Articles Posted in Communication

pacemaker-300x186Big medical device makers, like Big Pharma, have complained relentlessly that Uncle Sam hamstrings them with red tape and bureaucracy that slows or prevents innovative, life changing and lifesaving products from reaching the public. Most of this criticism has been targeted at the federal Food and Drug Administration, which under the Trump Administration, has promised to speed and ease its industry oversight.

But internal watchdogs for the Health and Human Services department have provided a rebuke to the move-faster crowd, detailing the costly cleanup—paid for by taxpayers like you and me— that results from defective medical devices.

The HHS inspector general’s office, in what some patient advocates are calling “a drop in the bucket” of the magnitude of this concern, has found that Medicare paid “at least $1.5 billion over a decade to replace seven types of defective heart devices [that] apparently failed for thousands of patients,” according to a story by Pro Publica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting web site.

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.”

cdccancer-271x300Those carrying around a few pounds extra, or maybe even a lot more, may want to get moving and to drop that excess weight for yet more compelling health causes: That’s because more than 630,000 Americans were diagnosed in 2014 with cancers linked to obesity or overweight, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.

The CDC says 40 percent of all diagnosed cancers were associated with obesity. At a time when the nation is seeing some success in reducing overall rates of diagnosed cancers, a baker’s dozen of overweight-related cancers increased 7 percent between 2005 and 2014. Two out of three of the cancers occurred in those 50- to 74-years-old.

Federal officials have found that more than half of Americans don’t know there’s a connection between 13 kinds of cancers (see diagram) and excess weight. It took public health officials decades to persuade the public that smoking posed cancer health risks and people needed to stop—and Big Tobacco still resorts to unceasing, deceptive tactics to undermine this awareness.

LV100117-300x215Caregivers and the community in Las Vegas, Nev., deserve a salute for their response to the gun violence last week, which could have overwhelmed a less-prepared community’s medical system.

Las Vegas  isn’t a giant metropolis (pop. 2 million in its metro area), and, due to the high costs to operate such a facility, it has just one Level 1 trauma center. That’s a facility staffed and equipped to provide a “gold standard” of emergency care. In the state of Nevada, the only such center is at the 541-bed University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.

It was slammed with more than 100 critical patients, many with life-threatening or fatal gunshot wounds.  A torrent of patients also was routed to the hospital, some for treatment of injuries they suffered while fleeing Stephen Paddock’s rampage. First-responders soon were flooding another facility, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas—a Level II trauma facility—with hundreds more.

muddy_sunday_feature-300x199Parents happily send their eager youngsters off to a demanding array of sports activities,  in the belief that athletics will improve their health and well-being. But, especially for active young men, life as a jock can carry costly long-term risks and immediate infection perils.

A Yale economist and colleagues have scrutinized available public data and estimated that by changing some contact sports like football into their less violent forms (like touch or flag versions), almost 50,000 fewer collegiate and 600,000 or so high school injuries would be averted. Figuring in the costs of medical care and time lost, this could mean a savings of $1.5 billion at the college level and $19.2 billion for high schools.

The researchers came to these big sum conclusions after looking at four types of serious injuries: concussions and damage to the nervous system, bone injuries, torn tissue, and muscle and cartilage injuries. They said that the popularity and prevalence of high contact sports like football in explaining why athletics’ economic toll can be so high.

fda-300x125Uncle Sam, estimating that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States, has pledged to step up preventive and protective measures to prevent these all too common health banes. Here’s the dirty secret about that vow: The federal Food and Drug Administration lacks the staff to do so in some key ways. And it faces further cuts in its funding.

Inspectors from the federal Health and Human Services department (HHS) have audited FDA inspection data from 2011 to 2015, finding, according to the Washington Post:

Government inspectors failed to take action on one of every five serious food-safety risks identified in manufacturing facilities. … In the remaining cases, the [FDA] almost always asked food manufacturers to correct violations voluntarily. In one incident in 2013, FDA inspectors found listeria in a facility where rain dripped through holes in the ceiling onto food prep areas. While FDA asked the facility to address the problems, samples from the factory still tested positive for listeria two years later. That same year, FDA inspectors found salmonella in a facility that made ready-to-eat seafood, salads and dips. They did not send the facility a warning letter or initiate any other corrective actions.

Donald_Trump-1-225x300Even as President Trump belittles Puerto Rican political leaders, the Americans on the island have been swamped by a hurricane-caused health care crisis, according to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes there.

The disturbing news reports show that sick and injured patients, with gas supplies limited, are struggling to navigate tree-blocked roads to get to hospitals that often lack power for cooling and to provide medical services. Doctors are reporting shortages of drugs and medical supplies.

Public health experts increasingly fear that health conditions will worsen, even as more rescue and recovery aid slowly trickles to a spot that long has wrestled with poverty and the isolation of many of its rural communities.

tats-300x192Could pediatricians accomplish what many parents cannot? Can they talk to rebellious youths about the body adornments that are  all the rage now, and get kids to consider the health risks and long-term issues surrounding trendy tattoos, piercings, and body scarring?

In case you’ve fallen like Rip Van Winkle into a long doze or you’re senior enough to even understand the Washington Irving reference, tats and body jewelry worn in created openings and roughing up the skin to make interesting patterns all have become so common among the young that those who go without such au trendy beauty measures may now even be the outliers among their peers.

There isn’t good data on body scarring but the public opinion experts at the Pew Research Center found in 2010 that 38 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had at least one tattoo, and 23 percent had “piercings in locations other than an earlobe.”

Sleeper-300x169

Improve Your Sleep Quality to Maximize Your Goals

Although grown-ups may struggle with health woes caused by a lack of a good night’s sleep, a long and sound slumber, without early rising, may be even more crucial for middle- and high-schoolers.  Their restful sleep may have economic benefits for us all, as well as surprising effects on attention disorders, which are one of the rising banes for the young.

New study by the nonpartisan and nonprofit RAND Corporation not only supports the health benefits from teens getting more sleep by starting school at around 8:30 in the morning— later  than  many schools now—researchers say such a move could be a, “cost-effective … strategy which could have a significant impact on public health and the U.S. economy.” As they reported:

pills-drugs-300x215The epidemic of opioid drug abuse, which increasingly is claiming children’s lives, has plenty of blameworthy causes. Here’s a new one: health insurers which steer patients to cheaper, more addictive painkillers while playing Scrooge for less addictive but pricier alternatives.

Pro Publica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism site, and the New York Times get credit for their expose of  penny-wise and pound-foolish prescription management practices.

By analyzing “Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year,” the news organizations say they saw repeated patterns in which insurers and the spin-off businesses that run their drug payment plans (so-called pharmacy benefit mangers or PBMs) easily and quickly approve opioids for patients in pain, medications that cost relatively little. They throw up all kinds of obstacles, however, to doctors and patients who try to use less potent but more expensive drugs, including patches containing Butrans (a lesser opioid) or lidocaine. They also drag their feet on approving payments for addiction-fighting medications like Suboxone.

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