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dsuvia-300x225Big Pharma is a broad commercial sector with many diverse enterprises large and small, but they keep showing they’re united in their giant gall when it comes to their unacceptable products and practices, as timely news reports demonstrate.

Just consider:

emergency-300x199As the nation struggles with grief from the latest mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, new research shows how grievous the mayhem that guns cause for the young, with weapons injuries over nine years sending 75,000 children and teen-agers to emergency rooms at a cost of almost $3 billion.

The Associated Press reported that researchers at Johns Hopkins found in their published study that:

[M]ore than one-third of the wounded children were hospitalized, and 6 percent died. Injuries declined during most of the 2006-14 study, but there was an upswing in the final year. … 11 of every 100,000 children and teens treated in U.S. emergency rooms have gun-related injuries. That amounts to about 8,300 kids each year. The scope of the problem is broader though; the study doesn’t include kids killed or injured by gunshots who never made it to the hospital, nor does it count costs for gunshot patients after they’re sent home.

docnrecordsUncle Sam more than ever wants it to happen, and patient advocates are pushing hard, too. So, why, when technology can make it easier than ever to do so, must patients struggle still to get easy, convenient, low- or no-cost access to invaluable electronic records about their own health care?

Judith Graham, a columnist focusing on aging issues for the Kaiser Health News Service, has written a timely, troubling update on perplexing challenges consumers still confront when trying to secure their electronic health records (EHRs).

She cites a study recently published by Yale researchers who gathered information from 83 leading hospitals that purport to assist their patients with EHR access. The experts swept up policies and forms the institutions said patients would need, then contacted them, telling hospital staffers not that they were academic researchers but that they were checking on behalf of an elderly relative in need of their records and how soon and how difficult and costly might it be to get them? This is an everyday dilemma for consumers, and the institutions should have dealt with these requests with ease and alacrity.

crowdfunding-300x150Although the sky-high cost of providing medical care to sick or injured friends and loved ones might seem good reason to encourage community altruism to the nth degree, new technologies that have made it easy, fast, and convenient to “crowd source” online donations also may be sending well-intentioned gifts to dubious and dangerous types of treatment.

A new  study by researchers in Atlanta and New York shows that campaigns on GoFundMe and other social media platforms, sought to raise tens of millions of dollars, and brought in millions for sketchy health-related applications. Experts found “1,059 campaigns that raised money for five unproven or possibly risky treatments: homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer, hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury, experimental stem cell therapy for brain or spinal cord injuries, and long-term antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease,” reported Stat, an online health and medicine news site.

CNN reported that online solicitations were targeted to allow patients to seek dubious therapies at “clinics” in Germany and Mexico (homeopathic or naturopathic cancer care), New Orleans (hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury), and Panama, Thailand, India, China, and Mexico (“stem cell” treatment).

drugpricetrump-300x163Days before politicians will face voters who tell pollsters they’re angry and upset about health care issues, President Trump made his first visit to the nation’s giant Health and Human Services Department to roll out a much-promoted proposal to attack soaring prescription drug prices.

The plan was plenty wonky, replete with data about how much less patients in other, similar developed nations pay for drugs than Americans do. And despite the president’s assault on “freeloading” foreigners, it was murky as to the outcomes and fate of the administration’s latest drug cost-reduction proposal.

That’s because, buried in its pages of prose, it amounted to little more than a sketch of what experts have termed a big, rigorous clinical trial of an approach that’s anathema to Trump’s own purportedly free-market-loving party: price controls.

leapfrog-300x300A familiar health care advocacy group will expand its grading of 2,000 or so hospitals across the country to also provide new safety and quality information on 5,600 stand-alone surgical centers that perform millions of procedures annually.

It may seem like a small step, and the devil will be in the details of the new data that will be voluntarily reported, analyzed, and then made public by the Leapfrog Group, a national health care nonprofit that describes itself as being “driven by employers and other purchasers of health care.”

Surgical centers have burgeoned because they can be nimbler than the hospitals and academic medical centers they now outnumber. The centers can be set up without hospitals’ high overhead costs, including for staff and equipment that may be unnecessary for a specialty practice. The facilities also can be set up closer to patients, theoretically offering them greater access and convenience, including with easy navigation and parking.

anversaTreatments with “stem cells,” therapies that already were sliding into disrepute due to hyped claims and inappropriate use, took another big hit to their scientific credibility when two respected institutions announced they were retracting 31 published studies claiming stem cells could help patients with damaged hearts.

Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston jointly denounced Piero Anversa, a once celebrated cardiologist who had worked at both institutions but left in 2015, for putting out false or fabricated data for dozens of studies he and colleagues published. The works — contrary to accepted science — purportedly showed that damaged heart muscle could be regenerated with stem cells, a type of cell that can transform itself into a variety of other cells.

The medical journals that have published Anversa’s studies must decide for themselves their course of action now with his work. The experts at Retraction Watch, a nonprofit that monitors science publishing and pulled papers as part of an effort to provide greater transparency to the scientific process, say it is rare for one researcher to have so many studies determined to be flawed and subject to removal from public view.

usc-300x279Yet another big university is learning a costly lesson about the perils of ignoring rogue doctors and their harming of vulnerable young people: The University of Southern California has offered to pay $215 million to settle federal lawsuits by hundreds of coeds who say they were sexually harassed and abused by the head gynecologist at the Los Angeles school’s health service.

Women who ever saw Dr. George Tyndall at a campus clinic may receive $2,500 each, while those with claims they were sexually abused by him could be paid up to $250,000 each.

USC said its proposed, tentative settlement has not been reviewed and approved by a federal judge who has been assigned a class-action suit involving hundreds of women.

mitchAt a time when Americans experience high anxiety and financial insecurity due to medical costs — with more than 20 percent of those with health insurance experiencing trouble paying for necessities, more than a quarter of them saying they had bills in collection, and 13 percent forced to borrowed money as a result of illness — politicians and special interests are closing the midterm campaigns as if they can prank voters. Just how gullible do they think the electorate can be?

Republican congressional candidates, after howling about the Affordable Care Act and campaigning unsuccessfully to repeal it in dozens of votes for years, including in the first of the Trump Administration, now are claiming to constituents that they support key parts of Obamacare.

Even as GOP state attorneys general argue in a pending federal court case to gut ACA protections on preexisting conditions, minimum benefits, and lifetime limits, Republican candidates are telling voters, counter factually, how much they embrace and support those Obamacare components. They’re trotting out sad tales about their own relatives’ illnesses to claim to support a position that they opposed in legislative votes and actions just weeks ago.

Scotus-300x167Although Uncle Sam makes a special vow to provide medical care for those who fight for this nation, he also enjoys special legal shields from lawsuits from them if anything goes wrong with medical services they’re provided. But recent news reports show how past and present service personnel not only suffer shabby medical care but also “grossly unfair” situations when pursuing malpractice claims  — and why lawmakers and courts may need to step in to provide fairer remedies.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) and the ABC-TV news affiliate in Los Angeles both deserve credit for spotlighting tough cases involving service personnel and medical malpractice, particularly the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Feres doctrine, a 68-year-old Supreme Court case that bars active-duty military members from suing the federal government for their own injuries.

Walter Daniel, a former Coast Guard officer, has petitioned the Supreme Court to “amend the 1950 [Feres] ruling, creating an exception that would allow service members to sue for medical malpractice the same way civilians can,” KHN reported, noting this would affect patients in a military health system “with 54 hospitals and 377 medical clinics, serv[ing] about 9.4 million beneficiaries, including nearly 1.4 million active-duty members.

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