jjbabypowder-300x300Johnson & Johnson, now facing thousands of lawsuits asserting ties between its famed baby powder and patients’ cancers, has campaigned for decades to keep from wide public view information that its talc was tainted with asbestos, a naturally occurring substance and an established cause of some cancers, news media reports say.

Reuters news service published its investigation of J&J’s long efforts to deny and downplay scientific evidence it had about asbestos in a product that has helped to create and define the company as one of the nation’s family friendly consumer product and pharmaceutical giants.

Tens of millions of Americans grew up, with grown-ups dusting them as infants with Johnson’s baby powder, now contributing just “$420 million to J&J’s $76.5 billion in revenue last year,” Reuters reported.

acasite-300x160If you’re a resident of the District of Columbia and you qualify for help with your health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, don’t wait, you have until Jan. 31 to enroll in Obamacare. It’s still the law of the land and could benefit you and your loved ones, despite a sad and expected federal court ruling out of Texas that threatens the ACA and health coverage for tens of millions of Americans, yet again.

Eleven states and the District have extended Obamacare enrollment deadlines. Those deadlines have already passed in Virginia and Maryland. So, many in the area — along with the rest of the nation — will have to wait for what might be a while to see how the Texas case, brought by a group of Republican attorneys general and opposed by a group of their Democratic counterparts, gets resolved.

The legal elements of the case may be of interest to lawyers and policy wonks.

blocks-kid-with-thomas-eakins-300x177Moms, dads, grandparents and many others will fork over a lot of money for pricey toys this holiday season. But the doctors who care for children have timely shopping advice: Don’t throw away hard-earned dollars on fancy electronics. Instead, look for simple, tried-and-true toys.

Items like dolls, cars, blocks, crayons, and easy games may be more beneficial to youngsters than blinking, whirring, flashing, e-gizmos, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, a group representing more than 60,000 doctors who care for kids.

The group said in a detailed policy guidance that youngsters need to learn to be social and to stretch their imaginations. Toys that are basic, sturdy, and safe help them do this more so than expensive, complex products.

admitting-300x210Federal regulators have warned nursing homes nationwide to improve the quality and safety of their patient care or face consequences that operators may hasten to heed. That’s because new penalties and rewards will hit them in a place that counts — their pocketbooks.

Two-thirds of the nation’s nursing homes will see a year’s worth of their Medicare funding reduced, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service (KHN) reported, “based on how often their residents ended up back in hospitals within 30 days of leaving.”

KHN said that:

actelion-300x110Patients now have more than half a billion reasons to wonder whether advocacy groups that purport to speak up for the special needs of folks with diseases and conditions like theirs really do so. Or has Big Pharma corrupted these organizations with cash?

The New York Times reported Actelion Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay a $360 million settlement in an investigation by federal prosecutors of the firm’s allegedly funneling kickbacks through a charity that claimed to assist patients with the cost of drug co-payments. This case involved financial exchanges connected with pricey medications to treat a rare lung disease.

But the newspaper said it was just the latest of several such matters involving Big Pharma and patient advocacy and charity groups in which prosecutors sought to ferret out “contributions” designed to help makers plump up prices for already expensive products:

Although Good Samaritans deserve a great holiday cheer for their part in paying for some of it, medical debt persists as a giant shame of the American health care system. Doctors, hospitals, insurers, Big Pharma, and other providers and suppliers need to step up to shrink the financial burdens of medical care that crush far too many patients and their loved ones.

Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon, two retired friends in Ithaca, N.Y., raised $12,500 that they donated to a charitable group. It buys bundled, past-due medical bills and forgives them to help those in need. That became a powerful gift, as RIP Medical Debt leveraged it, buying for a penny on the dollar or so, a portfolio of obligations exceeding $1.5 million.

cjrbriefingbook-300x188Facts matter, and, when amassed in a smart way, they can paint a powerful and accurate picture of reality, as is made clear with findings presented in the annual “Briefing Book” on medical malpractice from the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School.

As the Kentucky Supreme Court recently affirmed when it slapped down an attempt in the Bluegrass state to “reform” medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and insurers too readily embrace and spread counter-factual notions about patients who seek in the civil justice system remedies for harms they have suffered while seeking medical services.

It’s our fundamental, guaranteed right to pursue such claims, the justices affirmed — and the CJ&D experts have put together research to show that medical malpractice cases don’t happen often but are valuable in protecting the quality and safety of all patients’ care.

allchildrens-300x220When big hospitals aim to get even more giant, they do so at risk of the quality of care they offer to their patients — and they can do much damage to their brand and hard-to-repair reputations. That may be a reality that elite Johns Hopkins may be discovering.

The Tampa Bay Times deserves credit for its detailed take-down of the “internationally renowned,” Baltimore-based medical institution for the deaths and harms suffered by child heart patients at All Children’s hospital in Florida. Johns Hopkins took it over, and, according to the newspaper, within a half dozen years made a debacle of its well-regarded pediatric heart surgery program, which worsened until youngsters were dying at a “stunning rate.”

As the newspaper reported, based on a year’s investigation of the All Children’s program:

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CDC: drug overdoses

As 2018 rumbles to its close, Americans are getting yet more excruciating information about the toll inflicted on us by Big Pharma, doctors, hospitals, and insurers: The nation is posting record numbers of overdose deaths, suicides, and a life expectancy rate that’s falling in a way not seen since the great wars.

It takes almost zero effort to connect the awful trio of bad health indicators. But it grows increasingly clear that to reverse them the United States will need leadership, resources, and a commitment that, for now, is painfully absent.

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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb

If the federal Food and Drug Administration expected any public goodwill for putting forward long-term proposals to change a fundamental way that medical devices win agency clearance, forget about it.

Instead, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and lawmakers should be reeling still from a salvo of news organization investigations into unacceptable ways that patients in this country and around the planet suffer pain, injury, and other harms from products that go in or on the body. Under industry pressure and spurred by pro-business lawmakers, the FDA, the investigations show, has exercised a weak, poor, and unacceptable oversight of medical devices, including:

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