CRN objects to proposed 3rd-party verification rule for military retail outlets
WASHINGTON — The Council for Responisble Nutrition on Wednesday stood up against a proposed pre-market approval requirement on dietary supplements being sold on U.S. military bases.
In response to an announcement from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., of his intent to offer an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require all dietary supplement products sold on military bases (including commissaries or retail stores) to be verified by an independent third-party selected by FDA, CRN noted that the additional rule would be duplicative of regulations already on the books.
“While third-party verification programs are valid and commendable options for companies who choose to find ways to differentiate themselves for their customers, to mandate third-party certification as a requirement of sale would add costs that could be prohibitive for companies and would likely be passed on to consumers," stated Steve Mister, CRN president and CEO. "Even more important, and overlooked by this amendment, are the laws and regulations already in place that require all companies marketing dietary supplements to abide by good manufacturing practices, labeling requirements and a host of other regulations."
And it wouldn't preclude servicemen and women from seeking their supplements elsewhere, either off-base or online. "CRN is deeply committed to ridding the marketplace of bad actors and keeping consumers safe," Mister said. "However, we believe that this amendment does not address those concerns, and instead would create unnecessary burdens for responsible companies manufacturing safe and beneficial products.”
Boston researchers crack real-time tracking of flu season
BOSTON – Big data is playing a role in better tracking flu outbreaks in real time, a team of researchers found, just not necessarily through Google searches. A team led by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital found that cloud-based data from electronic health records can be used to pick up cases in real time, at least one week ahead of CDC reporting.
By combining EHR data, historical patterns of flu activity and a machine-learning algorithm to interpret the data, the researchers made accurate predictions of national and local influenza activity that matched subsequent reporting by the CDC. They reported their findings online May 11 in Scientific Reports, an online, open access journal from the publishers of Nature.
"Having access to near-real-time aggregated EHR information has enabled us to significantly improve our flu tracking and forecasting systems," stated lead author Mauricio Santillana, faculty member at Boston Children's Computational Health Informatics Program, who also holds a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School and is an associate at the Harvard Institute for Applied Computational Sciences. "Real-time tracking will enable local public health officials to better prepare for unusual flu activity and potentially save lives."
The study tapped data from Athenahealth, a provider of cloud-based medical applications. The company's database encompassed more than 72,000 healthcare providers and EHRs for more than 23 million patients, mostly seen in office-based settings.
The investigators first trained the flu-prediction algorithm, called ARES, with data on weekly total visit counts, visit counts for flu and flu-like illness, visit counts for flu vaccination and other data captured from June 2009 through January 2012. They then used ARES to estimate flu activity over the next three years (through June 2015).
The team showed that ARES' estimates of national and regional flu activity had error rates 2- to 3-fold lower than earlier predictive models. ARES also correctly estimated the timing and magnitude of the national flu "peak week." It was slightly less accurate in predicting regional peak weeks, but clearly outperformed Google Flu Trends, another real-time system that tracked outbreaks by mining Internet searches. Google Flu Trends was shut down in August, 2015.
"Our study shows the true value of considering multiple data streams in disease surveillance," said John Brownstein, the study's senior investigator and chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital. "While Google data provide incredible real-time population wide information, clinical data add a more accurate and precise assessment of disease state. As EHR data become more ubiquitously available, we will see major leaps in our ability to monitor and track disease outbreaks."
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