symposium will feature leading experts discussing major developments during 2015 and what to watch out for in 2016. The discussion at this day long event will cover hot topics in such areas as health insurance, health care systems, public health, innovation, and other issues facing clinicians and patients.

In addition to presenting at the conference, many of our speakers will write about their topics for a collaborative blog series that will begin in February 2016 on the Health Affairs Blog.

This year’s Health Law Year in P/Review is sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, the New England Journal of MedicineHealth Affairs, the Hastings CenterHarvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School, and the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, with support from the Oswald DeN. Cammann Fund at Harvard University.

Agenda Continue reading

Why Asset Tests Need Reform

The penalty for Bostonian jaywalkers can take dollars out of repeat offenders wallets. The $1 fine for jaywalking in the Massachusetts metropolis may be a ridiculous example of statutory dollar figures losing their significance, but the statutory dollar figures associated with Medicaid eligibility are anything but a laughing matter for millions of families.

The eligibility requirements around Medicaid expansion have ended the decades old practice of limiting assets for Medicaid coverage for children and parents. However, in order to qualify for many existing Medicaid programs, the elderly and people with disabilities in many states must still verify that their assets fall below a certain dollar figure. Oftentimes, this dollar figure is statutory and requires state legislatures to act in order to have the figure rise with inflation.

Asset tests were first incorporated into Medicaid law under the original legislation because welfare benefits required strict means and asset tests. These levels were determined at the state level. As eligibility was separated from welfare eligibility, specific dollar figures on assets were added to eligibility criteria and were meant to curb enrollment by “welfare queens” or people that qualify for social assistance fraudulently or with significant assets. President Reagan first campaigned on the concept of “welfare queens” in his failed 1976 bid for the presidency. But these fraudulent cases that the policy is meant to restrict are limited and more often the imposed asset tests prevent working-age adults from reducing dependency on social welfare programs.

Continue reading

Seeking Research on How Policies, Laws, and Regulations Can Help Build a Culture of Health

With the focus to generate actionable evidence to guide legislators and other policymakers, public agencies, educators, advocates, community groups, and individuals, the RWJF Policies for Action Program has launched its first Call for Proposals (CFP).

Research should inform the significant gaps in our knowledge regarding how policies can serve as levers to improve population health, well-being, and equity. Approximately $1.5 million will be awarded through this CFP.

An informational webinar will take place on Tuesday, February 16 from 1-2p.m. ET, where Director of P4A, Scott Burris, JD, will answer any questions you may have.

Webinar

 

 

Visiting Health/IP Law Professor, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

The Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law invites applications for a 2016-17 visiting assistant professor position, for one or two semesters. The position would primarily involve teaching courses in the Health Law and IP curricula and participation in the scholarly and student-centered activities organized by the law school’s Hall Center for Law and Health and its Center for Intellectual Property Law and Innovation.

Applicants should indicate what Health Law/IP courses they could offer and any additional courses they would be interested in teaching.

Please submit a letter of interest, a CV, and a list of three references to: Vice Dean Antony Page, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law at page@iu.edu  with copies to Professors Nicolas Terry, terry@iupui.edu, and Xuan-Thao Nguyen, xunguyen@iupui.edu. The closing date for applications is Friday, February 18, 2016.

We are committed to achieving excellence through intellectual diversity and strongly encourage applications from persons of color, women, persons with disabilities, the LGBT community, veterans, and members of other groups that are under-represented on university faculties. The law school is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution and offers domestic partner benefits.

Latest News from the Petrie-Flom Center!

Check out the January 22nd edition of the Petrie-Flom Center’s biweekly e-newsletter for the latest on events, affiliate news and scholarship, and job and fellowship opportunities in health law policy and bioethics.

Featured in this edition:


UPDATED AGENDA: Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review
January 29, 2016 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C 
Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA

The Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review symposium will feature leading experts discussing major developments during 2015 and what to watch out for in 2016. The discussion at this day long event will cover hot topics in such areas as health insurance, health care systems, public health, innovation, and other issues facing clinicians and patients.

In addition to presenting at the conference, many of our speakers will write about their topics for a collaborative blog series that will begin in February 2016 on the Health Affairs Blog.

Continue reading

‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry

twihl 14x14

This week we welcomed Jessica L. Roberts, Director of the Health Law & Policy Institute and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Houston. In 2015, she received the university-wide Teaching Excellence Award and the Provost’s Certificate of Excellence. Professor Roberts recently was named a 2018 Greenwall Faculty Scholar in Bioethics. Her research focuses on the intersection of health law and antidiscrimination law.

We started the program with a brief discussion of topics in the news, including the actuality of single-payer care in Britain and the possibility of Medicare-for-All in the US. Nic brought us up to date on Postmarket Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices, a guidance issued by the FDA. Frank brought up some ACA hiccups, including employees’ (failed) resistance to expanding wellness programs, and the rather startling statistic that 56% of Humana’s in-network hospitals have no in-network emergency physicians.

Jessica then led our discussion of her article (with Nicole Huberfeld), Health Care and the Myth of Self-Reliance, and her article (with Elizabeth Weeks Leonard) What Is and Isn’t Healthism. Each article addresses deep issues of distributive justice theory and anti-discrimination principles, as well as practical problems confronting HR and compliance departments.

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 RadioTunein 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

Four Key Issues In Health Law That Are As Relevant As Ever In 2016

Petrie-Flom’s Executive Director Holly Fernandez Lynch has a new post over at the Health Affairs Blog as the first entry in a series that will stem from our Fourth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review conference, to be held at Harvard Law School on Friday, January 29, 2016.

In it, Holly takes stock of which major issues in health law policy remain outstanding from years past, and which are coming down the pike, including:

  • The ACA (and the contraceptives coverage mandate, in particular)
  • The state of health care reform generally
  • Efforts to control health care costs
  • Emerging regulatory pathways to speed patient access to new products
  • And more…

Read the full post here.

The Common Rule NPRM Blog Series: Posting of Consent Forms

By: Academic and Clinical Research Group at Verrill Dana LLP

[Crossposted from the The Common Rule NPRM Blog Series on the Endpoints Blog]

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and fifteen other federal agencies outlining changes to their existing human subject protection regulations (the “Common Rule”), proposes a new provision that would require a copy of the final version of the consent form (absent any signatures) for each clinical trial conducted or supported by a Common Rule department or agency to be posted (within 60 days after the trial is closed for recruitment) on a publically available federal website that would be established for such purpose.

In Part 3 of our Academic and Clinical Research Group (“ACRG”) blog series on the Common Rule NPRM, we address the rationale behind this proposal and its potential benefits, downsides, and missed opportunities. Continue reading

TOMORROW, 1/20! A Conversation with Margaret A. Hamburg, FDA Commissioner 2009-2015

A Conversation with Margaret A. Hamburg, FDA Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. A new program that lets drugmakers move more quickly through the approval process for breakthrough products may help lower the cost of life-saving treatments, Hamburg, the nation's chief drug regulator, said today. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesCommissioner 2009-2015
January 20, 2016 12:30 PM
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East ABC (2nd floor)
Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA

Please join the Petrie-Flom Center for a conversation with former FDA Commissioner (and former New York City Health Commissioner), Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, led by Peter Barton Hutt, former Chief Counsel to FDA and current Senior Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP and Lecturer on Law at HLS. Topics discussed will include FDA’s role and the changing scientific, legal, political, and economic landscape; the overlap of science, innovation, and cost regarding biomedical products; food safety and nutrition; challenges of globalization, and more.

Speakers:

  • Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, 2009-2015
  • Peter Barton Hutt, Covington & Burling and Harvard Law School

This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is required. Register now!

Sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, with support from the Oswald DeN. Cammann Fund.

Thought about Breastfeeding and Civil Liberties

Breastfeeding is known for being an extremely politicized issue. Past decades introduced us to different interest groups advocating for and against the ideal of “Breast is best”. A recent book by Courtney Jung called ‘Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy’ describes how the ideal of breastfeeding became a focal point of consensus among conflicting political groups like environmentalists and capitalists, leftists and conservatives and many more. The book reveals troubling regulatory schemes which sanction non-breastfeeding moms by denying benefits and iron rich food for their babies. This pattern of body governance echoes Dorothy Roberts’ book ‘Killing the Black Body’ which described how procreation decisions made by poor-black-women, are constantly sanctioned and regulated by the state in order to achieve social objectives, for example, by conditioning welfare benefits in an installation of permanent contraceptives.

In Roberts’ book, a clear distinction is made with respect to the reproductive liberty of black and white women. The contraceptive pill, which symbolizes the emblem of reproductive freedom and is highly identified with the feminist movement, was the product of a scientific endeavor greatly motivated by conservative groups’ desire to control population through family planning schemes, historically targeting the fertility of poor black women. In a similar way, the ideal of “breast is best” has also been operating differently with respect to race and economic status. In Linda Blum’s bookAt the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in Contemporary United States’ she conducts interviews with women who didn’t nurse. She found that in contrast to white women who strove for outer respectability and experienced their lack of breastfeeding as a failure to conform with the breastfeeding imperative, black women emphasized their use in feeding instruments as significant for their independence which was highly evaluated. Accordingly, statistics show generally lower breastfeeding rates among black women in the US.

Continue reading

‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry

twihl 14x14

This week, we interviewed Guian McKee, an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of Virginia. Guian received a Ph.D. in American history at the University of California, Berkeley in May 2002. His research interests include U.S. social policy history and urban history. He is the author of The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia, published in November 2008 by the University of Chicago Press. He also recently published an article in the Washington Post on the political economy of health in Baltimore.

Nic and Frank began with a discussion of the FTC’s Big Data report. We also discussed developments in Medicaid policy in Kentucky and other states, and the politicization of meaningful use.

Our discussion with Guian questioned some conventional narratives about health care costs. Frank discussed the hidden costs of health care cost-cutting, and Guian confirmed that “med and eds” have been at the center of many urban policy proposals in the wake of deindustrialization. Nic and Guian discussed the importance of addressing overutilization. And the conversation ended on a hopeful note about automation complementing, rather than replacing, human professionals.

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 RadioTunein 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