Articles Posted in Disclosure

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.

Pinocchio_Smoking-300x169Tougher ratings for movies targeting teen-agers and higher cigarette taxes may be two good ways to crack down on Big Tobacco’s persistent and harmful peddling of its poisonous wares, health experts say, based on information flowing from the sprawling Golden State.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just assessed Hollywood’s progress in reducing depictions of tobacco in the movies, finding that, under pressure from anti-smoking campaigns,  Tinsel Town had slashed its showing of the use or implied use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes from 2005 to 2010. But that progress has reversed since then, and now, based on top 10 grossing movies in any calendar week, cinematic depictions of tobacco use has soared by 80 percent.

Although pictures rated G or PG, those films most accessible to the broadest movie-going audiences, saw reductions in their showing of smoking and other tobacco use, depictions of these negative health practices rose sharply in movies aimed more at teenagers and older youths  in those works with ratings of PG-13 (by 43 percent) and R (by 90 percent).

opioid-graficAlthough Americans may like to think that it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter as much as it does, where they live can have major effects on their health. Geography isn’t an absolute determinant, but key differences have been discerned in how it affects the prescribing dangerous opioid drugs, cancer death rates, some air pollution harms, and risks of insect-related infections. Let’s look at specifics:

Opioid prescribing dips but data show big regional differences

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a rare glimmer of good news about the nation’s epidemic of powerful painkiller abuse, finding that the peak of doctors’ opioid drug prescribing appears to have occurred in 2010 and has dropped sharply since.

Nursing-home-holding-hands-300x200Federal regulators need to ramp up their oversight of nursing homes, big time, with recent news reports and studies finding persistent abuses of elderly patients, including during crackdowns on problem operators, and facilities failing to care for vulnerable charges so they don’t lapse into emergency or hospital care.

Jordan Rau and the independent Kaiser Health News Service deserve kudos for digging into Uncle Sam’s “special focus status,” in which the nation’s “most dangerous” nursing homes get an ultimatum to correct major and continuing harms to patients or they may lose crucial Medicaid and Medicare funds from the federal government.

Rau found that more than half of the 528 homes deemed since 2014 to require the supposedly stringent “special focus” from regulators and that still are operating have since harmed patients or put them in jeopardy in the last three years.

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.

dna-208x300Pathologists are the medical specialists whom few patients ever meet, but they play increasingly important roles in treatment decisions. Some new reports raise concerns about systematic errors in the path lab.

The New York Times painted a surprisingly distanced picture of the work of pathologists in a recent report on these medical doctors who are trained to interpret an array of laboratory tests and often microscopic materials to determine the care for complex diseases.

The paper found that the specialists and their labs mislabeled and mixed up patient samples and results, as well as sometimes contaminating them—yes, rarely, but with potentially significant harms. Erroneous results could lead to misdiagnoses, resulting in patients getting wrong or ineffective treatment, especially for cancers, experts say.

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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Look out Baby Boomers and Gen Xers: Just when you or your elderly loved ones may be most vulnerable and needing nursing home care, the government is going back to allowing nursing home administrators to push a pile of documents for you to sign at you at admission time. And when you put your John Hancock on some of these, you will give away important legal protections.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, overseer of 1.5 million nursing home residents and more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funding, has posted notice that, under Trump Administration leadership, it soon will reverse its predecessors’ plan to halt agreements that forced patients and their families to give up their right to sue. Instead, Trump officials will push them to the alternative legal process known as arbitration. Officials insist they will require nursing homes to make arbitration requirements simpler, and to ensure they’re written in plain English.

But, in keeping with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Kentucky case, regulators are yielding to the nursing home industry’s aggressive lobbying and point of view that arbitration is simpler, easier, and will keep down costs.

ohio-300x185With more than 4,000 overdose deaths last year alone and a fifth of its residents having received prescriptions for powerful painkillers, the state of Ohio has sued five Big Pharma companies, accusing them of mispresenting opioid drugs’ risks and fueling the medications’ epidemic abuse.

Ohio joins Mississippi in suing makers of increasingly lethal drugs like OxyContin and Percocet, whose addictive nature was hidden and downplayed by Big Pharma, critics say. The abuse of prescription opioids has fueled heroin use, with 33,000 Americans dying last year alone due to overdoses, federal and state health and law enforcement officials have said.

Fatal drug overdoses now exceed gun- or vehicle-deaths and they are matching the terrible tolls exacted at the height of the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Heartland America, and particularly white men, have been hard hit by the opioid drug crisis, with Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire and West Virginia recording the nation’s highest numbers of overdose deaths.

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