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zantac-300x169Big Pharma’s slavish devotion to maximizing profits and “enhancing shareholder value” has led industry executives to shove the manufacture of their products to far-flung shores. The dubious consequences of these moves have become clear not only with common, over-the-counter medications but also — with potentially tragic results — with drugs needed in the war on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even before the world was terrorized by the coronavirus outbreak in China, safety advocates warned about serious “supply chain” issues in drug making, with one small lab sounding alarms about Zantac, a widely used over-the-counter heartburn pill.

Valisure, a commercial pharmacy that sought to distinguish itself by testing and assuring consumers of the quality of the drugs it sold, provided the federal Food and Drug Administration its lab tests and analyses as evidence that Zantac (aka ranitidine) was contaminated with, what the New York Times has described as, “a type of nitrosamine called N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, which is believed to be carcinogenic in humans and is found in a variety of products, including cured meats.”

axiosjoblesschart-300x169With 10 million Americans suddenly jobless due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a  smack in the face may be coming to partisans who have spent a decade assailing the Affordable Care Act, the landmark measure that offers people help with their health insurance.

Obamacare, studies have shown, already has helped to reduce the ranks of the uninsured by 20 million.

It may play a significant role now in helping the unemployed, too many of whom not only lost their steady income but also their employer-provided health insurance. The preponderance of Americans — more than 150 million of us — get our health coverage through our workplaces.

KIDlogo-300x150Federal watchdogs set a shameful low in 2019, allowing the most kids in almost two decades to die due to defective products before ordering their recall, a noted children’s advocacy group reported.

Kids in Danger (KID), a Chicago-based organization that says it has tracked the child-protection activities of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) since 2002, assailed the agency’s recent performance, asserting that lax oversight contributed to 38 youngsters’ deaths before regulators ordered recalls. That was the highest number fatalities since KID began its tracking, and 37 of the 38 deaths involved inclined infant sleepers, specifically the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and Kids II rocking sleeper.

KID said in a news release about its latest, published annual report:

logowalmart-300x117Walmart and Johnson and Johnson, two of America’s corporate titans, each acted in ways that helped to fuel the opioid crisis that federal experts estimate claims 128 Americans’ lives each day, news media investigations show.

Walmart ignored repeated complaints from its own pharmacists and permitted the over-subscribing of logojj-300x57hundreds of thousands of potent prescription painkillers by sketchy doctors across the country, with the company’s refusal to deal with rising problems leading federal prosecutors to ready hefty civil and criminal cases, according to ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site.

The retailing giant, however, pulled powerful political strings, with Trump Administration officials stepping in to stymie potential lawsuits and criminal charges against Walmart — despite a previously secret settlement the company earlier had signed, pledging to step up its oversight of prescription drugs it sold, ProPublica reported. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and James Bandler wrote:

ACAsigning-300x176As the coronavirus pandemic causes Americans sky-high anxiety about their health and how they might access and afford extensive medical treatment if infected, the nation slid with only modest public attention into the second decade of one of its landmark health care experiments — the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare became the law of the land on March 23, 2010, when the 45th president signed the 2,000-page bill for which he had campaigned long and hard. Republicans in the White House and Congress have attacked the ACA relentlessly ever since.

Researchers have spent a decade scrutinizing the ambitious act’s outcomes with zeal. The New York Times summarized some of the independent, nonpartisan evaluations, finding key areas that the public may wish to recognize in how Obamacare changed the complex U.S. health care system, on which Americans spend more than $3.5 trillion annually. In brief, as a result of the ACA, the newspaper reported (with boldface emphases mine):

coronamapjh-300x134As the Covid-19 pandemic slams the United States — with infections exceeding 100,000 and deaths spiking  beyond 2,000 — the battle with the viral outbreak underscores the axiom that a crisis brings out true character, good and bad.

Our highest praise continues to go out to first responders and medical personnel who have demonstrated huge courage and resolve in treating the sick and dying, despite too few resources still and at giant risk to themselves.

Institutions have stepped up to provide valuable information and services, including:

mammographyus-300x240As Americans live longer, clinicians may need to reconsider whether they need to subject older patients to routine screenings that may trigger even more costly, invasive, painful, and unnecessary medical testing and procedures. For women 70 and older, for example, yet more new evidence raises doubts about mammograms designed to detect breast cancers.

As the New York Times reported, researchers in Boston examined 2000-2008 Medicare claims “to follow more than one million women, ages 70 to 84, who had undergone a mammogram.” Quoting Dr. Xabier Garcia-Albéniz, an oncologist and epidemiologist at RTI Health Solutions and lead author of a new observational study of their women subjects:

“They had never had breast cancer and had a ‘high probability,’ based on their medical histories, of living at least 10 more years. ‘That’s the population who will reap the benefit of screening,’ Dr. Garcia-Albéniz said, because it takes 10 years for mammography to show reduced mortality. The researchers divided the subjects into two groups: one that stopped screening, and another that continued having mammograms at least every 15 months. They found that mammograms provided a survival benefit, if a modest one, for women ages 70 to 74. In line with previous research, the study found that annually screening 1,000 women in that age group would result, after 10 years, in one less death from breast cancer. But among the women who were 75 to 84, annual mammograms did not reduce deaths, although they did, predictably, detect more cancer than in the group that discontinued screening. ‘You’re diagnosing more cancer, but that’s not translating to a mortality benefit,’ Dr. Garcia-Albéniz said.”

faucifacegrimace-300x210Even as Covid-19 wreaked unprecedented harms, there also have been actions that might lead even the most jaded observer to cry out:  What were these people thinking?

The pandemic’s global toll has risen to hundreds of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths. The U.S. toll at the end of the third week in March, the New York Times reported, exceeded 21,000 infections and nearly 300 deaths, with 1 in 5 Americans also now living under tough restrictions that have shut non-essential businesses, schools, colleges and universities, restaurants, gyms and health clubs, and sports and cultural events.

In the throes of such calamitous circumstances,  consider:

cjdlogoCold, hard facts — not hunches, arguments, or theories — matter most when tough health care decisions must be made. Americans have been reminded of this by painful headlines on the opioid and overdose crisis, the rise of lung injuries and deaths due to vaping, and, yes, now the rapid spread of a new coronavirus. Doctors, hospitals, insurers, Big Pharma, and other major parties in the U.S. health care system aren’t always as candid as they need to be, especially in disclosing how they harm and even kill patients.

That’s a truth (with a small “t”) that readers can discover quickly in the Center for Justice and Democracy’s latest edition of its annual “Briefing Book: Medical Malpractice by the Numbers.” The center, at New York Law School, provides evidence about a field that has become the bogeyman for politicians, policy makers, and medical practitioners eager to hide egregious errors with extreme counter factual assertions.

Malpractice cases in the civil justice system provide important insights and checks on how doctors and hospitals care for the sick, injured, and vulnerable.

hhslogo2-150x150The Trump Administration, to its credit, has put out finalized new rules that aim to give patients greater access to and use of their all-important medical records, now mostly captured and contained in electronic form.

Federal officials had to battle a handful of wealthy, powerful corporations that own and install proprietary software and computing systems to try to help patients.

They also instantly created major new concerns with their “interoperability” regulations for doctors and hospitals:

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