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pills-300x200With Big Pharma pressing the limits in promoting and pricing prescription medications, patients and their advocates long have hoped that generic drugs might be difference-makers on costs and practices. Those positive wishes, however, may be dying out by the day.

The attorneys general of dozens of states have sued major generic makers including Teva, Pfizer, Novartis and Mylan, accusing them of conspiring to inflate generic drug prices by as much as 1,000%, the New York Times and other media organizations reported.

The makers’ price-fixing affected more than 100 generics, including “lamivudine-zidovudine, which treats H.I.V.; budesonide, an asthma medication; fenofibrate, which treats high cholesterol; amphetamine-dextroamphetamine for A.D.H.D.; oral antibiotics; blood thinners; cancer drugs; contraceptives; and antidepressants,” the New York Times said.

iQOS-300x240Federal regulators appear to be getting caught flat-footed yet again as Big Tobacco’s harms metastasize before their very eyes. The federal Food and Drug Administration has given a qualified go-ahead to Philip Morris International to sell a device that heats but does not burn tobacco, a process that appears to expose users to fewer harmful toxins.

Still, the iQOS gadget packs the same wallop of highly addictive nicotine as does a standard, tobacco-burning cigarette. And the FDA decided it would be regulated just as cigarettes are, thereby restricting its sales and marketing to young people.

Big Tobacco executives talked up iQOS (eye-kos) as yet another way for smokers of their proven and deadly burned tobacco cigarettes to get unhooked from them and to lessen their health harms.

allergy-300x200If residents of the nation’s capital aren’t already sneezing, hacking, and swiping at red and rheumy eyes, just wait — the spring allergy season is upon us. And it may be longer and worse than ever. Then, Washingtonians also may be gasping soon for another reason: worsening air pollution, specifically problematic ozone levels in summer heat.

Though science deniers may be resisting environmental realities, human-caused climate change already is affecting our health and well-being.

Air pollution, for example, is a rising worry, the American Lung Association reported in its 20th annual report on clean air. The health group advised that:

lameasles-300x225Almost two decades after public health officials declared them eradicated from this nation’s children, measles infections have returned with a vengeance to the United States, rising to the highest level in almost two decades, with hundreds of cases in almost two dozen states, and the incidences climbing still.

The outbreaks have been concentrated in New York, in Brooklyn in a religious community, and in Washington state. But authorities have taken aggressive steps, including quarantine orders for hundreds of students and staff on two big college campuses across town from each other (UCLA and Cal State, LA), to ensure that the disease is contained and does not spread in Los Angeles.

Alex Azar, who heads the federal Health and Human Services Department, said in a statement about the familiar infection: “Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease. We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”

mouse-300x169James Heathers is a Ph.D. with expertise in scientific methods and data. He works in a behavioral science lab at Northeastern University in Boston. He’s young, adaptive, and savvy enough to participate in social media, especially Twitter. There, he saw a problem and a challenge with the way medical scientific findings get presented to sizable audiences online.

As someone accustomed to dealing with academic and scientific rigor, he paused and thought he could title his planned effort, “handling the translational gap during the science media transition.” But this Aussie has a sense of humor—and he wanted impact. He thought a straight-laced approach would be as “popular as cabbage sandwiches.”

So, instead, he focused in on a broad number of reputable studies that he thinks get misrepresented and grab unjustified popular attention. This research involves the extrapolation of early results in animal tests, making them sound — incorrectly — as if they instantly have meaning for people. He created a Twitter account that is garnering lots of attention, including tens of thousands of unexpected followers.

AmProgressBIRcosts-300x245When patients battle with the desperate extremes of a disease like a fast-spreading cancer, it isn’t just the radiation and chemo therapies that sap their spirits, there’s a  demoralizing runner-up concern: The constant battling with doctors, hospitals, and insurers over medical bills.

Medical billing and insurance-related costs are so over the top that they pile up a half-trillion-dollars a year in burdensome administrative costs — half of which is excessive and wasteful, according to new research from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

The center reviewed past studies of administrative costs in U.S. health care, seeking to address criticisms of their methods and conclusions. Still, the new findings raise points that may stagger patients, policy makers, and politicians, say Emily Gee, a health economist for the group, and Topher Spiro, its vice president for Health Policy and a senior economic fellow.

Bracescamarrest-238x300Federal authorities have busted up what they say is a $1.2 billion Medicare fraud that should give taxpayers and patients pause about long-distance medical consultations and the huge sums of cash washing around the medical device industry.

Two dozen people, some of them doctors, have been charged in a complex ploy to gull seniors into asking about back, shoulder, wrist, and knee braces that were promoted as free on TV and radio ads nationwide. When the older adults called to inquire about the devices, they were transferred to telemarketing centers in the Philippines and Latin America.

In the far-away boiler rooms, trained operators extracted important personal information from callers, then connected them for “telemedicine” consultations with cooperating doctors. The MDs asked cursory questions before then prescribing the devices, whether needed or not. The orders were filled by select companies, which then would send out the braces and charge them to Medicare.

Candida-aurisWhen big hospitals are locked in bare-knuckle battles against debilitating and deadly bacterial and fungal infections sweeping their institutions, don’t patients have the right to know about these situations that might affect their lives and care? According to some hospital insiders, no.

The New York Times reported that a “culture of secrecy” prevails in hospitals as they combat “super bugs,” bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics and now fungi that have evolved immunities to antifungals.

The newspaper found the institutional opposition to making public outbreaks of hospital-borne infection as it followed up its own scary page one story about the global spread of Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungus that preys on patients who already are hospitalized and may have compromised immune systems.

kidshot-300x292As outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases rise to concerning levels, doctors, regulators, and lawmakers may need to toughen important laws requiring youngsters to be inoculated, protecting better our collective health and closing off legal loopholes for sketchy vaccination exemptions.

It would be ideal if more than a century of lifesaving experience and decades of rigorous scientific research were sufficient to persuade parents to get their children vaccinated against an array of harmful and dangerous infections. But grownups’ hesitancy or rejection of shots, out of unfounded personal belief or due to medical disinformation, has set in and spread. This has undercut local, national, and global campaigns to rid humanity of contagions like measles. Public information campaigns and evidence-based persuasion hasn’t worked as well as experts might hope, leading officials to pass vaccination laws.

But those protective measures have been eroded by the exploitation by a few, so far, of well-intentioned exemptions, reporters for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News reported.

casho-300x168Although lawsuits can result in needed financial support and welcome recognition of harms suffered by patients seeking medical services, the civil justice system has its limits. They showed in cases in the news in which disputing parties agreed to more than $1 billion in resolutions that left issues unanswered.

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