puff-e1541870832659-230x300Uncle Sam will rip a page from Big Tobacco’s marketing playbook, targeting the taste and buying-ease of nicotine-containing products with tough new restrictions aimed at better protecting kids. Will these latest steps, however, snuff out the increasingly risky youth vaping craze and long problematic menthol cigarettes and cigars? Or are officials too late and being more helpful than not to tobacco interests?

The Washington Post first reported the outlines of plans by the federal Food and Drug Administration to crack on the hot youth trend of using e-cigarettes by barring sales at gas stations and convenience stores like 7-Eleven of certain flavored liquids and devices used in vaping.

But the FDA, in its formal policy announcement, retreated from that tough stance. Instead, the agency says it will require gas stations and convenience stores to require age verification and keep specified products away from the under-aged. It is unclear if this means vendors simply can stash these items under the counters, or if they must be kept in separate adults-only areas.

diagnosis-300x200If patients weren’t already unhappy with drive-by medicine, in which clinicians spend on average of 15 minutes with them in an office visit, safety experts warn that too many doctors’  providing of harried care can worsen a medical menace that’s already hard to ignore: misdiagnosis.

Figuring out what ails a patient and taking a correct course of action already is a “complex, collaborative activity that involves clinical reasoning and information gathering,” reports Liz Seegert, a seasoned health journalist and a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University.

But, in a briefing posted online for her journalistic colleagues, she goes on to amass some eyebrow-raising information on diagnostic errors, their frequency, harms to patients, and why experts in the field see corrections in this area needed, stat. Among the data points she reports:

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Dr. Otis Brawley, formerly of the American Cancer Society

The rising flood of health care hype, bunk, and conflicts of interst really can harm patients, as has just been emphasized by a $105-million jury verdict, the brave actions of a leading patient advocacy expert, and the commentary of an expert health researcher and New York Times columnist.

In a more perfect world, a patient like Dawn Kali, 45, and a mother of four, wouldn’t give the time of day to the wild claims of Robert Oldham Young. Both live in San Diego, and when she was diagnosed with cancer, she told a court that she found Young persuasive.

Last week’s election leaves two questions lingering about health care: Will politicians really hear what voters said? And, what help might beleaguered patients now expect from their elected officials?

The Affordable Care Act, the central flash point of almost a decade of bitter political battles, appears stronger and more steadfast with Republicans losing the House, despite their last-minute counter-factual claims to support pillars of Obamacare like protections on pre-existing conditions, minimum- and lifetime-benefits.

Medicaid, a program expanded under the ACA to provide more and more affordable care to the poor and struggling, got a big boost, too, in the midterms. Voters, by the ballot, voted to expand its reach in the “red-red” states of Utah, Nebraska, and Idaho. The new governor in Maine will halt her predecessor’s resistance to the Medicaid expansion, according to her campaign promises. In Wisconsin and Kansas, Democratic gubernatorial candidates who also campaigned for Medicaid expansion, defeated Republicans who had opposed it.

dsuvia-300x225Big Pharma is a broad commercial sector with many diverse enterprises large and small, but they keep showing they’re united in their giant gall when it comes to their unacceptable products and practices, as timely news reports demonstrate.

Just consider:

hpvshot-300x231Women may need to double-up on their consultations with their specialists about treatment for serious gynecological concerns, as new studies have raised troubling questions about a much-touted minimally invasive surgery for early-stage cervical cancer.

These concerns, in a more perfect world, also would prompt greater questioning and oversight by doctors, hospitals, regulators, and lawmakers of surgical “innovations.”

The procedure now in question removes the uterus, part of the vagina, and other surrounding tissues via small incisions and with special laparoscopic instruments, including robots. Surgeons have advocated for this surgery rather than making a large incision in an “open” procedure, arguing the less invasive approach promotes less discomfort and faster healing for patients.

emergency-300x199As the nation struggles with grief from the latest mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, new research shows how grievous the mayhem that guns cause for the young, with weapons injuries over nine years sending 75,000 children and teen-agers to emergency rooms at a cost of almost $3 billion.

The Associated Press reported that researchers at Johns Hopkins found in their published study that:

[M]ore than one-third of the wounded children were hospitalized, and 6 percent died. Injuries declined during most of the 2006-14 study, but there was an upswing in the final year. … 11 of every 100,000 children and teens treated in U.S. emergency rooms have gun-related injuries. That amounts to about 8,300 kids each year. The scope of the problem is broader though; the study doesn’t include kids killed or injured by gunshots who never made it to the hospital, nor does it count costs for gunshot patients after they’re sent home.

Election18-300x146Take some time this week to do something big for yourself, your loved ones, friends, work colleagues, and our country, for that matter:

  • Exercise your privilege, right, and duty as a citizen: Please vote.
  • You may wish to look now at your health insurance coverage, please, being mindful of onrushing deadlines especially if you may be seeking or renewing a policy through the Affordable Care Act exchanges (their 2019 enrollment period opened on Nov. 1), or Medicare.

blueberries-300x225Foolishness about food and its health effects can run not only into the negative — the sky will fall if you even nibble on meat, butter, or eggs! — but also into extremes about its purported benefits. Which is why, as recent news reports indicate, skepticism and care need to be exercised about probiotics, so-called “super foods,” and, yes, once again, the supposed virtues of organic produce.

Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, tackled the myths that surround probiotics in a recent piece for the New York Times’, evidence-based “Upshot” column.

He reported that one fundamental problem in assessing the many benefits attributed to these food nostrums rests in their proliferation and confusion as to what exactly the are: Must probiotics be live cultures of organisms that are supposed to be safe and beneficial to normal activities that occur in the gut? Or can they be dietary supplements and non-living materials that can be delivered in powders and capsules? What exactly is in probiotics and how safe are they? That’s murky — and risky, he says, noting that these materials have caused illnesses and deaths.

docnrecordsUncle Sam more than ever wants it to happen, and patient advocates are pushing hard, too. So, why, when technology can make it easier than ever to do so, must patients struggle still to get easy, convenient, low- or no-cost access to invaluable electronic records about their own health care?

Judith Graham, a columnist focusing on aging issues for the Kaiser Health News Service, has written a timely, troubling update on perplexing challenges consumers still confront when trying to secure their electronic health records (EHRs).

She cites a study recently published by Yale researchers who gathered information from 83 leading hospitals that purport to assist their patients with EHR access. The experts swept up policies and forms the institutions said patients would need, then contacted them, telling hospital staffers not that they were academic researchers but that they were checking on behalf of an elderly relative in need of their records and how soon and how difficult and costly might it be to get them? This is an everyday dilemma for consumers, and the institutions should have dealt with these requests with ease and alacrity.

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