National Drug Take-Back is Saturday, April 30

DEA event has resulted in safe collection and destruction of 2,762 tons of unused prescription drugs

Get ready to raid your medicine chests: Saturday, April 30, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back day from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at a location near you!

Medicines that languish in hGot-Drugs-Graphic-Genericome storage are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. This event, held annually by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, provides a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of unused, expired or unwanted prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for their abuse. Studies show that many abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Flushing prescription drugs down the toilet or throwing them away are both potential safety and health hazards and can pollute the environment.

Collection sites in every local community can be found by going to www.dea.gov.

Latest Consumer Connection Magazine Highlights New Medical Marijuana Bureau

spring 2016

The first issue of 2016 is out, and it’s packed with great information.

Last year, the passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act added another new regulatory entity—the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation—under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Although it doesn’t officially open its doors until 2018, the DCA team is already hard at work getting its structure in place.  This issue outlines what the new laws do and how DCA will implement them, and also addresses some common questions and answers for consumers, businesses and potential licensees.

Also last year, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) took the lead in addressing the issue of youth pankration (mixed martial arts fighting). Now, CSAC is leading the way again, this time addressing the risky—and sometimes deadly—practice of extreme weight cutting. Read about this along with recommendations on how to manage prescription costs; how to protect your hearing; what to do if your car is a lemon; new laws that impact Californians; crowdfunding and more.

Visit the DCA website to download or read the magazine. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have it mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

13 Years Later: Drop in Flame Retardants in California Breast Milk

shutterstock_295587713Flame retardant chemicals and breast milk may not seem related, but they are in the Golden State. What’s the connection? A series of bills created to keep Californians healthy.

In 2003, Assembly Bill 302 was signed by Governor Gray Davis. The bill prohibited the  manufacturing, processing, or distribution of a product in California that contained more than one-tenth of one percent of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or pentaBDE (PBDE) beginning January 1, 2008. The legislation was created in response to a 2002 study conducted by California State scientists that found the level of PBDEs in Bay Area women’s breast milk was extremely high.

PBDEs were used as fire retardants primarily in electronic equipment, textiles, and furniture. According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), PBDE health concerns include the potential to disrupt hormonal functions and neurodevelopment, which may affect children’s learning abilities and behavior.

In addition to the ban, in 2014, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1019, which gave consumers the right to know whether furniture they’re buying contains harmful chemicals. Consumers can check furniture labels for this information; see the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation’s (BEARHFTI’s) website for more information on the bill and label requirements.

The good news? The ban was effective. A follow-up study done earlier this year by DTSC found that there has been a 40 percent drop in PBDE levels in the breast milk of Bay Area women.

However, there is some bad news as well. A 2014 study from the Environmental Working Group and Duke University found that the fire retardant chemicals used in place of the banned PBDEs—some of which are carcinogenic—are building up in the bodies of mothers and their children. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission is considering a petition from scientists and advocates asking to ban these chemicals.

For more information on the recent DTSC PBDE findings, visit www.dtsc.ca.gov/scp/
pbdesdecrease.cfm
. To find out more about BEARHFTI, visit their website at http://www.bearhfti.ca.gov.

 

 

Contraceptives Are Now Available From Pharmacists Without a Prescription

Oral Contraception - shutterstock_91104299

SACRAMENTO – The California State Board of Pharmacy announces that California’s protocol is now in effect, permitting pharmacists to furnish self-administered hormonal contraception to women without a prescription.

Read the entire news release here.

 

Children’s Vision Coalition: Comprehensive Eye Exam Requirement for School-Age Kids

shutterstock_355260812One in four school-age children suffers from vision problems. Although vision screenings done at schools help identify those kids, the screenings miss one in three with significant vision and eye health problems, according to the National Commission on Vision and Health. Also, 40 percent of the kids identified with vision problems do not receive follow-up care.

In an effort to ensure children receive appropriate eye care, the Board of Optometry (Board) has sponsored Senate Bill 402. If approved, the bill will require students entering elementary school to get a comprehensive eye examination by a physician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist. The bill passed both the Senate Education and Health committees, but was placed in suspense in appropriations.

To develop strong legislation for the next legislative session, the Board delegated a workgroup that is forming the Children’s Vision Coalition. The Coalition will work over the next year to educate the public, the Legislature, and stakeholders on the importance of comprehensive eye examinations for children.

According to the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, “Because a child’s visual system is growing and developing, especially during the 5–6 years of life, glasses may play an important role in ensuring normal development of vision.” Regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exams help ensure children maintain good vision and healthy eyes for success in school and other activities.

For more information about SB 402 (Mitchell), click on http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB402. To learn more about the Board, visit www.optometry.ca.gov.

Sierra Survey Boosts Drought Outlook

KG_4th_snow_survey_2016_8109

California Council on Science and Technology Fellow John Thompson, right, joins Frank Gehrke, Chief Snow Surveyor for the Department of Water Resources, at the fourth media snow survey for the 2015/2016 season on March 30th.

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, on April 1, 2015, Governor Brown stood at the site of the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) annual early spring snow survey in the Sierra Nevada—Phillips Station, 90 miles east of Sacramento—but there was no snow to survey.

The Governor stood on dirt that day and issued his mandate to cut urban water use in California by 25 percent due to dire drought conditions. The Statewide snowpack’s water content was only 5 percent of the historical April 1 average, the lowest amount ever recorded.

Fast forward to March 30 this year, and the DWR snow survey told a much improved—if not totally rosy—story. Several feet of snow covered the Phillips Station site and, according to DWR, the snowpack water content on March 30 was 97 percent of the historical average for that day. Statewide, the snowpack—which accounts for nearly one-third of California’s water—was at 87 percent of normal.

However, while rainfall so far this year is significantly improved over last year for the critical Northern California watershed (29 percent above average), DWR cautions that conditions are less favorable in the Central Valley and Southern California. Key reservoirs in the north—Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom—now store more water than the average, but a lack of rain in the south has resulted in below-average storage in nearly all reservoirs there.

DWR emphasizes that, due to drought conditions that are still felt in many parts of the State, residents should continue water conservation efforts.

More information from the Department of Water Resources

For water conservation tips, visit Save Our Water: http://saveourwater.com
Drought Breaking News Page: www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions/
Water Conditions Page: http://water.ca.gov/waterconditions/waterconditions.cfm

Pharmacists Can Help You Quit Smoking

shutterstock_142852237

It just got a lot easier to kick the nicotine habit now that products to help you quit smoking are available from your local pharmacy without a prescription.

“Quitting smoking is difficult to do, but important to patient health. Pharmacists can now offer greater assistance to individuals who have decided to quit smoking,” said Virginia Herold, California State Board of Pharmacy executive officer.

Board of Pharmacy regulations went into effect in late January that allow pharmacists to furnish smoking cessation products without a prescription.  Before they can provide the products, pharmacists are required to complete two hours of approved continuing education on nicotine replacement therapy and must then receive ongoing training.

Before dispensing, your pharmacist must ask questions to determine if nicotine replacement products are safe for you. Your pharmacist will ask about your current tobacco use and attempts to quit; if you’ve suffered a recent heart attack; if you have a history of heart problems; if you have frequent chest pain or unstable angina; or if you have nasal allergies or have been diagnosed with temporal mandibular joint (TMJ). Women will be asked if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

A pharmacist will use his or her professional judgment and the responses to your questions to determine whether to furnish the products or refer you to a health care professional.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014 nearly 17 out of every 100 Americans – or 40 million people – smoked cigarettes. The CDC says cigarette smoking kills 480,000 in the U.S. every year and is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Along with those deaths, more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases. Quitting smoking is an important step to improving your health and life expectancy.

Pharmacists received authority to provide nicotine replacement products with the passage of SB 493 (Hernandez). The Board of Pharmacy and Medical Board of California then developed protocols for pharmacists to follow. Ask your pharmacist if he or she can work with you to help you kick the smoking habit and start on a path to better health.

Click here to view the regulation: http://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/laws_regs/1746_2_ooa.pdf.

 

 

Tax Scams Are On The Rise

tax pic

For many consumers, the tax filing season is “taxing” enough without having to worry about whether they’re being scammed during the process.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), they are seeing a surge of scam artists impersonating tax agents, contacting taxpayers by phone and demanding money from them.

“There are a couple of things that should set off red flags for taxpayers,” said Franchise Tax Board (FTB) spokesperson Jacob Roper. “The first is beware of anyone calling and asking you to pay your due balance via pre-loaded debit cards. The second is threatening to send the local police to your home to arrest you if you don’t comply.”

Roper adds that scammers also prey on the elderly knowing that their “strong sense of civic duty” will often scare them into paying.

“When consumers receive a call from an FTB employee, generally it will be only after they have received one or more notices,” adds Roper. “The best way for consumers to avoid these scams is to know the scammers schemes and keep your guard up.”

Unfortunately, being vigilant against these scammers isn’t always easy. The callers are aggressive and threatening. Remember, neither the IRS nor FTB will ever:

  • Call and demand immediate payment and threaten arrest.
  • Call without giving consumers an opportunity to discuss a potential tax dispute.
  • Call and ask for your credit card numbers.
  • Call and ask for payment via pre-paid debit cards.

Additionally, before the FTB calls a taxpayer, Roper says the agency mails notices to those with tax issues. These notices not only provide consumers the opportunity to voluntarily resolve outstanding tax liability, they also inform them of their legal rights and responsibilities.

Consumers, who believe a call is a scam, should hang up the phone immediately and report the scam to the IRS. You can also call 800.852.5711 to inquire about the status of your account or to verify if the caller is indeed an FTB employee.

The IRS website at www.irs.gov has additional information to help consumers recognize scams as well as tips on avoiding becoming a tax scam victim.

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Accountancy is also a good tax resource for consumers. Did you know that California is one of the few states that has mandatory requirements for professional tax preparers?

State law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be either an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registered tax preparer (CRTP) or an enrolled agent (EA).

Choosing a tax preparer who is not one of those four professionals may prevent you from legal recourse against any type of tax fraud. It may also increase your chances for additional taxes, interest and fines. Always verify the legal status of a tax preparer before handing over your private tax information.

For more information about the California Board of Accountancy, visit their website at www.dca.ca.gov/cba.

Online Refractive Tests: Not the Same as Comprehensive Eye Exams

At first it sounds convenient and cost-effective—go online, get your eyes tested, and in exchange for a fee, you receive a prescription. You take that prescription wherever you want and get your glasses or contacts. No appointments, no fuss. Over and done.shutterstock_262231775

However, be aware that perfect vision doesn’t necessarily mean healthy eyes. Substituting an online refractive test for a comprehensive eye exam can mean key issues could be missed and you could be putting your eye health—and possibly your overall health—at serious risk.

An online refractive test is a service provided through a website. They are vision tests used to determine the appropriate lens power necessary to correct your vision. You take a brief test online for a fee, then receive a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses from a California-licensed ophthalmologist.

The California State Board of Optometry (Board) is one of the many healthcare-related boards that operate under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Board, which  licenses and regulates optometrists and the optometry profession, believes that routine, comprehensive eye exams are crucial. Comprehensive eye exams can reveal serious health issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinal tears and scarring, eye infections, and dry eye syndrome—conditions that cannot be checked or detected by an online refractive exam.

For more information, contact the Board of Optometry by phone at (916) 575-7170 or toll-free at (866) 585-2666, or visit the Board’s website, www.optometry.ca.gov.

 

 

DCA is Here to Help All Year Long

Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft and scams? Maybe you’re wondering about the best way to use credit, shop for a used car, or maximize your security online.

National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is an education campaign involving private and public organizations working together to give all consumers the skills and knowledge they need to ensure their interactions in the marketplace are safe and successful. This week, we’ve shared many consumer protection resources the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) offers, and we encourage you to continue learning more. As NCPW wraps up, DCA wants to remind consumers that our resources and programs are available any time of year.

An informed consumer is a protected consumer. Learn more at www.dca.ca.gov. Also, see our complete list of free publications at http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/publications_list.shtml and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @DCAnews.

DCALogo_small 2007