Articles Posted in Conflicts of Interest

kingMembers of Congress and lobbyists are taking public and premature bows for debasing the nation’s democracy and potentially harming Americans’ health and well-being.

The Washington Post has given readers a disturbing glimpse into what’s going on in the halls of the U.S. House these days, detailing how Republican representatives jammed through a bill that would strip Americans of rights in seeking redress when they suffer harms while seeking medical services.

The GOP’s so-called “reforms” of the nation’s medical malpractice laws, which independent and expert analysts have said are unnecessary and won’t produce the magical cost-savings or medical care efficiencies that advocates suggest, were concocted by a coterie of special interests—a handful of doctors and insurance industry lobbyists, the Post reports.

pills-300x129Even as drug makers are settling or scrambling to resolve disputes with regulators over dubious ways they peddle products, Big Pharma is busting records for its spending to lobby lawmakers on skyrocketing prices, easing industry oversight, and other issues critical not only to the sector but also to tens of millions of consumers.

It’s distressing how news reports continue to show not only the flood of money in prescription drugs but also how medication makers put profit motives ahead of other concerns like the public interest.

Take for example the $280 million that Celgene has agreed to pay to settle fraud claims over its marketing of Thalomid and Revlimid for unapproved uses.

cig-300x225The nation’s long war on one of its leading preventable killers has taken a surprising tactical turn, as the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration has declared that tobacco companies will face new regulations aimed at slashing nicotine in cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb argues that cutting the noxious and addictive nicotine will help Americans unhook themselves from tobacco use, prompting less cigarette smoking, and, potentially increasing the use of possibly less harmful health vices, like nonburning “e-cigarettes” for vaping.

Gottlieb, at the same time, put further off a planned FDA crackdown on e-cigarette makers, delaying for several years requirements that they disclose ingredients in their colorful, flavored vaping liquids and demonstrate that they and other e-cigarette products do not cause health harms.

obama-240x300As the late, sultry diva Peggy Lee used to croon: Is that all there is?

The Republicans in Washington, after seven years of trying and dozens of faux earlier votes, have failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, the signature legislation of the previous Democratic administration, persists as the law of the land.

Not hearing champagne corks flying after the end for now of the desperate legislative floundering of Republicans in the House, Senate, and White House?

nucarmen-189x300Although smaller community hospitals may provide treatments that are as good and as safe, Americans flock to academic medical centers for specialized care and complex procedures. They’re lured to the big, pricey institutions by their stellar reputations, state-of-the-art facilities, and top-line specialists. These tall, shiny complexes, combining medical education, research and clinical care, also have deep roots in their communities and become political powerhouses in their own right.

Which is why many in the nation’s No. 2 city are abuzz over a Los Angeles Times investigation into the “secret life” of Carmen A. Puliafito, a Harvard-trained eye expert. Until 18 months ago, he had served for a decade as the $1 million-a-year dean of the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. As Keck’s top doc, the paper says, he “oversaw hundreds of medical students, thousands of professors and clinicians, and research grants totaling more than $200 million … [and] was a key fundraiser for USC, bringing in more than $1 billion in donations, by his estimation.”

The university—which is Los Angeles County’s largest employer, a haven for affluent offspring of West Coast elites, and long has craved global recognition—hired and backed Puliafito to boost the medical school’s  standing.  But during his tenure, the Los Angeles Times found, Puliafito also “kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them.” As the paper describes it:

PE-Color-240x300The Republicans haven’t waved a white flag—yet. They may never formally surrender. But the GOP’s seven-year, take-no-prisoners campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has foundered. For good?

Political prediction is a knucklehead’s sport. It’s never safe to predict what’s going to happen, especially when unpredictable tragedies rear up like  Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis.

No matter. We now know painful truths about the politicians who have sway over our health care—and will continue to do so in vast ways, Trumpcare or no.

fda-300x125Pro-business and anti-consumer  lawmakers in Congress are racing to slacken rules for medical device makers to report problems with their products. This move may imperil more patients, many of whom already have been harmed and some even killed already by defective and dangerous medical devices.

The dispute focuses on a provision to triple the time that companies would get to report product issues to the federal Food and Drug, giving medical device makers three months to do so, rather than 30 days as now required. They still must report to the agency immediately any incident in which a patient is harmed.

Although consumer safety advocates are decrying the oversight changes that GOP members of Congress are pressing, medical device makers are downplaying the regulatory shifts, saying they will eliminate needless bureaucracy. They say that if lawmakers don’t approve the rule changes it may sink the broader and crucial legislation they’re embedded in. The House has just approved and sent to the U.S. Senate the bigger FDA bill, which also provides 60 percent of the fee-based funds for agency drug and medical device reviews.

Just under half of American adults get their news mostly from local television, and this is especially true for the older among us who also happen to be the heaviest users of medical services. But with local TV content hitting new highs for sheer volume—an average of 5.7 hours every day—watchdog groups are expressing a growing concern about the integrity of broadcast health information.

Healthnewsreview.org, an independent, nonprofit group that works on the public’s behalf to improve the depth, quality, and accuracy of health information, has reported with increasing urgency about pay to play, sponsored, and industry influenced and manipulated medical news.

goop-248x300Mocking the vanity, self-absorption, and stupidity of the rich and celebrities may be too feckless a sport. But the tragic spin-offs of the sweeping misinformation their hype mechanisms can generate sometimes just cannot be ignored.

If you can take it, New York magazine has put out a detailed story on “The Wellness Epidemic,” a deep dive into the cult-like affectations of affluent Americans who spend way too much time worrying they might be sick—and dabbling with remedies that might make most readers with an inkling of common sense spit up a little.

Why pay a second’s attention to this hypochondria and Goop, the fantasy empire of wealthy and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow? Because she’s the actress who’s not only selling millions of dollars in beauty supplies and vitamins and supplements of suspect health value, she’s also sharing with a sadly rapt global audience her nonsensical views on the benefits and necessities of fecal transplants and putting a $66 jade egg into one’s private parts.

acurian-300x175When consumers around the country started getting letters from a company that they had never heard of, inviting them to participate in clinical trials for medical conditions that they hadn’t disclosed to many or didn’t even have, the alarms started to sound, quietly at first but with increasing urgency. Were doctors, hospitals, or other providers breaching medical privacy laws? Had there been a serious but unpublicized leak or unwelcome disclosure of patient data?

Kudos to the information site Buzzfeed for digging in and finding out how Acurian Health, a firm with an address in a rural county outside of Philadelphia, exploits state-of-the-art Internet marketing and data-mining techniques to learn, in creepy fashion, about Americans and their illnesses.

It does this by buying marketing information that a range of companies collect on customers, some of it volunteered and others extracted from data points like zip codes, purchasing patterns, and available demographics: Do you live in an upscale or modest neighborhood? Are you and your neighbors most likely to be highly educated professionals or blue-collar laborers?

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