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northam-300x228Millions of Americans may qualify for federal help in paying for the health insurance, but they must sign up for coverages on exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, by Dec. 15. Doing so, starting with a visit to healthcare.gov, has become a surprisingly popular and perhaps a strongly political act.

That’s at least one way to look at it after voters, led by Virginians, sent a big electoral rebuke to President Trump and congressional Republicans over their failed congressional assault and continuing efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, especially its increasingly popular expansion of Medicaid. Its programs benefit the poor, young, old, chronically and mentally ill—and growing numbers of working poor and middle-class Americans, too.

The punditry has flowed since Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, and elsewhere. Virginia voters not only trashed Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate who was supported by Trump, and elected Ralph Northam, a Democrat, a pediatrician, and a veteran who was the state’s lieutenant governor (see photo), they also churned the membership of the state legislature. Control of the House is up to recounts in a few tight races.

Marijuana-206x300Let’s give them their just deserts and dispatch them with alacrity. In this week’s hokum alert:

epipen-300x119Big Pharma’s rapacious profit-seeking can seem to hit no bounds, even if it afflicts millions: Just consider what federal and state regulators are mulling about the makers of a popular anti-allergy therapy and those who supply a critical diabetes medication.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has replied to Bloomberg News Service that, so far, in 2017, it has recorded 228 reports of EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. failures, and the failure of EpiPens to deploy correctly has been cited in seven deaths through mid-September.

The agency said it is monitoring closely these “adverse event complaints.” These are unconfirmed reports that do not necessarily tie a product to a harm. But they might constitute sufficient grounds to investigate further and to potentially order product recalls, though, so far, the FDA says it believes patients can keep using EpiPens on the market without worry.

bowser-240x300Even as District of Columbia officials struggle with deepening woes at the United Medical Center (UMC), advocates from a national, independent, and nonprofit group have offered a dim review of hospitals in the DC area.

The bad news keeps piling on at UMC, a leading provider of medical care for communities of color in the District’s Southeast area and in Prince George’s County, Md.

To its credit, the sometimes locally slumbering Washington Post has put out a disturbing, well-documented report about the death of a 47-year-old HIV-AIDS patient in UMC’s nursing home care. As others witnessing the scene clamored for them to help, UMC nurses, the Post says, let the patient fall to the floor, where he sprawled in his own waste for 20 minutes while his caregivers argued with a security guard. When the patient finally was returned to his bed, he was dead.

GWU-seal-150x150Elmo-150x150Elmo and the Colonials won’t make it as a new Saturday morning hit cartoon show. But the colorful characters might play a tangential part in some important lessons for consumers and some supposedly serious institutions on preserving the public trust in published, medical-scientific research.

Healthnewsreview.org, a nonprofit and independent watchdog of health information, rightly has taken George Washington University to task for issuing a Pollyannaish, inaccurate news release on a Colonials’ study on whether text messages could help curb expectant moms’ smoking. The hype from the school, about research from GWU’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, first proclaimed:

Text messaging program may help pregnant women kick the smoking habit

reuters-300x153Although countless doctors and nurses put in untold blood, sweat, and tears to provide quality care to their patients, health care profiteers can undo these good works in an instant with shameful plundering. Here is a roundup from multiple fronts.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service deserves credit for its painful reporting on the rising problems in the once much-admired area of hospice care.

Reporters JoNel Aleccia and Melissa Bailey have written, in a story carried by Time Magazine, that they “analyzed 20,000 government inspection records, revealing that missed [hospice worker] visits and neglect are common for patients dying at home. Families or caregivers have filed over 3,200 complaints with state officials in the past five years. Those complaints led government inspectors to find problems in 759 hospices, with more than half cited for missing visits or other services they had promised to provide at the end of life.”

Darkchocolate-300x180Although most of our elders have preached at us from a chapel of common sense, dietary nonsense seems to rain on our heads faster than the autumn leaves.  It ought to go without saying that dark chocolate really isn’t a health food. And, to repeat again something that many pregnant women ought to know already: Getting your placenta commercially prepared after your baby’s born, and eating it isn’t a great idea.

Vox, the online news site, deserves credit for debunking a long campaign by candy makers and Big Sugar to persuade consumers that dark cocoa products somehow are “superfoods” like red wine, blueberries, and avocados.

Special interests, Vox reports, have poured tens of millions of dollars into “nutrition research” that purports to show chocolate’s health benefits. The problem is the science here is less than objective and sound: “Here at Vox, we examined 100 Mars-funded health studies, and found they overwhelmingly drew glowing conclusions about cocoa and chocolate — promoting everything from chocolate’s heart health benefits to cocoa’s ability to fight disease.” The Vox story later points out:

clown-246x300Social media have become a “circus” for some plastic and cosmetic surgeons to clown around in unprofessional ways, including: videos in which one doctor has cradled fat removed from a tummy-tuck like an infant and put a baby face on it using a Snapchat filter. Other costumed surgeons have posted visual displays of themselves dancing before surgery and showing off on camera procedures or with tissues they have removed.

The abuses have become so bad that faculty and students from Northwestern University’s medical school, after researching incidents online, have published a prospective social media code of ethics for plastic surgeons, calling for its adoption by specialists at their next major meeting.

Robert Dorfman, one of the Northwestern students and an author of the draft ethics proposal,  has described plastic surgery’s social media landscape “like the Wild West out there, with no guidelines or rules.” Clark Schierle, senior author of the guidelines, a plastic surgeon, and a medical school faculty member, has observed that practitioners in the field are “uniquely drawn to social media because we tend to do more marketing and we are a visual specialty.”

ravensLet’s give a hurrah for Maryland health officials — they threw a red flag at a high-tech startup that planned with the Baltimore Ravens football team to serve up a mass genetic screening test at a recent game. The blunt reality is this would have been genetic malarkey.

This incident should serve as a reminder, caveat emptor, to consumers, even in settings of good cheer. It should offer a caution to those who stage big public events, like sports leagues, that health matters and highly personal and confidential medical information isn’t handled well at spectacles.

Shall we also offer a Bronx cheer for Orig3N, a Boston company that offers direct-to-consumer “genetic testing,” and talks on its web site about everything from organ donation to regenerative and personalized medicine as well as its commitment to public service? The company, a new Ravens sponsor, planned a recent promotional Sunday when it would offer its mouth swab tests to 55,000 fans flocking to the contest against the Cleveland Browns.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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