National Consumers League

From the Experts Blog

NCL staff is hard at work for you playing watchdog on a variety of issues. Get to know the latest From the Experts!

Time to Talk

by NCL Staff

Our friends at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health have just launched an educational campaign—Time to Talk—to encourage the discussion of use. Complementary and alternative meds (CAM) include products and practices such as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.

AARP recently teamed up with NCCAM to survey patients over the age of 50, and they found that patients and their physicians aren’t really talking about alternative medicine. It looks like patients don’t know to ask their docs aboutTime to Talk alternative meds, and physicians aren’t initiating the conversations either. But this doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t using the herbal supplements, and other alternative medicines. The same survey found that nearly two-thirds ARE using it!

Hence, the Time to Talk program – put in place to try to initiate discussion between patients and their docs about what kinds of treatments they’re using or interested in trying. We at NCL are big fans of patient-provider communication, and we’re happy to help spread the word about Time to Talk. We’ve even provided a personal medication record for all consumers to get their medications listed in one place and help begin a conversation with their doctors – to prevent medication duplication, dangerous interactions, or a general lack of communication between doctors and patients. Good for you, NCCAM, and best of luck on spreading the messages of this important campaign!

Holiday Weekend Reflections: Honoring a Social Justice Hero

by NCL staff As we all pack up for the long weekend and imagine how we’ll use our Monday holiday (a trip to the outlet malls, cleaning out the basement, finally putting away holiday decorations, etc.), we thought it was a nice time to reflect on January 21 and why it’s an important day.

This coming Monday is a federal holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., remembered for his leadership in the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Day became a holiday at the insistence of unions, which King long supported.

Nearly 40 years after his assassination, King’s legacy of nonviolence and social justice lives on. We at NCL hold a special place in our hearts for King and other leaders in social justice over the decades because of our shared history.

NCL was founded more than 100 years ago out of concern for workers and consumers rights in light of the horrendous conditions of sweatshops. NCL’s commitment to social justice – playing an instrumental role in Muller v. Oregon, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld state law protections against overwork by women, has remained over the years.


Today, NCL continues to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the U.S. and abroad:

  • Running the Child Labor Coalition, which aims to protect working miChina Labor Watchnors and end child labor exploitation. At a meeting of the CLC this week, we heard from representatives of China Labor Watch, a New York-based group that concerns itself with workers’ rights in China. (Pictured at right are David Shih, Executive Assistant and Li Qiang, Executive Director, China Labor Watch.)
  • Drawing attention to the link between consumer issues and fair labor standards
  • In our October 2007 testimony before the President’s Working Group on Import Safety we pointed out the link between recent revelations about lead-based paint in toys and reports of poor working conditions in the factories that produce them.
  • Playing a vital role in writing the first international standard on social responsibility, as one of the only consumer delegates involved

NCL honors King, the great leader of the U.S. nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace, and we reaffirm our commitment to continue empowering consumers’ and workers’ interests through our education and advocacy efforts.

Sneezin' Toddler? Feds Say TLC, not OTCs, Best Meds

By NCL staff

A lot of moms and dads turn to over the-counter cough and cold medicine when a kid comes down with the sniffles, but according to a public advisory issued today by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pediatric cough and cold meds are no longer considered safe enough for use in kids under the age of 2.

The safety of those medicines was questioned starting late last summer, with an FDA advisory committee meeting in October. An FDA advisory panel voted 13-9 to not administer the use of cough and cold medicines to children six and under. The FDA has not taken final action on this recommendation.

Manufacturers of the cough and cold products for children under 2 voluntarily withdrew them from pharmacy shelves before the advisory committee even met in the fall. The FDA has made a final decision, affirming the position that cough and cold meds are no longer safe to use in kids two and under. So, in the middle of a tough cold and flu season, what’s a parent to do? Thankfully, there are ways to safely treat our kids’ coughs and colds. And stay tuned for more on this from the FDA in the coming months.

How Healthy Is Your Nest Egg?

by NCL staff

We recently ran across an advertisement for an insurance nest-egg.jpgcompany that included this fact: “Hallmark sold 85,000 ‘Happy 100th Birthday!’ cards last year.”

That’s certainly something to think about. The ad also said that the average American is living about 20 years past the age of 65 (87 for women, and 84 for men). That’s a lot of years, post-retirement, that consumers need to plan for, and a recent survey indicates that many seniors aren’t considering basics like health and medical costs when they’re saving for the golden years.

According to a national survey of 1,000 Americans over the age of 65 conducted by Directive Analytics, more than half of retirees (55 percent) have said they completely overlooked their health care and prescription drug needs when planning for retirement expenses, and one in three seniors said their medical or drug costs surpass their expectations, and are taking away from their “golden years” lifestyle.

The good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to help seniors who may be looking for ways to cut their health costs. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs helps consumers find the most effective and safe drugs with the most value for your dollar. Also, Medco Health Solutions, Inc., is offering a free guide including tips about shopping for Medicare plans, saving on prescription refills, and avoiding medication duplication.

Product Safety: Beyond the 'Year of the Recall'

by NCL Staff

To a crowd of reporters and a handful of consumer advocates, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Acting Chairman Nancy Nord yesterday described a new import surveillance system that her agency will implement, pending legislation, at many of America’s ports.

The system includes an increased staff presence to better identify potential problem products before they reach the market, Nord said at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The new tracking system would provide the federal agency with access to real-time information of shipments and would allow the feds to focus on high-risk product shipments. CPSC would also target inspection on imported products that have been identified as riskier to consumers. NCL has voiced its concern over goods imported from China and the implications this practice presents for consumers and the workers that produce such unsafe goods. Additionally, there would be increased enforcement of standards and additional post-recall surveillance, to allow CPSC to address emerging hazards quickly and more efficiently, Nord said.

Despite the proposed changes, at the end of the day, it is the U.S. retailer who has the responsibility to ensure the products they sell are safe, Nord said. She added that unlike the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the CPSC is not designed to test products before they reach the market.

Nord acknowledged that 2007 was publicly perceived as the year of the recall, but she said that CPSC actually issued only a few more recalls last year than the year before (467 in 2006 vs. 472 in 2007). Nord said that recalls don’t indicate that more unsafe products are out in the market, and that the agency has always viewed recalls as a testament to the agency’s enforcement.

Nonetheless, “Change is inevitable, and that is where my focus will be in 2008”, Nord said.

We certainly look forward to holding you to it, CPSC!