drugbottles-300x200Tens of billions of dollars. Those sound like hefty sums. But will it ever be enough? Will, say, $50 billion offer justice and appropriate recompense to a nation wracked by an opioid and overdose crisis?

These figures aren’t pulled from thin air. They’re part of the reported settlement under negotiations to resolve more than 2,300 lawsuits, all bundled up now and under the sway of a federal judge in Ohio. He will launch a landmark opioids’ trial this week, starting with claims by two Ohio counties, unless Big Pharma firms remaining as defendants and the plaintiffs — including states, counties, cities, and Indian tribes — can strike a deal and settle.

The claimants, of course, themselves represent huge and diverse interests: their millions of individual constituents. And they disagree on how much money is fair, how it should be divided, and more. The drug makers and distributors, having seen some of their peers bail already for significant sums, assert they have reached their negotiating ceiling, somewhere around that magic $50 billion.

azarshot-300x169It’s an imperfect predictor, health officials concede. Still, a nasty season of infections Down Under has increased the urgency of their recommendations to the U.S. public to get the annual flu shot before Halloween and certainly before everyone sits down for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although concern already had been growing about bad months ahead in the United States for flu, an early and “fairly severe” season in Australia has increased officials’ worries, the New York Times reported.

That’s because the Aussies, while not a 100% reliable bellwether, showed the more populous States about flu severity as recently as last season, according to Donald G. McNeil Jr., who has reported on disease outbreaks in more than 60 countries for the New York Times. He wrote this:

dcscooter-300x150In the cooler, rainier autumnal weather, transportation officials may be planting the seeds of significant change for the health, safety, and way that residents and visitors get around Washington, D.C. They may allow a smaller number of private companies to double the number of scooters zipping around the nation’s capital by the new year. By the spring, the devices may quadruple in number.

This could mean the estimated 5,000 or more scooters in the district now would increase to 10,000 by January and to 20,000 by June.

District officials say they’re responding to a spike in demand from the public for convenient ways to get around and to do so with needing to use multiple clumsy and confusing smart phone apps.

cashrain-300x225Politicians almost by reflex decry the skyrocketing cost of U.S. health care by blaming much of it on waste, fraud, abuse. They, alas, really may be on to something, newly published research shows.

Health care experts, including a medical leader of health insurer Humana, “combed through 54 studies and reports published since 2012 that estimated the waste or savings from changes in practice and policy,” leading them to some jaw-dropping calculations about how well spent is the $3.5 trillion or so that Americans drop on health care, the New York Times reported.

Answer: Really badly. The researchers, in their published work, estimated that 20%-25% of American health care spending is wasteful. That turns into giant sums, fast, as the newspaper reported, including:

Risperdal-300x150When regular citizens get together in the civil justice system to deliberate difficult claims about complex matters, they may not get everything just right to the satisfaction of the disputing parties. But jurors’ wisdom and findings should not be taken lightly, especially by Big Pharma.

That’s why Johnson & Johnson — and other drug makers — may want to heed the message in a just-announced $8-billion verdict in a Philadelphia courtroom in a case involving a young Baltimore patient and Risperdal, a prescription antipsychotic medication.

It’s true that the whopping award to Nicholas Murray, now 26, likely will be reduced, probably substantially for J&J, a company that has built its brand on being “family friendly.”

eatingseniors-300x131To the myriad struggles that residents of nursing homes endure, from poor health to inattentive staff, add this new one:  “crappy conditions” in kitchens and other areas where their food gets prepared and served.

Marjie Lundstrom, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, conducted a five-month, nationwide investigation for the consumer web site Fair Warning, with the results also shared by NBC News. The dirty dig found this about nursing home food prep:

“Flies buzzing the under cooked hamburgers. Cockroaches scurrying for cover behind the oven. A moldy ice machine. Mystery debris, clinging to the crevices of a meat slicer. Hundreds of mouse droppings, trailing across the hood of the stove. These incidents are not logged in any restaurant inspector’s notebook. They are among the thousands of food safety violations discovered in the last three years in America’s nursing homes, where fragile residents can least tolerate such lapses. While allegations of elder abuse and neglect dominate the horror stories in long-term care settings — bedsores, falls, medication errors, sexual assaults — food handling remains a consistent and often overlooked hazard …”

carteslasummon-300x225Technology advocates may be ignoring due cautions as they put software ahead of safety in the push to make the vehicles of today and tomorrow more self-driving (aka autonomous).

Car and truck owners, safety advocates warn, should proceed with care before relying on automatic emergency braking systems, especially as they purport to safeguard pedestrians. Restraint also may be the watchword for a new feature that allows a luxe electric car to be “summoned” to its driver, shifting out of a parked position and navigating short distances on its own.

The American Automobile Association reported that it sought to get ahead of the curve by subjecting the new automatic emergency braking systems to track tests in mid-sized sedans of their safety applications under “real world” conditions. The outcomes were worrisome, AAA found:

Tens of millions of Americans may have been startled in recent days by the much-publicized pulling from the shelves of widely used drugs like ranitidine (aka Zantac), an over-the-counter heartburn remedy, and select lots of the prescription blood-pressure medications losartan, valsartan and irbesartan.

The actions occurred after cancer-causing chemicals known as nitrosamines — N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid, or NMBA, and N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA— were detected in them.

broillondonwikipedia-300x225The elite of public health organizations are up in arms about a new report from a group of international researchers who looked at red meat and its health benefits and harms, and more or less shrugged. The new take goes like this, reported the New York Times:

“If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.”

That view, of course, contradicts what public health and nutrition experts have recommended for years, and so blue-chip health outfits like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health condemned the researchers for supporting what now may be akin to a health heresy.

careforsuicide-300x154Dogged medical detective work combined with public advocacy to dispel the shame that surrounds suicide — these may be productive ways to attack the public health nightmare of increasing numbers of Americans taking their own lives.

This is a crisis that can’t be hidden or allowed to keep going up, with some experts estimating that roughly 47,000 Americans commit suicide annually. That’s about 129 lives lost each day. Suicide, hitting a record-setting pace, also is a significant problem for the U.S. military.

If you are in crisis or know someone who may be, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741. Both work 24/7. More resources are available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

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