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dsuvia-300x225Big Pharma is a broad commercial sector with many diverse enterprises large and small, but they keep showing they’re united in their giant gall when it comes to their unacceptable products and practices, as timely news reports demonstrate.

Just consider:

blueberries-300x225Foolishness about food and its health effects can run not only into the negative — the sky will fall if you even nibble on meat, butter, or eggs! — but also into extremes about its purported benefits. Which is why, as recent news reports indicate, skepticism and care need to be exercised about probiotics, so-called “super foods,” and, yes, once again, the supposed virtues of organic produce.

Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, tackled the myths that surround probiotics in a recent piece for the New York Times’, evidence-based “Upshot” column.

He reported that one fundamental problem in assessing the many benefits attributed to these food nostrums rests in their proliferation and confusion as to what exactly the are: Must probiotics be live cultures of organisms that are supposed to be safe and beneficial to normal activities that occur in the gut? Or can they be dietary supplements and non-living materials that can be delivered in powders and capsules? What exactly is in probiotics and how safe are they? That’s murky — and risky, he says, noting that these materials have caused illnesses and deaths.

crowdfunding-300x150Although the sky-high cost of providing medical care to sick or injured friends and loved ones might seem good reason to encourage community altruism to the nth degree, new technologies that have made it easy, fast, and convenient to “crowd source” online donations also may be sending well-intentioned gifts to dubious and dangerous types of treatment.

A new  study by researchers in Atlanta and New York shows that campaigns on GoFundMe and other social media platforms, sought to raise tens of millions of dollars, and brought in millions for sketchy health-related applications. Experts found “1,059 campaigns that raised money for five unproven or possibly risky treatments: homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer, hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury, experimental stem cell therapy for brain or spinal cord injuries, and long-term antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease,” reported Stat, an online health and medicine news site.

CNN reported that online solicitations were targeted to allow patients to seek dubious therapies at “clinics” in Germany and Mexico (homeopathic or naturopathic cancer care), New Orleans (hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury), and Panama, Thailand, India, China, and Mexico (“stem cell” treatment).

anversaTreatments with “stem cells,” therapies that already were sliding into disrepute due to hyped claims and inappropriate use, took another big hit to their scientific credibility when two respected institutions announced they were retracting 31 published studies claiming stem cells could help patients with damaged hearts.

Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston jointly denounced Piero Anversa, a once celebrated cardiologist who had worked at both institutions but left in 2015, for putting out false or fabricated data for dozens of studies he and colleagues published. The works — contrary to accepted science — purportedly showed that damaged heart muscle could be regenerated with stem cells, a type of cell that can transform itself into a variety of other cells.

The medical journals that have published Anversa’s studies must decide for themselves their course of action now with his work. The experts at Retraction Watch, a nonprofit that monitors science publishing and pulled papers as part of an effort to provide greater transparency to the scientific process, say it is rare for one researcher to have so many studies determined to be flawed and subject to removal from public view.

babywalker-300x131Little ones may prove to be a handful to get around, but grownups need to be wary of products to make babies mobile.

Child safety advocates have not only re-upped their warnings, in particular, about infant walkers, but based on a new study of data from hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits between 1990 and 2014, experts have called on federal regulators anew to ban the manufacture and sale of this product across the country.

Researchers found that “more than 230,000 children under 15 months old were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for skull fractures, concussions, broken bones and other injuries related to infant walkers,” National Public Radio reported.

abcshow-300x188Big hospitals can’t exploit patients and violate their privacy by throwing open their facilities to Hollywood for television shows that plump institutions’ reputations. And academic medical centers need to think twice before letting their leaders strike cozy deals to enrich a choice few insiders by hawking important diagnostic information collected with best intentions by medical staff from patients for decades.

The roster of hospitals dealing with black-eyes from recent negative news stories about their activities includes well-regarded institutions in Boston and New York —  Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Federal regulators busted the Boston hospitals with fines settled for just under $1 million for “inviting film crews on premises to film an ABC television network documentary series, without first obtaining authorization from patients,” reported the U.S. Health and Human Services’ department’s Office of Civil Rights.

cdcvape-300x200
Big Tobacco and its allies long have exploited evolving media to hawk harmful products, promoting them as desirable and sexy in print, movies, radio, television, and online. So, it’s not exactly a surprise that these merchants of death have become masters of marketing on social media, targeting young consumers worldwide.

Their latest campaigns may let cigarette- and e-cigarette-makers skirt regulations, some of them tough and aimed at protecting naïve, vulnerable kids from lifetime addictions.

The tobacco hype may be working all too well, with researchers at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere finding that 10.8 million adults in the United States are “vaping,” with 54.6 percent of e-cigarette users also smoking cigarettes. “About 15 percent of vapers had never smoked cigarettes, and 30.4 percent had quit smoking them,” the newspaper reported.

holick-214x300Media coverage of diet and nutrition topics, for their abundance of hype and sheer bunk, may take the cake. Some recent, solid reports not only offer examples of the scope and scale of this public tomfoolery and its costs but also the reasons why it persists.

Let’s start with reporter Liz Szabo’s deep, detailed take-down of Michael Holick, a Boston University endocrinologist and unabashed pusher of a widespread medical myth that many of us may be deficient of Vitamin D, the so-called sunshine supplement.

Szabo, investigating for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service and the New York Times, reported that Holick has advocated for Vitamin D sufficiency guidelines that created in 2017 alone a $936 million market for its supplementation, with Americans spending another $365 million for more than 10 million vitamin deficiency tests paid for by Medicare.

On the eighteenth day of the eighth month of the year 2018, can Americans be persuaded to start saving more youngsters’ lives — specifically, by preventing the eight children slain each day in a shooting or injury involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home?

That’s the ambition of “End Family Fire,” a national, multimedia campaign that’s launching this weekend and is aimed at averting incidents, including “unintentional shootings, suicides, and other gun-related tragedies,” its advocates say.

debtyoungmed-300x177Big Data may be a business buzzword that puts most consumers into a big sleep, but big alarms are sounding for Americans about Big Brother intrusions into their lives via the collection and analysis of vast amounts of highly personal information. Of course, Big Pharma and medical insurers are at the fore of invasive practices — some of which patient-consumers themselves are helping, likely without knowing they’re doing so.

Millions of Americans may be little aware, for example, that they’re now working for GlaxoSmithKline, a global pharmaceutical conglomerate with $9 billion in revenues in just the most recent quarter. GSK just struck a $300-million deal with 23andMe, the company that has persuaded roughly 5 million consumers to spit in a test tube to get a glimpse of their genetic information, notably information about their ancestry and purportedly some of their genomic health risks.

Firms like 23andMe, with promotions at events like Baltimore Ravens pro football games, also have amassed highly personal genetic and medical data on millions of patient-consumers, promising to protect the information but also offering, casually and by the way, that this vital information could be shared — ostensibly for the betterment of public health.

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