Articles Posted in Disclosure

fdamattholman-150x150The ink was barely dry on statements from the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration about a planned external, independent review of the agency’s tobacco oversight division when one of its top regulators created a personnel stink of his own.

Matt Holman, chief of the office of science in FDA’s much-criticized Center for Tobacco Products, ended his 20-year government career.

He quit — to go to work for Philip Morris International, the global tobacco conglomerate and maker of Marlboros.

logoteva-300x115Big Pharma has run into a rare rough summer — and that could be positive news for all the rest of us regular folks. Just how? Consider:

debtnprkhnnursinghomesuits-247x300When seniors need full-time institutional care, or when the injured or debilitated require similar 24/7 attention, loved ones — and even friends — must take care to read and re-read any documents that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities shove before them to sign during the stressful admissions process.

That’s because the owners and operators of the facilities soon may create a financial nightmare for the unwitting document signers, fueling what is the huge shame of the U.S. health care system: medical debt.

Most regular folks might think that the financial obligations incurred in long-term care facilities rightly belong to the adult residents. They’re 21 and older, and unlike minor kids carted into urgent, or emergency rooms for treatment, the residents typically have, until their situations suddenly shift, been responsible, including legally, for their lives and personal business.

charity2-150x150Play this one out in your mind: a guy you know at church — he’ll be the first to let you know he makes $200,000 a year — tells you about how he gave to charity a junker car worth not more than $4,600 (2% of his income). Now what’s your reaction if you learn this guy got thousands of dollars in tax breaks for that giving?

Is this savvy business conduct? Or does it make you sputter even while sitting in the pews on Sunday?

Now multiply the sums involved, exponentially, and it should be cause for questions anew about the nation’s hospitals and their charitable care. As the Wall Street Journal reported of its dive into the institutions’ required federal disclosures:

cdcoverdosedeaths-300x175The opioid drug abuse and overdose crisis is not only smashing fatality records, it also is slamming poorer people and communities of color and taking a savage toll on younger black Americans.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has analyzed data from Washington, D.C., and 25 states, finding in its study published online, as the New York Times reported:

“Overall, overdose deaths jumped 30% from 2019 to 2020 … Deaths among black people rose 44%, about twice the increase in deaths among white people (22%) or Hispanic people (21%). Deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives increased 39%. Measured as a portion of the population, in 2020, deaths among black people were higher than in any other racial or ethnic group — 39 per 100,000, compared with 31 for white people, 36 for American Indian and Alaska Native people and 21 for Hispanic people. ‘The disproportionate increase in overdose death rates among blacks and American Indian and Alaska Native people may partly be due to health inequities, like unequal access to substance use treatment and treatment biases,’ said Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the CDC.”

charges-150x150Consumers should brace themselves for increasing costs of yet another key component of most families’ budgets: the price of health insurance premiums. Even if Congress can’t get its act together to extend coronavirus pandemic-related subsidies for millions of Americans covered under Obamacare, insurers in individual marketplaces across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are looking to raise rates an average of 10% next year.

Those are the annual findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which scrutinized preliminary rate submissions for Affordable Care Act policies sold on public marketplaces in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington state, the AP reported.

The foundation offered a key footnote to its early warning about spikes in the cost of health coverage, which for several years now had remained low:

DawnOConnellASPR-150x150califf-150x150While most regular folks wouldn’t give a hill of beans about the organization of bureaucracies in Washington, D.C., frustrated taxpayers should be taking note of seismic rumblings about restructurings that are shaking some of the biggest, most powerful, and influential federal health agencies.

Biden Administration officials, in one of their notable moves, have announced that responses to pandemics and other public health crises will be led now by a separate, independent division within the sprawling Health and Human Services agency.

While officials hastened to say that the 1,000-person Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, or ASPR, will work hand-in-glove with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC clearly is taking its lumps for the shambolic course it took, starting in the previous administration, in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

candidanew-300x150With the coronavirus pandemic surging anew due to the highly infectious Omicron BA.5 variant, federal authorities reported recent data that should give Americans plenty of reason to heed public health warnings and avoid hospitalization if they possibly can.

That’s in part because institutions, overwhelmed by the pandemic, have taken giant steps backward in preventing patients in their care from acquiring nasty bacterial and fungal infections in addition to the coronavirus, and from overusing and misusing lifesaving antibiotics, further fueling the rise of virulent super bugs, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As the New York Times reported:

“The spread of drug-resistant infections surged during the coronavirus pandemic, killing nearly 30,000 people in 2020 and upending much of the recent progress made in containing the spread of so-called superbugs, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths caused by infections impervious to antibiotics and antifungal medications rose 15% during the first year of the pandemic compared to 2019, federal health officials found. Much of the increase was tied to the chaos wrought by the coronavirus as doctors and nurses struggled to treat waves of grievously sick patients whose illness they did not fully understand before vaccines and treatments were widely available. About 40% of the deaths were among hospitalized patients, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes and other health care settings, the CDC report found. Early on, many frontline hospital workers mistakenly administered antibiotics for viral lung infections that did not respond to such drugs, according to the study. Many of the sickest patients spent weeks or months in intensive care units, increasing the chances for drug-resistant bugs to enter their bodies through intravenous lines, catheters, and ventilator tubes.”

kneeinjectionSince the 1970s, some doctors have treated arthritic knees by injecting them with hyaluronic acid, a substance originally derived from the combs of roosters. Specialists have zealously promoted this therapy, costing patients a few hundred dollars a pop and repeated so widely that Medicare alone pays $300 million annually for it. Doctors argue it reduces pain and increases joint mobility.

It hardly lives up to this billing, though, offering patients scant more relief than a placebo (saline, or salt water), researchers found after scrutinizing a half century’s worth of data from 169 clinical trials involving more than 20,000 patients.

The highly popular viscosupplementation procedure, as reported by Stat, a medical and scientific news site, showed an average effect “about 2 points beyond placebo effect on a pain scale that runs from 1 to 100.” The researchers from Canada, Britain, and China concluded this from their study, as published in BMJ, a respected medical journal of the British Medical Association:

MLSlogo-150x150In 2015, public attention galvanized around the significant risks of head trauma and the sport of football with the disclosure that Andre Waters, 44, a hard-hitting, onetime Philadelphia Eagles player, had been diagnosed after his suicide with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Has soccer — one of the most popular pastimes on the planet and a dominant game of U.S. suburban life — also hit its day of reckoning for head injuries? The issue has been brought to the fore with the revelations that Scott Vermillion, 44, a onetime soccer pro, has been posthumously diagnosed with CTE, the degenerative brain disease “linked to symptoms like memory loss, depression and aggressive or impulsive behavior,” the New York Times reported, adding:

“The diagnosis gave Vermillion the grave distinction of being the first American professional soccer player with a public case of CTE. It was a solemn milestone, too, for MLS, a league that has, even in its young history, seen the consequences of the type of brain injuries more commonly associated with collision sports like football, boxing and hockey. For soccer as a whole, the finding will add another note to a small but growing chorus of concern about the health risks of playing the world’s most popular game. ‘Soccer is clearly a risk for CTE — not as much as football, but clearly a risk,’ said Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University.”

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