Articles Posted in Disclosure

Praise be: Churches nationwide are leaping in with their congregations’ blessing and financial support, putting up small sums to buy up and wipe out one of the huge shames of the American health care system: patients’ medical debt.

The faithful work with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization based in Rye, N.Y., that provides the know-how to many kinds of donors to help eliminate bills that can crush patients and their loved ones for a lifetime, the Kaiser Health News service reported. Roxie Hammill wrote how this all works in modern medicine:

childrensunclogo-300x51Although big hospitals may love to pat themselves on the back and boost their profits and professional standings by claiming to offer “comprehensive” services, children may suffer and die due to the reality versus the hubris of institutions’ excessive initiatives with specialized care.

Officials at the University of North Carolina blew past anguished warnings from their own pediatric cardiology staff of significant problems in the pediatric heart surgery program at the medical center’s children’s hospital, the New York Times reported. Brushing aside their concerns about a lack of resources within and to support the program, UNC declined to make public, as most similar specialty efforts do, key performance measures. They would show that the UNC pediatric heart surgery program had a higher death rate than “nearly all 82 institutions that do publicly report” this and other measures of patient care.

The newspaper, in a rare move, has internal tape recordings of doctors disputing among themselves whether dwindling resources, staff departures, and other problems meant that UNC should do what many of the specialists demanded — take a long hard look at what was going wrong, and, in the meantime, refer sick kids to other institutions to safeguard their care.

FDA-logo-300x129Cardiac patients may wish to take to heart how news reports have undercut federal regulators’ claims that they provide the most rigorous oversight to medical devices that treat complex conditions in ways that pose the greatest risk. With certain heart pumps and defibrillator units, both implanted in patients, the Federal Food and Drug Administration deserves criticism for putting the interests of device makers ahead of patients, excellent stories by the Kaiser Health News Service and Axios show.

KHN reporter Christina Jewett followed up her investigation into how FDA bureaucrats let device makers  file 1.1 million reports of injuries or malfunctions with their products to a little-known internal agency database, discovering how this practice contributed to what one cardiologist described as “the worst cardiac device problem” he has seen in a quarter-century of practice.

The incidents involved the Sprint Fidelis, a small device surgically installed in hundreds of thousands of patients to monitor and supposedly to administer small shocks to deal with their irregular heartbeat. Instead, the device — especially due to problems with its corroding and cracking electrical leads — gave patients random jolts, failed to perform in genuine emergencies, and led to a torrent of complaints and deaths. Doctors, medical researchers, and patients forced into wide public view the substantial defects of the defibrillator, including in congressional hearings.

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.

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