kidneysnatlinstitute-241x300More than 37 million Americans who suffer from chronic kidney disease soon may see big changes in the way their disabling condition gets treated, potentially also reducing the $100 billion that the federal Medicare program pays for care of the body’s crucial blood cleaning organs.

President Trump issued an executive order calling on the federal government to use all means possible to attack kidney disease in three key ways:

  • Reduce the number of patients who suffer from kidney failure;

drugcostsunreasonablekff2019-300x172It takes more than a lot of huffing and puffing to blow down the ever-rising high costs of prescription drugs, the Trump administration has found. Two defeats happened last week:  officials were forced to pull a plan to curb profit-making by drug industry middlemen, and a federal judge axed on First Amendment grounds a plan to muscle Big Pharma into including price information in its ubiquitous product ads.

These were key pillars of the president’s multi-part plan to address increasing drug costs, one of Americans’ most pressing concerns with their health care, and Trump had put considerable of his political capital behind them as he rolls toward the 2020 election campaign.

As the New York Times reported:

childrensseattle-300x156Parents and the public received grim reminders of the risks of medical care as prominent institutions on opposite coasts battled hospital-related infections among some of the most vulnerable patients around: babies and children.

In the Pacific Northwest, a mold outbreak has taken a terrible toll — with one patient dead, five others infected, 1,000 surgeries postponed and 3,000 people told to watch for infection symptoms — at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which the Washington Post reported, “consistently ranks as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country and this year [was] rated top [for such facilities] in the Northwest.”

In the Northeast, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital has confirmed 12 cases of a drug-resistant staph infection in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), CNN reported, adding that, the six babies, including one who is potentially symptomatic, and six symptomatic employees who have tested positive for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are receiving treatment.

fdagottlieb-240x300Consumers may want to think long and hard about whether the federal Food and Drug Administration protects the interests of the vulnerable public or profit-raking Big Pharma and medical device makers.

As a scrutiny of data by Science magazine  shows:

“From monitoring clinical trials and approving medicines and vaccines, to ensuring the safety of blood transfusions, medical devices, groceries, and more, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the nation’s most vital watchdogs. By several measures, however, FDA’s compliance and enforcement actions have plummeted since President Donald Trump took office … The agency’s ‘warning letters’—a key tool for keeping dangerous or ineffective drugs and devices and tainted foods off the market—have fallen by one-third, for example. Such letters typically demand swift corrections to protect public health and safety. FDA records from Trump’s inauguration through 22 May show the agency issued 1,033 warning letters, compared with 1,532 for the most recent equivalent period under former President Barack Obama. Compared with the start of the Obama presidency, Trump-era letters dropped by nearly half. Warnings from the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which helps ensure the safety and quality of medical devices, and from some of the agency’s district offices—including Philadelphia, Florida, and New York—have dropped even more steeply, by more than two-thirds. Two district offices have not issued a warning in more than 2 years. The numbers don’t just reflect a new administration’s slow start. FDA sent significantly fewer warning letters in the second year of Trump’s presidency than in his first.

carcrash-300x300Even as the nation grapples with an opioid- and drug-overdose crisis, alcohol, one of the oldest intoxicants known to mankind, causes significant harms, including to as many as a fifth of American grownups who have suffered harm due to drinking by others and not themselves.

A newly published study, based on data from a survey of 8,750 men and women, finds that as many as 53 million American adults experience any of a dozen designated harms due to boozing by others, CNN reported. The injurious actions include: harassment; feeling threatened or afraid; having belongings ruined; having property vandalized; being pushed, hit or assaulted; being physically harmed; being in a traffic accident; being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver; having family or marital problems; and having financial trouble.

Women, the researchers found, are forced to deal with family and marital problems and financial challenges due to alcohol abuse by partners and friends.

puffdad-265x300Cities are daring to tread where federal regulators have not: They’re cracking down on vaping and its potential harm, particularly to the young, by banning e-cigarettes and tobacco products.

San Francisco supervisors’ e-cigarette ban, recently enacted, packs a symbolic punch because Juul, a “tech startup” whose product has become the market-dominating maker of vaping devices, is headquartered in the city.

Officials not only banned e-cigarette sales, they also decreed that their makers cannot manufacture the devices on municipal property. Juul is unaffected by this action because it is not retroactive, and the company says it does not make its product in its offices, space that is leased from the city on Pier 70.

saslowstory-295x300Twenty Democrats who are campaigning for president  took to network television for four hours and two nights last week to put health care as a central issue of their campaigns.

The format of this initial candidate “debate,” including hand-raised answers to complex issues, failed to allow the presidential aspirants to delve much into the details of their proposals. But tons of news coverage followed on — and likely will keep doing so up until Americans enter the voting booth — about Medicare, the government health coverage for seniors, and how it might be expanded to benefit tens of millions more. Those interested may wish to check out this podcast primer on the issue.

These future-looking discussions also already have tended to eclipse a key part of the existing Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration initiative that remains a subject of hot dispute a decade after its passage: The expansion of Medicaid, the federal program to assist the poor and working poor with health coverage.

reuterslogo-300x169The blame and shame for the opioid-drug overdose crisis that kills tens of thousands Americans annually has moved to yet another set of individuals and institutions now — judges and courts that handled Big Pharma lawsuits and may have been too quick to seal from the public information that would have warned of painkillers’ addictive and lethal characteristics.

Makers’ false claims about opioids and their problematic practices in promoting, selling, and distributing the drugs were hidden, too, in the “pervasive and deadly secrecy that shrouds product-liability cases in U.S. courts, enabled by judges who routinely allow the makers of those products to keep information pertinent to public health and safety under wraps,” Reuters reported.

The news agency dug deep into the judicial practices, finding:

logombh-300x61Nonprofit hospitals added almost $40 billion to their bottom lines in the last year and lavished a $3.5 million average salary on their chiefs. But their relentless grubbing for cash apparently was unsated still. The institutions, exempted from federal, state and local taxes in exchange for “community benefits” like charity care and financial support for patients in need, are acting like Dickensian debt collectors, harassing patients with lawsuits and wage garnishments.

Pro Publica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative web site, partnered with MLK50, a local news organization, to describe the avalanche of financial travail with which Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has inundated its poor and middle-class patients in Memphis, Tenn. The hospital, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has filed more than 8,300 lawsuits pursing “aggressive collection practices [that] stand out in a city where nearly 1 in 4 residents live below the poverty line.” As the journalists reported of Le Bonheur:

“Its handling of poor patients begins with a financial assistance policy that, unlike many of its peers around the country, all but ignores patients with any form of health insurance, no matter their out-of-pocket costs. If they are unable to afford their bills, patients then face what experts say is rare: A licensed collection agency owned by the hospital. Lawsuits follow. Finally, after the hospital wins a judgment, it repeatedly tries to garnish patients’ wages, which it does in a far higher share of cases than other nonprofit hospitals in Memphis. Its own employees are no exception. Since 2014, Methodist has sued dozens of its workers for unpaid medical bills, including a hospital housekeeper sued in 2017 for more than $23,000. That year, she told the court, she made $16,000. She’s in a court-ordered payment plan, but in the case of more than 70 other employees, Methodist has garnished the wages it pays them to recoup its medical charges.”

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