Articles Posted in Cancer

jJlogo-300x139Federal appeals judges have expressed skepticism about the scheming by Big Pharma and other big corporations to twist U.S. bankruptcy laws to let wealthy, powerful defendants shield themselves from major claims of harms filed by plaintiffs seeking justice in civil courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia has been asked to rule on the “Texas two-step” that Johnson & Johnson resorted to when hit with an avalanche of lawsuits over its legendary baby powder and claims by tens of thousands of patients who assert that asbestos-tainted talc contributed to or caused their cancer, NPR reported, noting:

“An attorney for Johnson and Johnson faced probing questions … over the corporation’s use of a controversial bankruptcy maneuver that has frozen tens of thousands of lawsuits linked to Johnson’s baby powder. During the hearing, members of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia asked whether J&J had used the legal strategy to gain ‘a litigation advantage’ over roughly 40,000 cancer patients who have sued the company.”

FDA-Logo-300x167Members of Congress, as usual, are racing to meet a deadline: This time, to determine the funding for the federal Food and Drug Administration, an agency with some of the most consequential responsibilities affecting Americans’ health.

In their furious political and financial machinations, though, lawmakers aren’t asking the tough, critical question about the FDA’s leading revenue source:

Is it a good idea for Big Pharma and medical device makers to pay most of the cost to run the nation’s watchdog of these giant, wealthy industries?

juullogo1-300x142Parents, educators, politicians, federal regulators, and advocates for Americans’ better health all should pause and consider the prime takeaways from a company’s willingness to strike a $439 million settlement with three dozen states figuratively shutting a barn door long after the nag has bolted.

Hint: Big Tobacco is relentless in its efforts to addict regular folks to products proven to destroy their health — and the financial payoff for doing so continues to be so potentially lucrative that most of us can hardly imagine.

Let’s back up just a bit for the basic facts: Juul, a San Francisco-based firm that federal officials have blamed for almost single-handedly creating the e-cigarette and vaping fad in recent years, reached a deal with 33 states and a U.S. territory to pay almost half a billion dollars over the way it marketed its products to teenagers and young adults.

fingersxd-150x150The quality of medical-scientific information is strained — and patients should know this, be warned, and watch for ways to protect themselves from bungled communication, bluster, hype, misinformation, and disinformation.

Although regular folks may have unprecedented access via the internet to resources on medical services and developments, a trio of recent news articles underscore the importance of the familiar warning Caveat emptor (buyer beware):

fdamattholman-150x150The ink was barely dry on statements from the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration about a planned external, independent review of the agency’s tobacco oversight division when one of its top regulators created a personnel stink of his own.

Matt Holman, chief of the office of science in FDA’s much-criticized Center for Tobacco Products, ended his 20-year government career.

He quit — to go to work for Philip Morris International, the global tobacco conglomerate and maker of Marlboros.

billpaying-150x150While Congress seems paralyzed or, at best, willing to shrink significantly its efforts to help Americans deal with the punishing costs of care in the U.S. medical system, could federal lawmakers be confronted at the same time with more compelling evidence about the need for aggressive, not timid, action?

Do beleaguered constituents need to barrage members of the House and Senate with copies of an excellent, painful series from NPR and the nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service on the crushing effects of medical debt on regular folks, especially cancer patients? Must voters write, call, and email  representatives to ensure they see the research findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation or the Commonwealth Fund about how nightmarish the U.S. medical system has become?

In detailing the “financial toxicity” that cancer patients experience with bankrupting treatment, KHN reporter Noam Levey mixes poignant human stories with scary economic data to detail how care for a leading killer of Americans may have improved medically but has become a calamity of a different sort. He makes these points among others (quoted liberally but without their sourcing, not fully included in these bullets for brevity’s sake):

ashtray-300x195Federal regulators have cracked down on Big Tobacco and its zealous, profit-seeking promotion of products that fuel some of the leading causes of preventable disease in this country: cigarette smoking and vaping.

The federal Food and Drug Administration ordered the maker of Juul, a pioneer in pushing so-called e-cigarettes and vape flavorings on the young, to pull its products off the markets.

Agency experts also made public their plans to order Big Tobacco to slash the nicotine in conventional cigarettes, a move designed to gut the addictive allure that is foundational to an estimated $95 billion-a-year industry.

gina4-300x169While hope can be a remarkable element in healing the sick and injured, can there be anything crueler than raising false hopes among the vulnerable?

Patients with serious illnesses like cancer — of the pancreas, breast, and rectum — may need to take in with extra care journalistic reports on medical advances that might affect their treatment.

Two N’s will matter a lot to them — nuance and the scientific short-hand in which medical scientists communicate how many subjects participated in their research (the value described as N=).

newportsFederal regulators say they soon will ban the manufacture, distribution, and retail and wholesale selling of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, an action expected to take effect in a year or two and which anti-smoking advocates argue could save hundreds of thousands of lives of black and young Americans.

The Food and Drug Administration says the best available evidence argues powerfully for its planned ban, which some opponents have flipped as risky for one of the biggest groups that researchers say will benefit: African Americans.

Big Tobacco has targeted black consumers for decades, getting them and young people addicted to powerful nicotine by pushing the soothing effect of mint-derived menthol on the harshness of cigarette smoke, as the Washington Post reported:

cancercenterlogoWhile patients often seek treatment at big, fancy hospitals, in part because they are designated as National Cancer Institute centers, these institutions provide a sticker-shock surprise for those receiving their specialized care: They jack up the already sky-high cost of prescription cancer drugs with markups going up from 120% to 630% above what they pay for the medications.

Those are the findings of researchers at the Harvard and Yale medical schools and elsewhere as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine publication. As they noted with expert restraint:

“The findings of this study suggest that, to reduce the financial burden of cancer treatment for patients, institution of public policies to discourage or prevent excessive hospital price markups on … chemotherapeutics may be beneficial.”

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