FDA Attempting to Regulate Dietary Supplements

A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) docket was published on the FDA website last month. The draft guidance, when finalized, will represent the FDA’s current thinking on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Docket No. 2006D-0480: Draft Guidance for Industry on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Products and Their Regulation by the Food and Drug Administration [1] discusses when a CAM product is subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) or the Public Health Service (PHS) Act.

Peanut Butter Recalled Due to Salmonella Outbreak

Nearly 300 people in 39 states have fallen ill since August 2006, linked to a Salmonella outbreak from peanut butter. It is believed to be the first Salmonella outbreak in U.S. history associated with peanut butter. Just two or fewer cases have been reported each day since August, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials said, and it was only in the past few days that investigators were able to focus in on the particular food responsible. The highest number of Salmonella cases reported were in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri. According to the CDC, about 20% of the 288 infected people were hospitalized but no one has died.

Dichloroacetate Not Ready for Therapeutic Use

Dichloroacetate has been in the headlines recently, reported to be a cheap, effective cancer cure. The article was published in both print and on the website NewScientist.com, and ran with the headline “Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers”, implying incorrectly that it can kill tumor cells in humans.

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, recently reported that they found a cheap and easy drug to produce that is able to cause tumor regression in lung, breast and brain tumor cells grown in culture and lung tumors grown in immunocompromised rats. The drug, Dichloroacetate (DCA), targets mitochondria (meaning an organelle in the cell that produces energy) and induces apoptosis (meaning cell death), decreases proliferation and selectively inhibits cancer cell growth. It did not have any effects on normal, non-cancerous tissue. The findings were published in the January edition of the journal Cancer Cell.

Cancer cells don’t use mitochondria for energy, instead using glycolysis (meaning the initial process of most of carbohydrate metabolism), which is less effective and more wasteful. Researchers have long believed this occurred because mitochondria in cancer cells were damaged. However, this new data suggests that the mitochondria in cancer cells are dormant and DCA reactivates them.

America’s Health Rankings

Paul over at Healthy Reader wrote about the results of the United Health Foundation’s 2006 edition of “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for People and Their Communities”. The report documents the lack of significant progress in improving health status, a trend they have been following since 2000. Nevertheless, the report concluded that America’s overall health improved slightly in 2006 [1].

Minnesota leads the list of healthiest states, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii and Connecticut. Louisiana is at the bottom of the list and has consistently ranked 49th or 50th since 1990.

Merck Focuses on Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer Drugs

Merck recently announced that it will collaborate with Hong Kong-based Chi-Med, a pharmaceutical firm that focuses on researching, developing, manufacturing and selling pharmaceuticals, health supplements and other consumer health and personal care products derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine and botanical ingredients, to develop new cancer drugs.