Health Care — FDA says ‘morning after’ pills not abortion medication

Happy holidays to all those who celebrate this time of year! While you may be contending with the extreme cold brought on by the “bomb cyclone” rolling across the country, kids can be assured Santa will still be on time, at least according to this military agency that tracks his movements.

Today in health, the FDA has updated the labeling and information for Plan B contraceptive products, with the agency bringing attention to how the “morning after” pill works and specifying that it does not cause abortions.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.

Programming note: We’ll be taking a break next week. We wish you a Happy New Year and will be back on Jan 3!

FDA updates Plan B labeling, says not abortion pill

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday announced it had approved a request by the makers of Plan B to update how information about the drug is presented.

  • Along with several changes, the agency specified that Plan B does not cause abortions.
  • “Plan B One-Step prevents pregnancy by acting on ovulation, which occurs well before implantation. Evidence does not support that the drug affects implantation or maintenance of a pregnancy after implantation, therefore it does not terminate a pregnancy,” the FDA said.

Levonorgestrel, better known under the brand name Plan B One-Step or colloquially as the “morning after” pill, is an over-the-counter medication used to prevent the chance of pregnancy following unprotected sex or when contraceptive methods failed or were not used .

How it works: Plan B prevents pregnancies by temporarily delaying the release of an egg from an ovary, thus stopping an egg from becoming fertilized by a sperm. The drug works best when taken within three days of unprotected sex, with the manufacturer advising it works better the sooner it is taken.

The pill does not work if someone is already pregnant, and it will not terminate a pregnancy, new packaging states.

Read more here.

Study finds lack of inclusivity in OB-GYN research

All racial and ethnic representation in obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) research is suboptimal, according to authors of a new analysis on 1,300 clinical trials and more than 1,100 clinical trial publications.

Both clinical trials and scientific publications inform how medical professionals provide clinical care, but homogenous, non-representative research can have negative impacts on OB-GYN care, the authors wrote in the report.

“We know that race and ethnicity reporting and representation in research are critical parts of health equity, public health and social justice,” said lead study author Jecca Steinberg in a release. Steinberg is a medical resident in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

  • Among all the subspecialties analyzed, trials on obstetric and family planning were the most diverse and can serve as a model for the field, the authors suggested.
  • However, gynecology studies were significantly less likely to report race and ethnicity data than studies on obstetrics.

Of the clinical trials included, 51 percent reported race and ethnicity data, and three-quarters of publications did the same. Trials carried out between 2007 and 2020 were included in the study, along with publications from 2007 to 2021.

Although American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black, and Latina groups were underrepresented in trials and publications, underrepresentation varied by subspecialty, funder, and race and ethnicity.

Read more here.

NYU EMERGENCY ROOM ACCUSED OF PROVIDING SPECIAL TREATMENT

New York University’s (NYU) emergency department has been accused of providing special treatment to a variety of VIPs, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.), according to a report by The New York Times.

The Times spoke to 45 medical workers and reviewed internal hospital records and other confidential documents to report that NYU’s emergency room has given priority care to donors, trustees, politicians, celebrities and friends and family for years.

According to the report, Room 20 is set aside for patients whose lives are at risk and those who are VIPs:

  • Schumer’s wife had a fever and experienced shortness of breath in the spring of this year and the two of them went to NYU’s emergency room.
  • Sicker received patients care in the hallway, but Schumer and his wife were led into Room 20 where they quickly received COVID-19 tests, which came back negative, according to the Times.
  • Kenneth Langone, a major donor to NYU’s hospital system and the namesake of the center, had stomach pain in September 2021. Medical workers told the Times that Room 20 was left empty for him, and he was quickly brought into the room and treated for a bacterial infection upon arriving.

NYU Langone denied to the Times that VIPs receive priority treatment, but 33 workers told the outlet they had seen those types of patients receive that treatment in Room 20, which is one of the largest private spaces in the emergency department.

Read more here.

TARGET RECALLS KIDS’ WEIGHTED BLANKETS AFTER ASPHYXIATIONS

Target recalled more than 200,000 children’s weighted blankets on Thursday after two girls were reportedly entrapped inside one and died of asphyxiation in the spring.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the big box chain announced the recall of 204,000 Pillowfort Weighted Blankets, citing a safety risk if a child unzips and enters the blanket.

  • In April, a 4-year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl were trapped inside the cover of a weighted blanket and died of asphyxiation at Camp Lejeune, NC, the agency said.
  • Target has received four reports of children becoming entrapped in the product, including that instance.

Both the CPSC and Target are urging consumers to stop using the weighted blankets and return the products immediately. Pillowfort Weighted Blankets weigh 6 pounds and are 60 inches long by 40 inches wide.

Read more here.

How to mentally prepare for holiday gatherings

For the last few years, additional typical family conflict and scrutiny have come with a side of pandemic fears — and this holiday season, with COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu all circulating, is no different.

Psychiatrist Ravi Shah offered some advice on how to mentally prepare for social and family gatherings in a conversation with The Hill’s Changing America team:

Plan what you’ll do if someone gets sick

  • Shah advises following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and making a plan for how and where members of your party can isolate if they start having symptoms or test positive, as well as a quarantine plan for people who have been exposed.
  • This plan could include alternative or adapted activities in the event someone cannot fully participate. If there’s a way to gather safely outdoors and distanced, that might be a good option.

Temperature expectations

  • “The holidays are a time to socialize and to be with others,” said Shah. But those gatherings are rarely, if ever, perfect — and you shouldn’t expect them to be, he says.
  • “What we should expect … when you put families together a handful times a year is that they are going to have conflicts just like any relationship,” Shah said. “The question is not really about that. It’s more about how we handle them.” Tempering your expectations can help give you and your family members a little breathing room.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Omicron subvariant XBB jumps to 18% of US COVID cases, CDC says (Reuters)
  • US hits more than 100M COVID-19 cases. Experts say this is likely an undercount (ABC News)
  • Flu activity in the US continues to decline after early surge (Stat)

STATE BY STATE

  • Colorado considers changing its red flag law after mass shooting at nightclub (Kaiser Health News)
  • UCSF apologizes for experiments done on prisoners in the ’60s and ’70s (Los Angeles Times)
  • Watch your sprouts! Nebraska health departments issue salmonella warning (WOWT)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage.

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