The ability to access experimental drug treatments has long been contentious in the United States. Prior to the 1938 Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, pharmaceutical drugs were largely unregulated. This Act required, for the first time, that drugs sold to the public were safe. Increasing regulations regarding the marketing, testing, and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs were established throughout the next fifty years. In the 1980s, however, a puzzling illness became known to the public. This illness was called HIV/AIDS, a debilitating virus that caused the body’s own immune system to attack itself. This illness has killed over 32 million people in the United States and worldwide, and particularly impacted the population of gay men. Because homosexuality was still fairly taboo in the 1980s, many argue that the country dragged its foot in researching and approving treatment for HIV/AIDS. Due to significant advocacy, much progress has been made with this particular illness, and the country has slowly evolved from the slow and strict processes that once regulated potential pharmaceutical drug treatments.
With COVID-19 rapidly spreading, telehealth services have been seeing an explosion of demand. On March 17, 2020, President Trump announced during a White House press briefing an unprecedented expansion of telehealth services for the 62 million Medicare beneficiaries who are amongst the most vulnerable to the disease. The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) have since vowed to work with the administration by temporarily relaxing certain HIPAA, altering licensure, cost-sharing, and auditing requirements. As the number of patients increases, compliance and privacy risks associated with telehealth also surge.
Amid the epidemic levels of youth use of e-cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, released a policy on January 2, 2020, requiring enforcement against certain unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to kids. According to the policy, the FDA intends to prioritize enforcement against fruit and mint flavored, cartridge-based electronic nicotine delivery system (“ENDS”). The FDA looks to regulate all ENDS products that manufactures have failed to make safe for use, as well as any ENDS product marketed for use by minors. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (“NYTS”), a survey conducted annually by the FDA in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows approximately 1.6 million youths were using ENDS products frequently, with nearly one million using e-cigarettes daily. The FDA’s enforcement policy is not a “ban” on flavored cartridges. If a company can demonstrate to the FDA that a specific product meets the applicable standard set forth by Congress, including considerations on how the marketing of the product may affect youth initiation and use, then the FDA could authorize that product for sale.
On September 10, 2019 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to three companies that sell oils, tinctures, capsules, “gummies,” and creams containing cannabidiol (CBD) regarding the companies’ false advertising practices. Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family and contains more than eighty biologically active chemical compounds. The most commonly known compounds are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD does not cause intoxication like THC.
In March 2019, the FDA issued a statement explaining that asbestos was found in certain cosmetic products sold at retail stores Claire’s and Justice. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) has always granted the FDA similar authority to monitor cosmetic products for adulteration or misbranding as it does food. However, litigation in this area was notably silent. The FDA’s change in position on its authority is long overdue.
During Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker’s election campaign, he heavily advocated for Illinois to be more accommodating to recreational marijuana usage. In Illinois, medical marijuana has already been legalized, and new bills are being introduced to make it more accessible. If recreational marijuana is legalized, Illinois will join ten states, and the District of Colombia, in its authorization.
It is no secret that the beauty industry in America is frighteningly under-regulated. Cosmetics companies and beauty brands have managed to escape meaningful regulatory oversight for roughly a century and are largely left to self-regulate. In 2017, the global cosmetic products market was valued at $532 billion and is expected to reach a market value of $806 billion by 2023, registering a compound annual growth rate of 7.14%. Despite the colossal financial growth, regulatory shortcomings leave much to be desired by consumers. On the back of numerous harmful side-effects scandals and multi-million dollar class-action settlements, the FDA must grapple with renewed demand for cosmetics regulation as new beauty trends emerge.
In 2014, Congress passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act in the hopes of encouraging innovation for new sunscreen ingredients. Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new regulations regarding over-the-counter sunscreens to keep up with recent scientific and safety information. This proposal will be available for ninety days from its announcement on February 21, 2019, and addresses safety concerns of common sunscreen ingredients. Further, the proposal addresses the labeling of sunscreen, trying to make it easier for consumers to identify the product information. While this proposal seeks to alleviate safety concerns, the regulation could potentially make it more difficult for new ingredients to be approved.
On January 15, 2019, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to update its federal regulations governing the use of certain cannabis-derived ingredients in food, beverages and dietary supplements. As writers of the Hemp Farming Act, Wyden and Merkley, initiated the removal of the hemp plant and derivatives of Cannabis sativa from the list of controlled substances under the Controlled Substance Act. The Hemp Farming Act passed as a provision in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and thus, legalized the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp-derived compounds, including cannabidiol (CBD).
Although the nation’s longest-ever government shutdown has ended, agencies forced to furlough employees and shutter temporarily are still facing the effects of the funding gap. On January 25th, President Trump agreed to sign a continuing resolution that will reopen and fund the federal government through February 15th. The government reboot means that the roughly 800,000 federal employees furloughed or forced to work without pay should expect to receive their back pay soon, but the thirty-five-day suspension of government functions comes with significant aftershock. While various regulatory agencies scramble to address their backlog of work, life for Americans who interact with these agencies has been hindered indefinitely.