LASkidrow-300x225Americans have battled for at least a decade over the role of government in individuals’ health, specifically through health insurance. But communities across the county may be grappling with the baleful and more direct consequences of society’s ignoring others’ well-being, as a public health crisis erupts over the re-emergence and spread of “medieval diseases.”

Say what you’d like about the vanity and superficiality of Tinsel Town. But it’s no matter for mockery that Los Angeles municipal employees are deathly afraid of and have been infected in the heart of the city’s busy downtown by typhus, a bacterial infection that brings high fever, stomach pain, and chills. It can be treated with antibiotics.

But its outbreak—168 cases since January 2018, including one staffer at Los Angeles City Hall—speaks to significant problems that cities especially are battling with infections borne by vermin, notably rats and the fleas that they carry, as well as lice.

jjbabypowder-300x300Although research has shown that asbestos can cause cancer and other harmful illnesses and the federal government has sought to limit and even ban its use, yet another sizable judgment in a tainted talc case and the discovery of the substance in a popular cosmetics line shows how America’s oversight and regulation of risky materials can be too slow and ineffective.

As the New York Times reported, a jury in the San Francisco area has joined similar deliberative panels in accepting claims that longtime use of Johnson & Johnson baby power causes cancers. The state jury decided that J&J must pay plaintiff Teresa Leavitt a total of $29 million because the company knew its talc was tainted with asbestos but failed to warn her and others. Leavitt, who used the product for three decades, was diagnosed in 2017 with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of internal organs that is associated with asbestos.

The newspaper said the jury told J&J to pay her “$22 million for her pain and suffering, $5 million to compensate her family members, nearly $1.3 million for her medical costs and $1.2 million for her lost wages.”

punchy-300x262Those who are senior enough to remember the allures of sweet drinks like Tang, Hawaiian Punch, and Kool-Aid also may need to be sage enough to share a deep, evidence-based distrust and disapproval for the nefarious actions of Big Sugar and Big Tobacco. Those suspicions may need to be renewed in regulators’ crackdowns on vaping, its flavorings, and flavored tobacco cigarettes.

Yes, the federal Food and Drug Administration now has formally detailed its plan to curb the soaring youthful purchases and uses of e-cigarettes for vaping, telling merchants that they soon will be required to keep these goods, including flavored liquids that the devices catalyze, in separate walled off areas of stores and away from those age 18 and younger. This will affect not only big retailers like Walgreens and Wal-Marts but also gas stations and convenience stores.

Online vendors soon will be required to have mechanisms, so proof of age becomes part of cyber buys of e-cigarettes and their associated products.

alextrebek-200x300lukeperry-222x300For Americans of a certain age, the power of celebrity and sad news — the early death of acting heart-throb Luke Perry and the announced Stage 4 cancer diagnosis of game show host Alex Trebek — may offer important health warnings about two leading causes of death: strokes and cancer.

Strokes kill 140,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The agency says, “Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.”

The condition mostly affects those 65 and older, but strokes can occur in younger people, with the New York Times reporting that “seven in one million Americans under age 50 die annually from strokes caused by a blocked blood vessel, and nine per million die from a brain hemorrhage, the two main types of strokes.”

Kaiserexempt-300x205If a surgical staple gun malfunctioned so seriously that it generated not a few dozen formal complaints but more than 10,000 reported incidents, shouldn’t patients, doctors, and hospitals have the right to know that information from the federal agency overseeing the safety of medical devices?

Apparently not. Or maybe not without a big kick in the pants from journalists.

Instead, the staff at the federal Food and Drug Administration turned a move to ease paperwork and bureaucracy into a giant and little-known system that lets medical device makers hide serious and significant numbers of reports about failures and flaws with at least 100 products, a Kaiser Health News Service investigation found.

dialysis-300x198Diabetics and those with failing kidneys may have gotten a glimmer of relief from the staggering costs of caring for their conditions, as Big Pharma relented a tad with news it will put out a less-costly insulin product and federal officials suggesting Uncle Sam soon may be upsetting the flush profits of the dialysis industry.

DaVita Inc. and Fresenius Medical Care AG run more than 5,000 U.S. dialysis clinics and control around 70 percent of the market, Reuters news service reported in a story describing how Alex Azar, the powerful head of the federal Health and Human Services department, wants “a new payment approach for treating kidney disease that favors lower cost care at home and transplants.”

Why? As Reuters explains, “The goal is to reduce the $114 billion paid by the U.S. government each year to treat chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease, a top area of spending.”

fdachiefgottlieb-150x150The Trump Administration has lost yet another top health official: So, what happens now with key policies pushed by Scott Gottlieb, the departing federal Food and Drug Administration commissioner, to battle teen nicotine abuse, cut skyrocketing drug costs, and attack the opioid crisis?

Administration officials insist Gottlieb wasn’t ousted, and the physician and onetime Big Pharma insider said he resigned from his post after a year on the job because he wanted to spend more time with his family (they hadn’t moved from Connecticut to join him in the nation’s capital).

Though Gottlieb received mixed or favorable media coverage as he leaves, his effect on the nation’s health is as cloudy as many high school vaping spots.

snore-300x225Americans may put off to the weekend catching up on sports scores, store sales, the latest news and more. But there’s a health essential that new research suggests cannot be put off for the weekend: a good night’s  sleep.

The study, conducted at the University of Colorado and published in the science journal “Current Biology,” focused on a small group: three dozen healthy adults, split into three groups, with one allowed to sleep nine hours nightly, another getting just five hours of slumber, and a third with a staggered schedule. The last group, for five days, got five hours of sleep, followed by two days in which they could snooze for as long as they wished. They had to return, though, to the five-day cycle of five-hour slumbers.

Researchers followed their subjects for nine-day spans. The results will be un-welcome for proponents of weekend catch-up sleep, because it didn’t help in the ways that many of us would wish. As the Washington Post reported, those “who were limited to five hours of sleep on weekdays gained nearly three pounds over two weeks and experienced metabolic disruption that would increase their risk for diabetes over the long term. While weekend recovery sleep had some benefits after a single week of insufficient sleep, those gains were wiped out when people plunged right back into their same sleep-deprived schedule the next Monday.”

allenplaque-240x300Truth can be stranger than fiction, and for an investigative journalist covering the outrages of health care costs, ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen had a dream medical story call him on his phone: A well-known New York company reached out and told him he had been “honored” as one of the nation’s Top Doctors.

Not bad for a guy with an English degree from the University of Colorado and zero medical credentials, he reported in a recent, wry article.

He tried to explain to a saleswoman for the company how unqualified he was. But after a chat and after negotiating a “nominal fee” for his accolade — down to $99 from $289 — he bought a plaque and the right to promote himself as a specialist in “investigations” and a Top Doctor.

drughearing-300x172As tens of thousands of Americans die from overdoses and many millions struggle with skyrocketing prescription medication costs, lawmakers and regulators in the nation’s capital plodded along with procedural steps they claimed would help attack what voters insist are some of their top public policy priorities.

On Capitol Hill, seven of Big Pharma’s top executives danced and dodged with members of a U.S. Senate Committee about who is to blame for the relentless rise and unaffordable cost of American drugs. Media reports of the Senate Finance hearing called it “political theater,” and it offered lawmakers a chance to vent at execs from AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the committee from Oregon (shown above), blasted Big Pharma, telling the stone-faced corporate suits arrayed before him, “You’re willing to sit by and hose the American consumer while giving price breaks to consumers overseas,” the New York Times reported. He added that Big Pharma attempts to justify its prices, when so many patients cannot afford them, are “morally repugnant.” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) decried sky-high U.S. drug prices, especially compared with lower rates for patients elsewhere, saying, “It is almost as if the taxpayer has ‘stupid’ written on their face.”

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