• Judge upholds Kentucky school’s ban on unvaccinated student

    CINCINNATI – A Kentucky high school student lost his lawsuit challenging an order that barred him from school because he refuses to obtain the chickenpox vaccine.

    The senior at Assumption Academy in Boone County sued the Northern Kentucky Independent District Board of Health after it banned students without chickenpox immunity from attending school and extracurricular activities during an outbreak.

    Jerome Kunkel, 18, was “devastated” by the ruling, said his lawyer, Christopher Wiest of Covington, Kentucky.

    Kunkel is not against all vaccines, he told The Enquirer earlier, but he is opposed to those that use aborted fetal cells in their manufacture, including the chickenpox vaccine.

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    Jeff Mando of Covington, who represented the health department, said the ruling “upheld the health department’s mission to protect public health and the welfare of folks in Northern Kentucky.”

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    Wiest said he argued in court that the ban would not be effective in halting the spread of chickenpox, which was found in 32 students, about 13 percent of the student body. 

    “The chickenpox order makes no sense,” Wiest said. “They all go to daily and weekly mass. The parish receives communion on the tongue. Communion-age kids are going to spread chickenpox. That testimony was unequivocal.”

    Wiest said about 30 other students are out of school under the health department’s ban, and they have joined Kunkel’s legal cause. They attend Assumption or Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, an elementary school on the same property as Kunkel’s school.

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    Tuesday’s ruling upheld the health department’s authority in Kentucky to implement rules to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

    Mando said early correspondence sent by the health department encouraged students without immunity to avoid interacting in the community to help prevent the disease’s spread.

    On Monday during a court hearing, Kunkel asked a judge to let him go back to school and lift a ban that he says the health department imposed in an act of religious retaliation amid an outbreak of chickenpox.

    But the lawyer for the health department disputed Kunkel’s claim.

    “This is not a case of religious discrimination,” Mando said. “Instead, it presents this question: Do unvaccinated students at Assumption have the right to attend school, play basketball and attend other extracurricular activities in the face of an outbreak of a very serious and infectious disease at the school?”

    Bill and Karen Kunkel listen during the chicken pox hearing for their son, Jerome Kunkel, 18, in Boone County Circuit Court Monday, April 1, 2019. Jerome, a senior at Assumption Academy in Walton objected to the demand of public health officials for vaccinations against chickenpox when 32 students at his small Catholic school came down with the illness this year.
    Bill and Karen Kunkel listen during the chicken pox hearing for their son, Jerome Kunkel, 18, in Boone County Circuit Court Monday, April 1, 2019. Jerome, a senior at Assumption Academy in Walton objected to the demand of public health officials for vaccinations against chickenpox when 32 students at his small Catholic school came down with the illness this year.

    During a nearly five-hour hearing, Boone County Circuit Judge James R. Schrand heard from medical experts about chickenpox and the vaccine, which came on the U.S. market in 1995. The issue before Schrand, though, was more narrowly focused on the authority that health officials can apply to citizens when trying to contain a disease.

    The case arose after chickenpox apparently started sweeping through Assumption Academy and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School in early February. The health department sent out a warning to parents.

    Evidence at Monday’s hearing in Circuit Court showed that only about 18 percent of students at the school have been vaccinated against childhood illnesses such as chickenpox. Kentucky’s statewide vaccination rate for chickenpox is about 90 percent.

    Jerome Kunkel, 18, takes the witness stand during his hearing in Boone County Circuit Court Monday, April 1, 2019. Jerome, a senior at Assumption Academy in Walton objected to the demand of public health officials for vaccinations against chickenpox when 32 students at his small Catholic school came down with the illness this year.
    Jerome Kunkel, 18, takes the witness stand during his hearing in Boone County Circuit Court Monday, April 1, 2019. Jerome, a senior at Assumption Academy in Walton objected to the demand of public health officials for vaccinations against chickenpox when 32 students at his small Catholic school came down with the illness this year.

    In court, Mando pointed out that the state form that the Kunkels signed to get Jerome exempted from vaccines on religious grounds contains the warning, “This person may be subject to exclusion from school, group facilities or other programs if the local and/or state public health authority advises exclusion as a disease control measure.”

    In mid-February, the number of suspected chickenpox cases jumped from six to 18. The Assumption Academy boys basketball team was preparing for statewide league playoffs. Local health officials, consulting with state authorities, then banned extracurricular activities to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the state.

    The ban forbade outside-school activities for 21 days after the last case of chickenpox appeared. Kunkel, the center for the basketball team, and his parents appealed to local and state health authorities that while Jerome had a religious exemption to vaccinations, he was healthy and not contagious.

    The health officials said that given the outbreak, there was no telling when Jerome Kunkel might get sick.

    The health department issued a statement after the ruling that read, in part:

    “The Court’s ruling … underscores the critical need for Public Health Departments to preserve the safety of the entire community, and in particular the safety of those members of our community who are most susceptible to the dire consequences when a serious, infectious disease such as varicella, is left unabated and uncontrolled.”

    This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Judge upholds Kentucky school’s ban on unvaccinated student

  • CBD is getting buzz, but does it work? And is it legal?

    With CBD showing up everywhere, U.S. regulators announced Tuesday they are exploring ways the marijuana extract could be used legally in foods, dietary supplements and cosmetics.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will hold a public hearing May 31 to gather more information on the science, manufacturing and sale of cannabis compounds such as CBD.

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    In the meantime, it issued more warning letters to companies for making unapproved health claims about CBD products.

    Products containing CBD are already in stores and sold online, so it’s easy to believe there must be something special about the ingredient. But the claims are largely unproven and quality control standards don’t exist.

    A look at what we know as U.S. regulators work out what will and won’t be allowed:

    WHAT IS CBD?

    CBD is one of more than 100 compounds found in marijuana. It’s extracted using alcohol or carbon dioxide in factories. It’s added to oils, mixed into creams and lotions and sold in candies and liquid drops.

    Widely sold online, CBD now is going mainstream with major retailers offering salves and balms for the skin. Prices range from $12 to $150 an ounce at high-end shops.

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    CBD often comes from a cannabis plant known as hemp, which is defined by the U.S. government as having less than 0.3% THC. That’s important because THC is what causes marijuana’s mind-altering effect.

    CBD doesn’t get people high, although it may be calming. Keep in mind some CBD products may contain THC, whether or not the label says so.

    People drug tested for work, addiction programs or because they take prescription opioids should take note: CBD products have caused people to fail urine drug screens.

    IS IT A MIRACLE CURE?

    If you believe the hype, CBD treats pain, relieves anxiety and both helps you sleep and keeps you focused.

    Most claims are based on studies in rats, mice or in test tubes. Some human research has been done, but in small numbers of people.

    One exception: For two rare seizure disorders, the evidence for CBD was strong enough to convince the FDA to approve GW Pharmaceutical’s drug Epidiolex, which contains a purified form.

    The FDA announced Tuesday it has sent warning letters to three companies marketing products with what outgoing Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called “egregious, over-the-line claims” for CBD’s effects on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia and drug addiction. Among the cited examples: “CBD successfully stopped cancer cells” in cervical cancer.

    Gottlieb said the agency “won’t tolerate this kind of deceptive marketing to vulnerable patients.”

    Dr. Young Lee, CEO of Advanced Spine and Pain LLC (doing business as Relievus), said his company had taken down its website after receiving an FDA warning letter.

    C.J. Montgomery of Nutra Pure LLC of Vancouver, Washington, said the company has revised some of wording on its website to try to address the FDA’s concerns.

    PotNetwork Holdings Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment on the warning letters.

    Only drugs that have been reviewed by the FDA as safe and effective can make claims that they treat or prevent diseases or medical conditions. Many CBD producers attempt to sidestep the issue by using only vague language about general health and well-being.

    ANY SIDE EFFECTS?

    Scant research means not much is known about side effects either. In epilepsy research, CBD changed the way the body processed other drugs. That suggests CBD could interact with medications in ways we still don’t know about.

    The most common side effects of the CBD drug Epidiolex include sleepiness, decreased appetite, diarrhea, increases in liver enzymes, exhaustion, rash and infections. FDA’s Gottlieb noted Tuesday the potential for liver injury and other risks can be handled with medical supervision but less is known about how that would be managed without oversight. And there are questions about overlap if multiple CBD products are used.

    IS IT LEGAL?

    For now, the agency has said CBD is not allowed as an ingredient in food, drinks or dietary supplements.

    In stating its position, the FDA cited a provision of the law prohibiting food makers from using active drug ingredients or those still undergoing substantial research. But the agency doesn’t have the resources to police all the CBD products that are already available, said Marc Scheineson, a former FDA official.

    “They’re not going to pull a thousand products from the market,” he said.

    The FDA’s authority is over interstate commerce, and local officials have taken differing approaches. In New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, officials are warning eateries to stop selling it in food and drinks. Maine passed a law allowing it in foods and other products in the state.

    Skin creams and cosmetics may be on safer footing with the FDA, but that too remains uncertain, said Camille Gourdet of RTI International, a nonprofit research institute in Durham, North Carolina. Though cosmetics aren’t subject to premarket approval by the FDA, they could run afoul of regulations if they make specific health claims.

    Marijuana itself is illegal under federal law; most states that have legalized it allow marijuana-infused foods and candies, called edibles.

    ARE CBD LABELS ACCURATE?

    What you buy may contain much less CBD than the label states — or much more. It may include more THC than you want and it may be contaminated with mold or pesticides. Ask to see testing reports.

    A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 70% of CBD products were mislabeled. Researchers used an independent lab to test 84 products from 31 companies.

    “You’re really flying by the seat of your pants when you buy this stuff,” said author Marcel Bonn-Miller of University of Pennsylvania.

    A product labeled as containing 100 milligrams of CBD may only have 5 milligrams or it may have 200, said Bonn-Miller, now an adviser for a company that sells CBD and other cannabis products. He did not work in the industry when he did the research.

    “I wouldn’t trust any of it until I knew independently it was safe,” Bonn-Miller said.

    WHAT’S AHEAD?

    CBD research is planned or underway for cancer, autism, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, alcoholism with PTSD and psychiatric conditions. Results will take years, but some people aren’t waiting.

    “They are vulnerable and really hoping to feel better,” said Karen Hande, a nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville.

    She became an expert in CBD because so many of her cancer patients were trying it. She tells them the evidence isn’t enough to back the claims, but “they want to believe something is going to work.”

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    Follow AP’s complete marijuana coverage: https://apnews.com/Marijuana

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    The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

    From AP