gottliebAfter critics called President Trump’s long-awaited plan to rein in Big Pharma’s rapacious prices disappointing, his administration launched a much-tried tactic against the industry: “naming and shaming.” The federal Food and Drug Administration issued a list of drug makers and the complaints against them about their expensive “shenanigans,” their efforts to undercut potentially cost-cutting competition by stalling the creation of generic counterpart medications.

As the New York Times reported, Uncle Sam and Big Pharma have battled for some time over generics, which FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has made a new cost-controlling priority. These drug alternatives, which don’t carry patent protections and pricey branding, marketing, and advertising, are supposed to be cheaper and equally safe and effective for patients.

But their makers need large batches of Big Pharma samples to work with to develop generics  ─ and more than three dozen major firms like Johnson & Johnson’s Actelion Pharmaceuticals, Celgene, Gilead Life Sciences, Novartis, Pfizer, and Valeant have balked at providing requested products.

medicare-300x109Callous institutional inertia can allow dangerous doctors to keep harming patients. But media digging deserves credit for raising needed alarms when professional caregivers and others fail to step up to protect individuals as disparate as taxpayers, seniors, coeds, and heart transplant recipients.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and MedPage Today performed a public service, reporting that they found more than 200 doctors nationwide who surrendered a license, had one revoked, or were excluded from state-paid health care rolls in the previous five years  but somehow remained on the federal Medicare rolls in 2015.

This meant the problem doctors could keep bad practices afloat, in part because Uncle Sam ─ that’s taxpayers like you and me ─ paid these hundreds of MDs $25.8 million to care for seniors, among the nation’s most vulnerable patients.

affordability-300x291As the nation churns toward the midterm elections, the Trump Administration has sent stark messages to voters about how they may wish to respond to Republicans’ unceasing attacks on health care and health insurance for the middle class and the poor.

The failed campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and the follow on steps, administratively and as part of the $1.5 trillion tax bill that benefited rich corporations and the wealthiest Americans, likely will hit Virginia and Maryland residents hard if they’re seeking health coverage under the ACA.

The two states are among the first to report insurers’ requested rate increases for 2019 — and the increases will be significant, reported Modern Health Care, a trade industry publication, which said:

smoky-300x225It may not come as much more than a duh factor to  nonsmokers with roomies with a heavy cigarette habit, but medical scientists are expressing growing concern about risks posed by “third hand” smoke, residual films left on all manner of environments and surfaces by burning tobacco, close and far.

Multiple media outlets reported on the growing evidence on this potential harm, notably as detailed in a study published in the journal Science Advances. The research, conducted almost by chance, “shows how tobacco smoke from outdoor air can seep into a nonsmoking classroom and coat its surfaces, and how those hazardous chemicals often become airborne again and circulate throughout buildings via central air-conditioning systems,” the Washington Post said.

The newspaper reported that indoor and outdoor air experts at Drexel University in Philadelphia had teamed up and happened to sample surfaces from an empty classroom near their testing lab. They were intrigued to find chemical traces they could not explain, and which they first thought might be tied to coffee spills. But sleuthing led them to determine the residues were from nicotine and tobacco smoke, which only could have been carried into the space by air conditioning or supposed fresh air breezes.

Did you hear it? Was that a giant sigh of relief by Big Pharma executives around the globe? Or was it the air deflating from any Americans who still had high expectations that President Trump, as he had promised for more than a year, really would offer a quick, powerful, and effective public policy prescription to slash skyrocketing drug prices?

The stock market made a big bet that Big Pharma would do just fine, sending drug manufacturer stocks higher.

maternalmorbidity-300x193Here is a  sobering public health angle on Mother’s Day.

Experts on international health and development, including the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent and columnist Nick Kristof, long have argued that a key way to major improvements in distant lands rests in boosting the lot of women and girls. It’s an issue that clearly also needs attention closer to home.

National Public Radio and Pro Publica, a Pulitzer-winning investigative site, deserve yet more credit for their continuing dig into a shame of contemporary American health care — why U.S. mothers die in childbirth at a far higher rate than in all other developed countries. Their latest disturbing reporting focuses on some unacceptable numbers:

hitrun-300x248As traffic snarls grow and public transit headaches multiply, commuters in the nation’s capital and elsewhere may be deciding to be healthier and to hoof it or pedal their way to work. But other folks aren’t making alternative means of transportation safer or better for pedestrians or bike riders.

Hit-and-run crash deaths are soaring across the country with walkers and bicyclists victimized in almost 70 percent of the street wrecks, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported. The foundation said its study has shown that:  “More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads … These resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.”

Motorists clearly need to take greater caution and exercise more patience in sharing streets  with those on foot and bikes, foundation officials noted, adding that the need to do so has skyrocketed as more Americans choose for health and other reasons to get around in time-tried ways that also can improve individual wellness.

deductibles-300x199More than 18 million U.S. adults and 6 million children have asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows airways and causes recurring wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.

How and why Big Pharma jacked up prices for one of the common treatments for this disease tells a key story of not only the difficulty in controlling skyrocketing drug costs but also drug makers’ willingness and capacities to exploit an affliction that costs the country more than $56 billion annually and hits hard at the young, poor, minorities, and the under- or un-insured.

Good Rx, a website led by three technology entrepreneurs who say they want to help Americans with soaring drug costs, deserves credit for reporting on its blog the story of asthma inhalers, and how Big Pharma has kept pushing ever higher the price for them.

odmapapp-150x300Ss the nation’s opioid crisis spirals into ever-more risky territory where synthetic painkillers get mixed with illegal drugs with fatal results, reporters are digging deeper into how drug companies got the country into this mess and cities now are stepping up with different approaches to curb deadly overdoses.

Vox, an online news and information site, reported that experts aren’t sure why, but they’re seeing an ugly trend in users and dealers mixing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid and sometimes legally prescribed painkiller, and other illicit narcotics, notably cocaine and heroin.

Vox reporter German Lopez, in interviews with drug experts, finds they are divided: Some think the deadly mixtures are occurring on purpose, with users seeking even greater intoxication or dealers promoting this to them. It may be that the mixtures are occurring unintentionally, as fentanyl, even in the tiniest amount as a residue, packs a wallop. Or it may be that authorities, as they try to get a better handle on the opioid crisis, have developed sharper data on drug abuses.

Doctors and hospitals have a right to blow their own horn a bit when they’re onto something good, don’t they? What’s the harm? Plenty, as reported by Healthnewsreview.org, an independent, nonpartisan health information watchdog site.

As part of a series on patient harm from misleading media, Joy Victory, the site’s managing editor, details the tragic results from superficial news stories, typically on smaller media outlets, that deceive patients and their families about the Nuss procedure, a surgery to correct a congenital condition that results in a concave or “funnel” chest (see photo).

This is a serious operation, as I know from my practice. But as Victory points out, this hard, cold fact somehow gets glossed over in glowing reports about the surgery, written by news services and by reporters at smaller papers in South Carolina, Virginia, and Myrtle Beach, Fla., and even in a larger daily in Kansas City, Mo.

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