Articles Posted in Communication

changingcovidtollap2022wp-300x216The coronavirus pandemic has become such a central part of so many people’s lives that the temptation is great to ignore its persistent, calamitous effect — and how some of the worst of these can be dealt with more than ever in relatively easy, safe, convenient ways.

Looking recent data about the disease, it is possible to start to downplay the virus, suggesting it could be reaching the endemic stage in which it still poses high perils but is not a crisis condition, as it has been for months now. Consider, for example, how widespread coronavirus infections have become, especially due to the recent surge involving the highly contagious Omicron variant. As the New York Times reported:

“Sixty percent of Americans, including 75% of children, had been infected with the coronavirus by February, federal health officials reported … — another remarkable milestone in a pandemic that continues to confound expectations. The highly contagious Omicron variant was responsible for much of the toll. In December 2021, as the variant began spreading, only half as many people had antibodies indicating prior infection, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the numbers came as a shock to many Americans, some scientists said they had expected the figures to be even higher, given the contagious variants that have marched through the nation over the past two years.”

diettiming-150x150Americans’ obsession with weight control can lead them to embrace diet theories and convert too many of them into conventional wisdom. Alas, when medical researchers put widely accepted notions to scientific testing, they can evaporate faster than a rain drop on a hot summer sidewalk. That’s the potential fate of the idea that when people eat matters as much in weight control as what they consume.

This just isn’t so, according to “a rigorous one-year study in which people followed a low-calorie diet between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or consumed the same number of calories anytime during the day,” the New York Times reported, noting that so-called timed eating “has failed to find an effect.” The newspaper quoted Dr. Ethan Weiss, a diet researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who reported this:

“There is no benefit to eating in a narrow window … These results indicate that caloric intake restriction explained most of the beneficial effects seen with the time-restricted eating regimen.”

chromosomes-harvardExpectant parents, doctors, and regulators need to reconsider the rising use of gee-whiz genetic testing as  doubts emerge about popular blood screenings to detect rare prenatal disorders and a costly test relied on by couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.

This is what the New York Times reported about what researchers have found about preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy, or PGT-A. It is an increasingly common screening in IVF and has led potential parents to discard embryos as unfeasible or unacceptable due to abnormalities to carry to term:

“PGT-A … has, over the last two decades, become a standard add-on to already pricey IVF procedures. But the test, which can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000, has become controversial over the years as studies have cast doubt on whether it increases birthrates from IVF at all. A growing number of scientists have questioned the widespread use of the test, which leads to tens of thousands of discarded embryos per year and causes many women to believe they may not be able to carry biological children. A new study published last week details 50 patients who underwent transfers of abnormal embryos at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York City … The study reported eight births after 57 transfer cycles of embryos with abnormal genetic testing results since 2015. Seven of the babies were born healthy. The average age of the women in the study was 41 years old.

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.”

airlinemasking-205x300Hundreds of Americans keep dying each day due to the coronavirus. Tens of thousands of people across the country are reporting they are newly infected with the disease, even as at-home testing lowers this count. Thousands of patients still are hospitalized due to the virus that has killed at least 1 million in this country. But even as worrisome measures of the pandemic rise anew, important ways to battle the deadliest infectious disease outbreak in a century are dwindling.

Health officials are grappling with a federal judge’s ruling, upending nationwide what has been a minimally inconvenient step to quell the pandemic — a requirement for passengers to cover their faces while traveling on public transportation.

The judge — yes, an appointee from the last administration who was deemed by the Bar to be not qualified for her lifetime post — staked out a dubious legal view that federal officials overstepped their authority with the mask order.  U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, sitting in Tampa, Fla., asserted among other things in her ruling that she thinks Congress limited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be involved only in “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, destruction, or pest extermination.”

FDA-Logo-300x167Its official title is the federal Food and Drug Administration. But taxpayers are ill-served by the $1 billion they fork over to this behemoth agency to safeguard the foods all of us must consume and to provide sound nutritional guidance in especially confusing times.

That’s a significant takeaway for readers of a new, magazine-length takedown of the FDA’s food programs by the news site Politico. It has joined ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site, in hammering the federal government — which divides food regulation also with the U.S. Department of Agriculture — over its sluggish and poor protection of the public.

These are not just deep digs into obscure bureaucracies, Politico reported:

dcpolicetweet-300x214The opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has veered into a frightening new phase in which the rise of the easy-to-make, exceedingly powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl is causing multiple, interconnected deaths at one time.

The nation’s capital already has experienced this grim situation, which only shows signs of worsening, the Washington Post reported on April 12:

“Ten people in two neighborhoods in Northeast Washington have now died from a lethal batch of fentanyl, police said .. the second mass-casualty incident involving the deadly opioid in the District this year. Police said at least 17 people overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl in Trinidad and Ivy City from [April 9-11] and seven of them survived. In January, nine people died after taking a similar concoction in a neighborhood near Nationals Park. Authorities arrested two people in that case and said they do not believe the most recent incidents are connected to the earlier overdoses.”

caring-150x150A glaring gap in the U.S. health care system — the giving of care at home — is burgeoning into a costly chasm.  Pretty much everybody involved needs to pay close attention and finally act to deal with the nation’s failure to support home caregiving for the sick, injured, debilitated, and aged.

The consequences of inaction already are becoming clear, as the dearth of home care is smacking the recovering economy, “contributing to labor shortages around the country and playing a role in overall inflation,” the Washington Post reported, finding:

“At least 6.6 million people who weren’t working in early March said it was because they were caring for someone else, according to the most recent Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau. Whether — and when — they return to work will play a role in the continued recovery and could reshape the post-Covid labor force. For all the attention on parents — and mothers in particular — who stopped working to care for children during the pandemic, four times as many people are out of the work force, caring for spouses, siblings, aging parents, and grandchildren, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest Monetary Policy Report.

grief-150x150Death has not taken a holiday in this country. It has, instead, had a field day, with 2021 breaking records, recording 3.465 million American lives lost — 80,000 more than in history-setting 2020, federal statisticians say.

The coronavirus pandemic gets much of the blame for the nation’s grim toll, which was made all the worse because many of the deaths last year, as opposed to the year before, were preventable because safe, effective vaccines became widely available and could have averted debilitating and deadly illnesses for so many.

But Covid-19 was not alone as a killer that rose up to take American lives and to slash a fundamental measure of public health — life expectancy rates. The Associated Press reported, citing information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

academies-300x90The nation’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are in dire need of drastic overhaul to dramatically improve the quality and safety of their treatment of the aged, sick, and disabled. They too often now get what one expert has described as “ineffective, inefficient, inequitable, fragmented, and unsustainable” care.

To repair the glaring, longstanding wrongs in these facilities — problems that critics say contributed to 150,000 resident deaths during the coronavirus pandemic — requires sweeping practical, regulatory, and financial changes in an industry focused on profits and resistant to change, according to newly published expert research report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The academies, with members who are leaders in their fields, are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.

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