Articles Posted in Accessibility of Healthcare

FDA-Logo-300x167Its official title is the federal Food and Drug Administration. But taxpayers are ill-served by the $1 billion they fork over to this behemoth agency to safeguard the foods all of us must consume and to provide sound nutritional guidance in especially confusing times.

That’s a significant takeaway for readers of a new, magazine-length takedown of the FDA’s food programs by the news site Politico. It has joined ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site, in hammering the federal government — which divides food regulation also with the U.S. Department of Agriculture — over its sluggish and poor protection of the public.

These are not just deep digs into obscure bureaucracies, Politico reported:

dcpolicetweet-300x214The opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has veered into a frightening new phase in which the rise of the easy-to-make, exceedingly powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl is causing multiple, interconnected deaths at one time.

The nation’s capital already has experienced this grim situation, which only shows signs of worsening, the Washington Post reported on April 12:

“Ten people in two neighborhoods in Northeast Washington have now died from a lethal batch of fentanyl, police said .. the second mass-casualty incident involving the deadly opioid in the District this year. Police said at least 17 people overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl in Trinidad and Ivy City from [April 9-11] and seven of them survived. In January, nine people died after taking a similar concoction in a neighborhood near Nationals Park. Authorities arrested two people in that case and said they do not believe the most recent incidents are connected to the earlier overdoses.”

caring-150x150A glaring gap in the U.S. health care system — the giving of care at home — is burgeoning into a costly chasm.  Pretty much everybody involved needs to pay close attention and finally act to deal with the nation’s failure to support home caregiving for the sick, injured, debilitated, and aged.

The consequences of inaction already are becoming clear, as the dearth of home care is smacking the recovering economy, “contributing to labor shortages around the country and playing a role in overall inflation,” the Washington Post reported, finding:

“At least 6.6 million people who weren’t working in early March said it was because they were caring for someone else, according to the most recent Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau. Whether — and when — they return to work will play a role in the continued recovery and could reshape the post-Covid labor force. For all the attention on parents — and mothers in particular — who stopped working to care for children during the pandemic, four times as many people are out of the work force, caring for spouses, siblings, aging parents, and grandchildren, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest Monetary Policy Report.

academies-300x90The nation’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are in dire need of drastic overhaul to dramatically improve the quality and safety of their treatment of the aged, sick, and disabled. They too often now get what one expert has described as “ineffective, inefficient, inequitable, fragmented, and unsustainable” care.

To repair the glaring, longstanding wrongs in these facilities — problems that critics say contributed to 150,000 resident deaths during the coronavirus pandemic — requires sweeping practical, regulatory, and financial changes in an industry focused on profits and resistant to change, according to newly published expert research report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The academies, with members who are leaders in their fields, are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.

cdchq-300x180A public health agency once held up as the world’s gold standard will put itself under the microscope and try to diagnose swift, appropriate remedies for the relentless criticism it has received for months of faulty performance in dealing with one of the most lethal infectious disease outbreaks in a century.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must improve its work in its core functions, including “beefing up the nation’s public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid response to disease outbreaks, and preparedness within the United States and around the world,” the agency’s chief, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has written to her 13,000 expert colleagues. She is insisting, no matter the political risks and practical difficulties, that significant changes must occur, the Washington Post reported, noting of the agency’s much-derided work on the coronavirus pandemic:

“Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the once-storied agency has been under fire for its pandemic response, from initial delays developing a coronavirus test, to the severe eligibility limits to get the test, to missteps often attributed to Trump Administration meddling. But even under the Biden Administration, the agency’s guidance on masking, isolation and quarantine, and booster doses has been repeatedly faulted for being confusing. A consistent criticism has been the agency’s failure to be agile, especially with analysis and release of real-time data.

alzassoc-300x200Although Medicare officials have slammed the door for now on paying for widespread use of a drug targeted for Alzheimer’s treatment, patient advocacy groups have thrown themselves into the battle over Aduhelm and whether taxpayers should pay its hefty price.

Aduhelm is the risky, costly prescription medication with sparse evidence of its purported benefits for those in early stages of cognitive decline.

The giant federal health insurer for seniors will cover Aduhelm only for patients participating in clinical trials that may yield more persuasive evidence about the drug’s safety and effectiveness, Medicare officials have decided. In doing so, they withstood a furious lobbying campaign from the nonprofits Alzheimer’s Association, a leading patient advocacy group reporting more than $400 million in 2021 revenue, and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which reported $9 million in 2020 revenue.

covid19-300x193Even as the coronavirus pandemic’s pause shows signs of faltering, medical experts are continuing their deeper digs into the novel infection’s long-term effects including how to treat debilitating long and medium Covid and the calamitous intersection between Covid and chronic conditions like diabetes.

The Biden Administration — taking fierce criticism for not acting sooner and more aggressively — has announced plans to kick start the research to combat long Covid, a condition that may affect as many as 23 million Americans who have suffered infections ranging from severe to mild and still have not shaken the disease’s harms. As the Washington Post reported:

“Experts who have been studying the condition, which is linked to fatigue, brain fog and other symptoms that can linger for weeks, months or even years, hailed Biden for assembling a government-wide effort to combat long Covid. They said it was an overdue recognition of the condition’s impact and reach. But many also said the administration must go further in devoting resources and making long covid a priority, reiterating that millions of people are eager for immediate treatment and help.

sentimscottsc-150x150cathymcmorrisrodgers-150x150While regular folks howl about the need to slash skyrocketing prescription drug costs, Big Pharma is showering lawmakers on Capitol Hill with campaign contributions and favoring Republicans in the House and Senate who show political promise — and an aversion to efforts to ensure the affordability of medications for the sick.

The crushing costs of drugs has returned to the policy-making spotlight as Democrats in the House, with a few defecting Republicans, have approved a bill to limit the soaring price of insulin to $35 a month for most Americans who have insurance and whose health and lives depend on the increasingly unaffordable medication. As the New York Times reported:

“To become law, the bill will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Some lawmakers involved in the effort have expressed optimism that such a coalition might be possible, but few Republican senators have publicly endorsed the bill yet. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been working with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, on a broader bill related to insulin prices. The bill would have substantial benefits for many of the nearly 30 million Americans who live with diabetes. Insulin, a lifesaving drug that is typically taken daily, has grown increasingly expensive in recent years, and many diabetes patients ration their medicines or discontinue them because of the cost. About one in five Americans who take insulin would save money under the proposal, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Medical leaders and politicians carp endlessly about medical malpractice suits, but when an emergency medical specialist diagnosed staffing shortfalls that threatened patient safety, guess what legal mechanism became crucial to his corrective crusade? Why, yes, of course, it was a lawsuit. A big one over wrongful termination.

Let’s not over-focus on the irony of a legal process that has won the doctor at long last a $26-million judgment, and, instead, pay keen attention to the blaring alarm raised by Dr. Raymond Brovont, an emergency medical specialist in Missouri (shown, right). In brief, he was fired after objecting to persistent understaffing in a hospital’s emergency department as part of the policies of a private contracting firm. As NBC News reported of this increasingly pernicious health care problem:

“What happened to … a former Army doctor named Ray Brovont … isn’t an anomaly, some physicians say. It is a growing problem as more emergency departments are staffed by for-profit companies. A laser focus on profits in health care can imperil patients, they say, but when some doctors have questioned the practices, they have been let go. Physicians who remain employed see that speaking out can put their careers on the line.

cdcmarch22covidhospitalization-300x174The coronavirus pandemic does not have a magical on-off switch, and even if its current lull turns out to be longer lasting — and signs suggest this may not be so — the lethal infectious outbreak will keep sending shocks through the U.S. health care system that will affect us all.

Experts are expressing growing concern about several areas where patients, insurers, and medical providers must make major, challenging changes if federal officials truly see huge reductions in the pandemic’s threat and they begin to wind down key programs put in place to battle it, the Associated Press reported.

If that occurs, health insurance for millions of Americans could change swiftly and dramatically, while many patients and health providers may be forced to reconsider the future of telehealth care, the AP reported. And how much support will there be for continued efforts to test, vaccinate, and provide treatments for the coronavirus, if the pandemic diminishes as a major peril?

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