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devicemakerpaymentsHA-300x257Although Big Pharma has taken deserved heat for selling its drugs by slathering doctors with cheesy tchotchkes, lavish or even cheap meals, and pricey trips, as well as lucrative consulting and speaking opportunities, medical device-makers’ physician-payment programs also should get a tougher, deeper look.

That’s because device manufacturers paid doctors $3.62 billion in the years 2014–17 — 1.7% of the revenue in their business sector and more than seven times the percentage of drug industry revenue spent on payments to MDs, according to a new study published in the respected medical journal Health Affairs.

The payments have come under increasing fire, as even the smallest sums — yes, even for a slice of pizza and a beer or a few sodas — may sway doctors in prescribing drugs or favoring treatments, notably with certain medical devices. The sketchy product-promotion spending may not benefit patients and may boost health care costs, a growing body of evidence from studies is showing.

oxylabel-300x180Members of the plutocratic Sackler clan have upped the ante yet again in a bankruptcy court bid to settle thousands of lawsuits targeting Purdue Pharmaceutical, the company long in the family’s grip and  blamed for untold misery in the now-resurgent opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.

The latest, and perhaps final plan submitted to the courts for approval would oust the family from Purdue, converting it into a public trust company.

The Sacklers say they will add a billion dollars more from the family’s formidable fortunes to sums that would be extracted from the company itself.

cancerexam-300x225One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic may be showing up in tragic fashion: Cancer specialists say they are treating a wave of advanced cases in which patients might have benefited from earlier care had fear of Covid-19 infection not kept them away from doctors’ offices and hospitals.

The information about the harms of missed appointments, especially for important cancer tests and screenings, is, at present, more anecdotal than quantifiable in hard data, the New York Times reported. But the newspaper quoted doctors across the country reporting this:

“While it is too early to assess the full impact of the delays in screenings, many cancer specialists say they are concerned that patients are coming in with more severe disease. ‘There’s no question in practice that we are seeing patients with more advanced breast cancer and colorectal cancer,’ said Dr. Lucio N. Gordan, the president of the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, one of the nation’s largest independent oncology groups. He is working on a study to see if, overall, these missed screenings resulted in more patients with later-stage cancers.”

covidpollhealthworkersmarch21-300x138The battle to quell the coronavirus pandemic has opened new divides among us — splitting those willing and not to get vaccinated against the disease, those who will adjust easily or not to life when the illness is a less dominant factor, and those who do not recover easily or quickly and struggle long after their tough bouts with the virus.

Will these differences widen further and create greater challenge for public health officials and political leaders, or can successes in fighting Covid-19 help smooth over rifts?

As vaccine supplies and vaccination sites grow and more than 100 million Americans have now gotten at least one coronavirus shot, concerns persist about equity and hesitancy in the national inoculation campaign.

cookmizzoudmv-150x150It’s long been routine, if often controversial, for operating rooms to welcome medical device sales people and surgical trainees to watch the work of surgeons and nurses. But now the University of Missouri health system may have reset the bar with its $16.2 million settlement with almost two dozen patients over questionable knee surgeries.

The contested procedures were performed in part by a veterinarian.

That vet, James Cook, is listed on the university’s web site as the William & Kathryn Allen Distinguished Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery. The explanatory text online and a posted video has him describing how his chief role at the school focuses on research in people and animals in joint disorders. He says he is experimenting with techniques, notably in dogs, in which live materials can be used to replace problem joints.

cmsnursinghomecompare-300x139Federal regulators, by allowing owners and operators to self-report quality and safety data and failing to audit vital information with diligence, have “broken” the national nursing-home rating system — what was supposed to be an invaluable tool for consumers to make life-and-death decisions about where to place vulnerable loved ones needing round-the-clock care.

Instead, the New York Times reported, the popular and convenient star rankings have become little more than an inaccurate means for facilities to advertise and market themselves, even while keeping from the public their serious problems — including abuse, neglect, over medication, sexual assault, and killings of the aged, injured, and ailing.

The system’s glaring shortcomings were exposed even more by the coronavirus pandemic, the newspaper reported. It launched its deep dig into the ratings when it became clear that highly rated homes, when the pandemic struck, did not fare notably better, as might be expected.

cdccoviddata22721-300x156As patients who have suffered through catastrophic injury or illness know, the recovery process can be a tough slog. Good days. And bad. Positive signs. Negative ones, too. This is the difficult up-and-down the nation is enduring as it seeks to conquer the coronavirus pandemic.

Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the disease plunged in recent weeks.

But the trend lines, unacceptably high even after their decline, have plateaued (see chart from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) — and public health experts fear they will rise anew.

brooks-lasure-150x150With millions of Americans now eligible to seek affordable health insurance on Obamacare exchanges newly re-opened to them, even more consumers will want to see if Congress’ impending action on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic response plan pushed by President Biden further expands coverage options.

The Democrats in Congress have made clear that they hope to get Biden’s financial package passed and in place by mid-March, when earlier approved pandemic plans, notably for unemployment insurance and other economic aid, are set to expire.

Their vote margin is so narrow, however, that they may need to rely on so-called budget reconciliation paths to pass the “American Rescue Plan,” a measure that includes an array of Democratic initiatives, notably those involving their plans to improve the access and affordability of health care, especially with greater coverage of the aged, poor, children, as well as the chronically physically and mentally ill.

chartjhavax-300x189The national campaign to quash the coronavirus pandemic with what appears to be a highly safe and effective means — new vaccines — has hit more chop as the Biden Administration pushes to increase supplies, sites, and credible public information about the shots.

While the White House has worked with makers to boost the complex production of vaccines  and officials are ferreting out unused stashes, demand still exceeds supplies, and rotten weather in the central part of the country disrupted deliveries of millions of shots, causing coast-to-coast cancellations of appointments for patients hoping to get shots. This snag affected the region around Washington, D.C.

The White House has said the supply chains will be restored, pronto.

autonomouscrash-300x173The race to deal with the existential threat of climate change by making millions of vehicles smarter, more efficient, and environmentally friendly may be on a collision course with safety concerns.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, concerns are rising among consumer advocates that makers have zoomed ahead with entrepreneurial and engineering advancements in vehicles, even as expert regulators went AWOL in the era of the business-enthralled 45th president.

Whither the future of road- and product-safety in an era of autonomous or self-driving and all electric vehicles?

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