Recent Developments in Off-Label Promotion

July has been a busy month for those following the controversy around off-label promotion of drugs and devices.  As many on this blog know, federal law requires that prior to marketing any drug or device, companies must prove to the FDA’s satisfaction that it is safe and effective for all intended uses.  If the company reveals that it intends unapproved uses,  sales of the drug or device are illegal.  Nonetheless, physicians can prescribe “off-label,” and companies are free to sell for those known-but-not-intended purposes.

This carefully-wrought policy may seem convoluted, but it serves important epistemic and economic purposes, as I have argued elsewhere.  This month, I have a new draft paper on SSRN, assessing recent assertions of a First Amendment right to promote for uses not approved by the FDA, and consider whether such a right would be equally applicable to drugs that have no FDA-approved label at all. I worry that the entire pre-market approval regime may be at stake. Feedback on that intentionally-provocative analysis is quite welcome.

On Wednesday, two medical device company executives, were convicted of promoting a product “to deliver steroid medications to patients’ sinuses, though it was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for keeping sinuses open.”  The prosecutors thought the case was particularly egregious, because the company had intended the broader use to deliver medicine all along, but sought to mislead the FDA, denying it the chance review the safety and efficacy of the real intended use.  The jury instructions and verdict form  are particularly interesting, to see how the government’s trial strategy avoids the holding of a Second Circuit case of Caronia, which overturned a conviction on First Amendment grounds.  I’ll return with some analysis later. Continue reading

Jon Mark Hirshon on ‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry and Frank Pasquale

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Listen here! Our guest this week is Jon Mark Hirshon, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Jon Mark is also on the board of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and is an internationally recognized expert on acute care. His teams have trained approximately 900 physicians from countries in the Middle East in topics ranging from clinical care of trauma patients to disaster preparedness to research methods.Our lightning round featured discussions of an issue brief, “How Has the Affordable Care Act Affected Health Insurers’ Financial Performance?,” as well as a news story on some insurers’ dissatisfaction with the ACA. While health costs may increase GDP, they are hurting some insurers’ bottom lines. On the health IT front, we focused on ransomware and non-covered entities’ data. And continuing our wellness coverage, we mentioned employers’ new enthusiasm for mobile monitoring of employees’ mental health–what Rachel Emma Silverman’s twitter feed has jokingly called “#textualhealing.”

During his interview, Jon Mark focused on policy issues in acute care. He discussed a lawsuit filed by the American College of Emergency Physicians against the federal government reflecting ACEP’s concerns about reimbursement. Jon Mark also described the many challenges now facing emergency departments, ranging from narrow networks that fail to fairly compensate care, to user-unfriendly IT systems. Jon Mark also offered practical solutions for increasing access to acute care–an urgent policy concern given America’s dismal overall grades for access to emergency care.

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

Call for Proposals: BioIP Faculty Workshop

The American Society for Law, Medicine & Ethics (ASLME) is pleased to announce the second annual bioIP Faculty Workshop on May 5, 2017 at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law in Chicago, IL.

The Workshop offers a unique opportunity for three scholars in their first decade of teaching to present their work in progress for in-depth critique and commentary by respected senior scholars in the field.

Topics for the workshop are at the intersection of biotechnology, life sciences, food and drug law, and intellectual property (hence, bioip), broadly defined. A Review Committee comprised of faculty from the Boston University School of Law, Georgia State University College of Law, and the Loyola University Chicago School of Law will select papers for the Workshop in a blind process. Papers should present an original thesis and contribute to scholarly literature. The Workshop will not review published work.

Scholars with less than ten years of teaching experience, including VAPS and Fellows, are eligible for participation in the Workshop. Those interested in participating should submit an abstract (up to 750 words) of the proposed paper (without identifying details) along with a c.v. to Ted Hutchinson, Executive Director of the ASMLE at thutchinson@aslme.org by Oct 14, 2016.

Selected abstracts will be announced later in Fall 2016 with the full draft papers due by April 1, 2017. The organizers will cover reasonable travel and lodging expenses for selected scholars.

For questions, please email Cynthia Ho at cho@luc.edu.

The vexed problem of properly discharging elderly patients from hospital back into the community

By John Tingle

The National Health Service (NHS) just does not seem to be able to deal properly with discharging elderly patients from hospital back into the community. There have been major issues in this area going back decades. Stories in the media and official reports regularly appear about ‘bed blocking’ by elderly patients or hospitals discharging them back into the community without proper care arrangements being made.

There is a real fear that the NHS will never be able to turn things around here and that the lessons of the past are not being learnt .There are seemingly intractable problems being faced by trusts, social services and others in doing a proper job with elderly patient discharge.The high financial cost to the NHS of keeping well elderly patients in hospital has also been widely discussed.

Hospitals and social services have faced a barrage of criticism of failing to have coordinated care policies and arrangements leading in some cases to deaths of patients.
Two reports have been published recently which show that patient safety is being seriously compromised in this area. Continue reading

Updated Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice Map

The Policy Surveillance Program staff has recently updated the Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice Dataset on LawAtlas.org to include laws through May 2016.

Fifty jurisdictions and the District of Columbia have laws pertaining to nurse practitioners’ scope of practice. In general, scope of practice laws regulate the autonomy nurse practitioners are given within their practice to treat patients. State laws fall into two main categories: limited practice and full practice. In limited practice states, the law limits autonomy for nurse practitioners by requiring them to collaborate with, or work under, the supervision of another health care provider. By contrast, full practice states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently.

In total, there are 29 limited practice states. In those states, collaboration, supervision, or a combination of the two are required in performing activities such as prescribing medication, ordering tests, performing examinations, and counseling or educating patients, among other activities.

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– States with limited practice authority

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Medical Malpractice vs. General Negligence under California Law

By Alex Stein

In its recent decision, Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hosp., 369 P.3d 229 (Ca. 2016), the California Supreme Court has sharpened the critical distinction between “medical malpractice” and general negligence.

Under California statute, a plaintiff’s ability to file a medical malpractice suit expires in one year after the accrual of the cause of action. The statute tolls this period for two additional years, provided that the plaintiff files the suit within one year after he discovers the injury or could reasonably have discovered it. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 340.5 (providing that suits for medical malpractice must be filed “three years after the date of injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first.”). For other personal injury suits, the limitations period is “two years of the date on which the challenged act or omission occurred.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.

In the case at bar, the plaintiff was injured when one of the rails on her hospital bed collapsed. Continue reading

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER! Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics

This volume, edited by I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch, and Christopher T. Robertson, stems from the Petrie-Flom Center’s 2014 Annual Conference “Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy.” Pre-order your copy today!

Nudging HealthBehavioral nudges are everywhere: calorie counts on menus, automated text reminders to encourage medication adherence, a reminder bell when a driver’s seatbelt isn’t fastened. Designed to help people make better health choices, these reminders have become so commonplace that they often go unnoticed. In Nudging Health, forty-five experts in behavioral science and health policy from across academia, government, and private industry come together to explore whether and how these tools are effective in improving health outcomes.

Behavioral science has swept the fields of economics and law through the study of nudges, cognitive biases, and decisional heuristics—but it has only recently begun to impact the conversation on health care. Nudging Health wrestles with some of the thorny philosophical issues, legal limits, and conceptual questions raised by behavioral science as applied to health law and policy. The volume frames the fundamental issues surrounding health nudges by addressing ethical questions. Does cost-sharing for health expenditures cause patients to make poor decisions? Is it right to make it difficult for people to opt out of having their organs harvested for donation when they die? Are behavioral nudges paternalistic? The contributors examine specific applications of behavioral science, including efforts to address health care costs, improve vaccination rates, and encourage better decision-making by physicians. They wrestle with questions regarding the doctor-patient relationship and defaults in healthcare while engaging with larger, timely questions of healthcare reform.

Nudging Health is the first multi-voiced assessment of behavioral economics and health law to span such a wide array of issues—from the Affordable Care Act to prescription drugs.

Read the introduction on SSRN and pre-order your book now!

NOW ONLINE! Oxford Union Debating Society DNA Manipulation Debate

DNA fingerprints.The Oxford Union Debating Society at Oxford University has published full video of its DNA Manipulation Debate, filmed on May 26. The Motion under debate was, “This House Believes the Manipulation of Human DNA is an Ethical Necessity.” Oxford billed its DNA Manipulation Debate as “historic” in a year when rapid advances in gene editing and genome synthesis suddenly confront humans with the possibility of being able to write, edit, re-write, and ultimately control their own genetic destinies.

The team supporting the Motion was led by Sir Ian Wilmut, famous for cloning Dolly the Sheep and now Chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and included Oxford’s noted moral philosopher Julian Savulescu and Oxford student debater Lynda Troung, a fast-rising star in RNA research.

The team opposing the Motion included Dr. Norman Fost, professor emeritus of pediatrics and director of the medical ethics program at the University of Wisconsin; Professor Barbara Evans, Director of the Center for Biotechnology & Law at the University of Houston Law Center and a frequent participant in Petrie-Flom conferences; and Oxford student debater Dr. Rahul Gandhi, a young medical doctor and monk focusing on rural healthcare, who is pursuing an MBA at Oxford this year as a prelude to seeking an MPH at Harvard next year.

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Monthly Round-Up of What to Read on Pharma Law and Policy

By Ameet Sarpatwari and Aaron S. Kesselheim

Each month, members of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) review the peer-reviewed medical literature to identify interesting empirical studies, in-depth analyses, and thoughtful editorials on pharmaceutical law and policy.

Below are the papers identified from the month of June. The selections feature topics ranging from lessons from the history of randomized controlled trials, to the prevalence and predictors of generic drug skepticism among physicians, to the availability and dissemination of results from FDA-mandated post-approval studies of medical devices. A full posting of abstracts/summaries of these articles may be found on our website.

  1. Bothwell LE, Greene JA, Podolsky SH, Jones DS. Assessing the Gold Standard–Lessons from the History of RCTs. N Engl J Med. 2016;374(22):2175-81.
  2. Gellad WF, Good CB. Prescription of Brand-Name Medications When Generic Alternatives Are Available-Patently Unfair. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Hwang TJ, Sokolov E, Franklin JM,  Kesselheim AS. Comparison of rates of safety issues and reporting of trial outcomes for medical devices approved in the European Union and United States: cohort study. BMJ. 2016;353:i3323.
  4. Ioannidis JP. Why Most Clinical Research Is Not Useful. PLoS Med. 2016;13(6):e1002049.
  5. Kesselheim AS, Gagne JJ, Eddings W, Franklin JM, Ross KM, Fulchino LA, Campbell EG. Prevalence and Predictors of Generic Drug Skepticism Among Physicians: Results of a National Survey. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):845-7.
  6. Kesselheim AS, Gagne JJ, Franklin JM, Eddings W, Fulchino LA, Avorn J, Campbell EG. Variations in Patients’ Perceptions and Use of Generic Drugs: Results of a National Survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2016;31(6):609-14.
  7. Luo J, Seeger JD, Donneyong M, Gagne JJ, Avorn J, Kesselheim AS. Effect of Generic Competition on Atorvastatin Prescribing and Patients’ Out-of-Pocket Spending. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Moore TJ, Furberg CD, Mattison DR, Cohen MR. Completeness of serious adverse drug event reports received by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2014. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2016 Jun;25(6):713-8.
  9. Quesada O, Yang E, Redberg RF. Availability and Dissemination of Results From US Food and Drug Administration-Mandated Postapproval Studies for Medical Devices. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
  10. Sarpatwari A, Kesselheim AS. Navigating the Dermatological Drug Cost Curve. JAMA. 2016;315(24):2724-5.
  11. Sarpatwari A, Avorn J, Kesselheim AS. State Initiatives to Control Medication Costs–Can Transparency Legislation Help? N Engl J Med. 2016;374(24):2301-4.
  12. Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Zheng E, Tse T, Zarin DA. ClinicalTrials.gov and Drugs@FDA: A Comparison of Results Reporting for New Drug Approval Trials. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Jun 14. [Epub ahead of print]

UPDATED – Dental Hygiene Practitioners: Why they’re needed in Massachusetts, and why the amendment failed

Special guest post from Kelly Vitzthumoral health policy analyst at Health Care For All, a Massachusetts health policy and consumer advocacy organization. This post has been updated to reflect the non-inclusion of the Dental Hygiene Practitioner amendment in the final version of Massachusetts’ FY 2017 budget.

Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher described poor oral health as “a Silent Epidemic.” Oral health diseases are by and large preventable, and yet they are incredibly widespread. Disadvantaged and marginalized populations suffer disproportionately from poor oral health, and children are especially vulnerable. Many low-income individuals and families are priced out of needed care and struggle to find providers who accept Medicaid.

Though Massachusetts is a leader in health care and health reform, oral health is still often overlooked in state health policy discussions. Though MassHealth – Massachusetts’ Medicaid program – covers 40% of the state’s children, most dentists do not accept it. A shocking proportion of children have untreated oral decay, which affects their ability to eat, learn, and play. A full tenth of the population currently lives in a federally-designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Area (DHPSA), and emergency department visits for preventable dental conditions cost the state millions annually. Continue reading

Whole Woman’s Health and the Future of Abortion Regulation

By John A. Robertson

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (WWH) is the most important abortion case since Casey in 1992, and a major setback for the anti-choice movement.  By allowing courts to weigh the importance of the health benefits of a regulation, it will most likely invalidate most TRAP laws, which usually only marginally advance health while making it more difficult for women to access abortion.  WWH, however, will not stop the anti-choice movement from pressing its fight against abortion in other ways.  It now controls many state legislatures, and more legislation in areas left open by WWH may be expected.

Future health-related regulation will have to hew to the WWH line of providing real benefit, at least if substantially limits access to abortion.  But close questions may still arise.  What if a state has a valid health justification for a regulation that does limit access to abortion, as Jonathan Will notes would occur if a state law that directly promotes women’s health leads to that one clinic closing, as might occur in a state like Mississippi?  Here there would be a substantial burden on access, but given the health benefit of the law, which interest should take priority?  Neither Casey nor WWH are clear on this point.  In my view the question will turn on how great is the health benefit from the requirement.  A state, for example, should be able to close the only clinic in the state if it was as derelict as the Gosnell clinic.  In that case, however, one could show serious danger to women’s health and life that would be comparable or even greater than the risk of childbirth.  If the health benefit is less but still substantial, the question is harder.  Such a situation would call into question whether the state itself must allow even a sub-standard abortion facility even when acceptable facilities exist across a state line. (See Jackson Women’s Health v. Currier.) Continue reading

Data at Work

By Scott Burris, JD

The past few weeks saw two important studies published using legal mapping data to understand the role law plays in addressing health inequity and disparities. Both provide immediately actionable insights for health policy.

The first, published in the American Journal of Public Health, evaluates more than 200 changes in state minimum wage laws over 31 years (1980-2011) using LawAtlas data, and the impact of those changes on infant mortality and birth weight. Komro and her colleagues find that a $1 increase in the minimum wage above the federal level was associated with a 1 to 2 percent decrease in the number of low birth weight births and a four percent decrease in infant mortality in the United States. The research was built on data that identified every change in state and federal minimum wages over 31 years. The natural experiment represented by 206 state law changes—which can be compared by month both before and after within state and against states that did not change—can give us great confidence that the effect of the increases is causal. Continue reading

Malpractice, Terminal Patients, and Cause in Fact

By Alex Stein

Any person interested in medical malpractice or torts in general must read the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decision, Mickels v. Danrad, 486 S.W.3d 327 (Mo. 2016). This decision involved a physician who negligently failed to diagnose the presence of a malignant brain tumor, from which the patient was doomed to die. The patient first saw the physician when he experienced numbness, blurred vision, and headaches. The physician sent the patient to an MRI scan, which he subsequently reviewed but made no diagnosis. Eleven weeks later, the patient arrived at a hospital in an altered mental state and underwent a CT scan of his brain, which showed a malignant and incurable tumor. Four months later, the patient died of that tumor. According to patient’s oncologist – who testified as a witness in a subsequent malpractice trial – the tumor was incurable when the patient first saw the physician. The plaintiffs offered no evidence controverting that testimony. Continue reading

Human Rights Advocacy under Attack

One of the world’s most important human rights law firms is now under attack from a government whose leader has, to put it mildly, a mixed record on human rights.  The firm is the Lawyer’s Collective, which has done some of the most important work within India on HIV, LGBT and gender issues.  The firm’s lawyers have also made great contributions internationally. Indira Jaising has served as a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Anand Grover was the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health from 2008 to 2014, during which service he issues several fearless reports that helped move the world forward towards an enabling environment for HIV among the most legally marginalized people.

On June 1, the Indian Union Ministry for Home Affairs suspended the firm’s license to receive foreign funding, contending that the Lawyer’s Collective had violated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The Lawyer’s Collective faces the prospect of having their license cancelled permanently, which would seriously impact their work. Both the suspension order and the Lawyer’s Collective’s response have been widely reported in the Indian media. Continue reading

Are The FDA’s New Definitions And Labeling Requirements Good For Us, Or Just Empty Calories?

By Diana R. H. Winters

[Crossposted from the Health Affairs Blog]

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently taken three steps toward providing consumers with more and better information about food products that the agency regulates. First, in response to several citizen petitions, the agency requested comments on the use of the term “natural” on food labeling. Second, the agency issued a statement in early May indicating that “in the near future” it planned to solicit comments reevaluating how nutrient content claims are regulated — including the term “healthy.” And third, the agency issued a final rule on an updated Nutrition Facts label, with which large companies must comply by July 2018.

With each of these actions the FDA is attempting to ensure that information provided to consumers by food manufacturers comports with the latest scientific understanding about food components. Indeed, the updated nutrition facts label will provide important information and potentially allow consumers to make more informed choices about what they eat. The agency, however, has set itself a far trickier task in defining words such as “natural” and “healthy.”

Act Naturally

In the past, the FDA has repeatedly declined to define the term “natural.” The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990 required the FDA to standardize definitions for nutrient content claims, like “fat free” or “high in fiber,” and to limit the use of health claims, like “heart healthy” (21 U.S.C. §§ 343(r)(1)(A), (B)). The word “natural,” however, does not fit into either of these categories.

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New Resource: BPCIA Legislative History Documents

The Petrie-Flom Center is pleased to announce the availability of a new resource on its website: the legislative history of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA).  The BPCIA, passed as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), created a pathway for the approval of biosimilar products and awarded innovator biologic companies twelve years of exclusivity for their products.  Modeled after the Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984, which established our system of generic small-molecule drug approvals while simultaneously creating a five-year period of exclusivity for new drugs, consideration of the BPCIA’s history is often lost in the discussion over the ACA’s history as a whole.  This resource selects only those documents relating to the BPCIA and may thus prove particularly useful for scholars of FDA law.

This new resource comes at an opportune time, as the courts and Congress have both turned their focus to the provisions of the BPCIA.  In 2015, the Federal Circuit issued a divided opinion interpreting the BPCIA’s instructions to biosimilar and innovator drug sponsors, and that opinion has now been appealed to the Supreme Court.  Just last month, the Justices called for the views of the Solicitor General on this question, a step which may significantly increase the likelihood of an eventual cert grant.  At the same time, several members of Congress have introduced a bill that would decrease the BPCIA’s grant of exclusivity from twelve years to seven years, bringing it more in line with the five-year period in the Hatch-Waxman Act or seven-year period in the Orphan Drug Act.  The twelve-year period of exclusivity may have been the most contentious aspect of the BPCIA as passed, with even the FTC arguing strongly against such a lengthy period at the time.

Members of the public may also be interested in an article written by Professor Erika Lietzan and colleagues providing an excellent analysis of the BPCIA’s legislative history.

National Academies Report Recommends Withdrawing the NPRM and Calls for a New Belmont Report

[Crossposted from Ampersand – The PRIM&R Blog]

By Elisa A. Hurley

On June 29, the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering released Part 2 of their report, Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research: A New Regulatory Framework for the 21st Century. The report, written by the Committee on Federal Research Regulations and Reporting Requirements in response to a Congressional request, examines the impact of regulations and policies governing federally funded academic research in the United States. Part 1, released in September 2015, concluded that the continued expansion of federal regulations is “diminishing the effectiveness of the U.S. research enterprise, and lowering the return on federal investment in basic and applied research by diverting investigators’ time and institutional resources away from research and toward administrative and compliance matters” (xii). It made specific recommendations to reduce regulatory burden, and also recommended the creation of a “public-private Research Policy Board to streamline research policies.”

Part 2 concludes the analysis of regulations governing federally funded research and includes, in Chapter 9, a critical examination of the ethical, legal, and regulatory framework for human subjects research. The chapter begins by acknowledging that the research landscape has changed dramatically since the publication nearly 40 years ago of the Belmont Report, which established the three basic principles that provide the ethical foundation for the conduct of human subjects research in the United States. Changes in research methodologies and technologies, including comparative effectiveness research, research on de-identified biospecimens, observational studies of large datasets, cluster randomized trials, and research in emergency settings—as well as longstanding questions about the applicability to social and behavioral research of rules written for the biomedical research context—raise challenging questions about how to apply and balance the Belmont principles of respect for persons, beneficence, and justice across much of today’s research enterprise. Continue reading

Tort Reform in Oregon: Constitutional, After All?

By Alex Stein

Three years ago, Oregon’s Supreme Court voided the state’s $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice for violating the constitutional guarantee that “In all civil cases the right of Trial by Jury shall remain inviolate” (Or. Const., Art. I, § 17, as interpreted in Lakin v. Senco Products, Inc., 987 P.2d 463, modified, 987 P.2d 476 (Or. 1999)). Klutschkowski v. Oregon Medical Group, 311 P.3d 461 (Or. 2013). This cap also clashed with “every man’s” right to “remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation” (Or. Const., Art. I, § 10, as interpreted in Smothers v. Gresham Transfer, Inc., 23 P.3d 333 (Or. 2001), and in Hughes v. PeaceHealth, 178 P.3d 225 (Or. 2008)). The Court reasoned that a person’s right to recover full jury-assessed compensation for injuries recognized as actionable in 1857, when Oregon adopted its constitution, cannot be abolished or abridged by statute or common law. For my discussion of the Klutschowski decision, see here. For my discussion of a similar entrenchment principle adopted by the Utah Supreme Court in Smith v. United States, 356 P.3d 1249 (Utah 2015), see here.

The Oregon Supreme Court has now changed this course in a long precedential decision, Horton v. Oregon Health and Science University, — P.3d —- 359 Or. 168 (Or. 2016). Continue reading

Mehrsa Baradaran on ‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry and Frank Pasquale

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Listen here!

Our guest this week is Mehrsa Baradaran, J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law at the University of Georgia. Author of the acclaimed book How the Other Half Banks, Baradaran described the increasingly difficult financial landscape for poorer Americans. We discussed the impact of inequality and financial exclusion on many aspects of health care finance, including providers’ collections policies, hospital-as-lender models, and high-deductible health plans. Baradaran offers many important insights on how new financial realities affect both monetary flows and consumer protection in health care.

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

Trial by Fire: CRISPR takes the next step

CRISPR-Cas9 has drawn applause for being one of the biggest technological advancements in recent history, but it also raises important ethical issues. This technology, an efficient genome editing tool, is now taking its next big step: CRISPR might be going in for human trials for its potential use in fighting cancer (namely, by altering T-cells to treat cancer cells as “foreign bodies”). Trials have been proposed to be conducted at three sites over a period of two years. The Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) at the NIH gave its unanimous approval for these trials earlier this week. Now permissions from FDA and Institutional Review Boards remain before this becomes a reality.

Whether or not the studies will get that approval is uncertain. The RAC already expressed concerns about conflict of interest, and the ghosts of the trial involving Jesse Gelsinger 17 years ago at UPenn have resurfaced.  There are also important questions about risks, uncertainty, and informed consent from the research participants.

The scientific community and regulators have been wary of the gravity of the implications of genome editing. When a Chinese study involving gene editing in human embryos was submitted for publication, there was a hue and cry over whether journals should accept it, given ethical concerns. Currently, there is a moratorium on altering DNA that will subsequently pass on to new generations. Even when the CRISPR technology was approved for editing human embryos in the UK, it was mandated that embryos be destroyed within fourteen days.

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