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zantac-300x169Big Pharma’s slavish devotion to maximizing profits and “enhancing shareholder value” has led industry executives to shove the manufacture of their products to far-flung shores. The dubious consequences of these moves have become clear not only with common, over-the-counter medications but also — with potentially tragic results — with drugs needed in the war on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even before the world was terrorized by the coronavirus outbreak in China, safety advocates warned about serious “supply chain” issues in drug making, with one small lab sounding alarms about Zantac, a widely used over-the-counter heartburn pill.

Valisure, a commercial pharmacy that sought to distinguish itself by testing and assuring consumers of the quality of the drugs it sold, provided the federal Food and Drug Administration its lab tests and analyses as evidence that Zantac (aka ranitidine) was contaminated with, what the New York Times has described as, “a type of nitrosamine called N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, which is believed to be carcinogenic in humans and is found in a variety of products, including cured meats.”

Consumers need to stay informed and to protect their own interests, especially because big businesses — whether they’re car makers, grocers, or manufacturers of off-road vehicles — may put their own interests ahead of public safety.

With car makers, a leading highway safety group has spotlighted how only a select few of these global enterprises have reckoned with an unexpected consequence of high-tech, energy saving advances: Just six of the 2020 passenger vehicles deemed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offer top-rated headlights as standard equipment. This is not just an issue for gear heads but is an important safety consideration affecting not only motorists’ capacity to navigate roads well but also to protect vulnerable pedestrians who are becoming traffic victims in rising numbers.

Grocers, meantime, have gotten called out by a notably public interest group for their lax approach in informing their customers about tainted food and recalls of risky products.

fdanulogo-300x126As snarky youngsters might say, “Well, OK, Boomer:” Federal watchdogs keep looking more than a little pitiful as they find they not only have fallen behind the times but keep racing to chase trends and technologies that have zoomed beyond their control.

In the meantime, consumers suffer the consequences.

Recent news reports show, for example, how vaping youths already may have found a big work-around with federal crackdowns on e-cigarettes and how social media has become a viper’s nest of not only quackery but a dubious diamond mine for Big Pharma exploitation.

practicefusion-300x169Federal prosecutors have provided 145 million reasons why enthusiasts may want to curb their exuberance about how high tech will work miracles in the U.S. health care system.

That’s because investigators have ferreted out “abhorrent” conduct by Practice Fusion, a San Francisco firm that specialized in electronic health care records software, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont.

“During the height of the opioid crisis, the company took a million-dollar kickback to allow an opioid company to inject itself in the sacred doctor-patient relationship so that it could peddle even more of its highly addictive and dangerous opioids,”  Christina E. Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, said in a statement. Practice Fusion, she added,  “illegally conspired to allow [a] drug company to have its thumb on the scale at precisely the moment a doctor was making incredibly intimate, personal, and important decisions about a patient’s medical care, including the need for pain medication and prescription amounts.”

kidfoodobama-300x226Will grownups in the room step up soon and stop the nonsense? Or should consumers, especially parents and those who want to eat in healthful ways, just expect a perpetual food fight about what’s good and reasonable for Americans, especially our kids, to eat?

When it comes to breakfasts and lunches served to 30 million youngsters at 99,000 schools, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, long a standard-setter on dietary matters, has put itself in a head-scratching position.

That’s because the agency backed away from strict nutritional standards, saying it will relax the amounts of fruits and vegetables that schools provide kids under the agency’s Food and Nutrition Service guidelines. Instead, institutions would be permitted to sling more burgers, fries, and pizza, likely increasing youngsters’ consumption of high calories, saturated fats, and sodium.

dresserfallikea-300x169Doctors, hospitals, insurers, politicians, and businesses may assail the civil justice system over sums it awards to people who have proven they have been harmed. But as significant as some judgments may be, they may be exactly what judges and juries decide may be required to get institutions and enterprises to stop stubborn wrongs.

Is $215 million enough in a federal case, for example, to get the University of Southern California to learn the hard lesson that it needs to listen and to act swiftly if  coeds and nurses complain about  inappropriate sexual behavior of  its student health service staff?

Is $46 million sufficient to get Ikea to fix, recall, and inform the public yet more about the dangers to children of pieces of its furniture that can tip over and kill kids — the latest victim being Jozef Dudek, 2?

boozengals-300x180Tipple much, much less in 2020. That might be a life-saving bit of advice for too many Americans to follow, especially because of new data on a worrisome spike in alcohol-related deaths.

As NBC News reported, based on published research by federal researchers:

“The yearly total of alcohol-related deaths for people ages 16 and over more than doubled, from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017. There were almost 1 million such deaths overall in that time. While middle-age men accounted for the majority of those deaths, women — especially white women — are catching up, the study found. That’s concerning in part because women’s bodies tend to be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.”

hal9000-300x225In recent years, doctors, hospitals, and popular media have promoted emerging treatments to the public with enthusiasm that in each case would turn out to be overblown. Just consider the red-hot chatter that once surrounded regenerative medicine, precision medicine, gene therapy, or immunotherapy. And now, it may be the turn of artificial intelligence to be hyped hard in health care.

Caveat emptor, as Liz Szabo reported for the Kaiser Health News Service. She sets the stage, thusly, about developments in a field that might worry some who remember Hal 9000 from “2001: a Space Odyssey”:

“Health products powered by artificial intelligence, or AI, are streaming into our lives, from virtual doctor apps to wearable sensors and drugstore chatbots. IBM boasted that its AI could ‘outthink cancer.’ Others say computer systems that read X-rays will make radiologists obsolete. ‘There’s nothing that I’ve seen in my 30-plus years studying medicine that could be as impactful and transformative’ as AI, said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and executive vice president of Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif. AI can help doctors interpret MRIs of the heartCT scans of the head and photographs of the back of the eye, and could potentially take over many mundane medical chores, freeing doctors to spend more time talking to patients, Topol said. Even the Food and Drug Administration ― which has approved more than 40 AI products in the past five years ― says ‘the potential of digital health is nothing short of revolutionary.’”

flavorvape-300x225The Trump Administration kicked off the new year with a whimper not a bang with yet another of its attempts to corral the health nightmare of e-cigarettes and vaping by the nation’s young, while not upsetting the industry too much.

Starting Feb. 1, the federal government announced it will forbid the sale of most flavored cartridges for e-cigarette use, notably those with popular tastes like candy, fruits, and mint.

At the same time, though, vendors still can sell menthol and tobacco flavorings. And they can peddle flavored vaping liquids if they are used in the open tank systems that most often are so big, they are limited to shops or stores.

zenmagnets-1-150x150Consumers may need to give a few seasonal gifts a second look about their safety and other health-related issues:

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