Just some quick updates on some topics that the blog has followed in recent days:
Big Soda, Big Pharma spending big to battle ballot measures
- The Fall 2016 elections that have caused such cconsternation will be done, none too soon. But not before Big Soda and Big Pharma have poured millions of dollars to oppose ballot measures targeted at their products. The money has flowed most in trend-setting California. Big Pharma already has spent more than $126 million to oppose a drug pricing measure on the Golden State ballot. That initiative, endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, would require the state to pay no more for drugs than the federal Veterans Administration does. Proponents say this will help contain soaring prescription drug costs, while opponents say those claims are overstated and the measure might cut patients, especially veterans, off from needed medications. Meantime, Big Soda has bubbled over with $40 million or so in the Bay Area to oppose ballot measures in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany to impose new taxes on sugary beverages. I’ve written how Philadelphia fought Big Soda and won, and why advocates say the taxes can be a key tool to slash excess consumption of harmful sugar, especially by children. Consumers can adapt and forego sodas, especially with their employers’ help, says the New York Times, which has posted an excellent read about the University of California at San Francisco medical center. There officials decided, for health reasons, to exile sugary, fizzy beverages from the school’s giant campus.
Study questions Big Soda’s financial ties in two dozen research papers
- Big Soda also has gotten called out for its meddling in medical scientific studies in new research published in the peer-reviewed and respected Annals of Internal Medicine. Experts went back and looked at 60 published studies about soft drink consumption and its ties to obesity and diabetes. They picked studies they said had some rigor to them. But, curiously, 26 of the works differed sharply from the rest and found no soda-sugar ties to the health harms. As the New York Times reported: “What was different about the studies that found no connection to health problems? They were all carried out by researchers with financial ties to the beverage industry.” I’ve written about Big Soda’s closest cousin, Big Sugar, and the discovery of how industry officials funded and played an unsavory role in important studies in the 1960s that turned medical science away from sugar’s health harms and more toward saturated fats.
Insurers win a court round in prying open NFL concussion records
- Insurers may accomplish something that athletes, agents, and even congressional investigators haven’t been fully able to: They may force the National Football League to detail its handling of game-related head injuries, especially concussions. Pro football, a sport idolized and emulated by the young, has reached a billion-dollar settlement of a class-action suit with its players over damages they suffered as a result of the game’s brutal hitting. The NFL has turned to 30 companies that insured it in recent decades, insisting they pay part of the settlement. But the insurers have balked, asserting the league may have committed fraud (for example, by hiding the game’s health harms), which might get them out of hefty costs. A New York state judge, who has tried to get the parties to settle, ruled that the insurers may have access to important records that may be key to the case, though these will need to be kept confidential. His decision is expected to be appealed. I’ve written about pro football’s concerted efforts to dodge full disclosure about the damage that concussions can inflict, and I know well from my practice that those who suffer brain injuries often need serious, long-term care and financial support.
U.S. Supreme Court takes up Kentucky nursing home arbitration dispute
- The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up a Kentucky case constraining nursing homes from forcing sick patients and their loved ones, while they are under the duress of finding emergency institutional care, to sign arbitration agreements. These agreements, increasingly common across corporate America, curtail or bar individuals from suing nursing homes over harms. The high court’s timing is interesting, since, as I’ve written, federal regulators with oversight on 1.5 million nursing home residents and more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funding, recently stepped in with tough news rules about arbitration agreements. The U.S. officials responded to complaints by patients, families, and state health officials who had blasted nursing homes for trying to keep major problems involving negligence, elder abuse, sexual harassment, and even wrongful death out of public view and the civil courts, and into the private system. In my practice, I see nursing home cases and they are heart-breaking and infuriating. As always, scotusblog.com offers an excellent archive of materials key to the Kendrick vs. Clark case, for which the high court has not set a date for oral arguments.