Articles Posted in Ethics

Pinocchio_Smoking-300x169Tougher ratings for movies targeting teen-agers and higher cigarette taxes may be two good ways to crack down on Big Tobacco’s persistent and harmful peddling of its poisonous wares, health experts say, based on information flowing from the sprawling Golden State.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just assessed Hollywood’s progress in reducing depictions of tobacco in the movies, finding that, under pressure from anti-smoking campaigns,  Tinsel Town had slashed its showing of the use or implied use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes from 2005 to 2010. But that progress has reversed since then, and now, based on top 10 grossing movies in any calendar week, cinematic depictions of tobacco use has soared by 80 percent.

Although pictures rated G or PG, those films most accessible to the broadest movie-going audiences, saw reductions in their showing of smoking and other tobacco use, depictions of these negative health practices rose sharply in movies aimed more at teenagers and older youths  in those works with ratings of PG-13 (by 43 percent) and R (by 90 percent).

Nursing-home-holding-hands-300x200Federal regulators need to ramp up their oversight of nursing homes, big time, with recent news reports and studies finding persistent abuses of elderly patients, including during crackdowns on problem operators, and facilities failing to care for vulnerable charges so they don’t lapse into emergency or hospital care.

Jordan Rau and the independent Kaiser Health News Service deserve kudos for digging into Uncle Sam’s “special focus status,” in which the nation’s “most dangerous” nursing homes get an ultimatum to correct major and continuing harms to patients or they may lose crucial Medicaid and Medicare funds from the federal government.

Rau found that more than half of the 528 homes deemed since 2014 to require the supposedly stringent “special focus” from regulators and that still are operating have since harmed patients or put them in jeopardy in the last three years.

Just under half of American adults get their news mostly from local television, and this is especially true for the older among us who also happen to be the heaviest users of medical services. But with local TV content hitting new highs for sheer volume—an average of 5.7 hours every day—watchdog groups are expressing a growing concern about the integrity of broadcast health information.

Healthnewsreview.org, an independent, nonprofit group that works on the public’s behalf to improve the depth, quality, and accuracy of health information, has reported with increasing urgency about pay to play, sponsored, and industry influenced and manipulated medical news.

goop-248x300Mocking the vanity, self-absorption, and stupidity of the rich and celebrities may be too feckless a sport. But the tragic spin-offs of the sweeping misinformation their hype mechanisms can generate sometimes just cannot be ignored.

If you can take it, New York magazine has put out a detailed story on “The Wellness Epidemic,” a deep dive into the cult-like affectations of affluent Americans who spend way too much time worrying they might be sick—and dabbling with remedies that might make most readers with an inkling of common sense spit up a little.

Why pay a second’s attention to this hypochondria and Goop, the fantasy empire of wealthy and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow? Because she’s the actress who’s not only selling millions of dollars in beauty supplies and vitamins and supplements of suspect health value, she’s also sharing with a sadly rapt global audience her nonsensical views on the benefits and necessities of fecal transplants and putting a $66 jade egg into one’s private parts.

acurian-300x175When consumers around the country started getting letters from a company that they had never heard of, inviting them to participate in clinical trials for medical conditions that they hadn’t disclosed to many or didn’t even have, the alarms started to sound, quietly at first but with increasing urgency. Were doctors, hospitals, or other providers breaching medical privacy laws? Had there been a serious but unpublicized leak or unwelcome disclosure of patient data?

Kudos to the information site Buzzfeed for digging in and finding out how Acurian Health, a firm with an address in a rural county outside of Philadelphia, exploits state-of-the-art Internet marketing and data-mining techniques to learn, in creepy fashion, about Americans and their illnesses.

It does this by buying marketing information that a range of companies collect on customers, some of it volunteered and others extracted from data points like zip codes, purchasing patterns, and available demographics: Do you live in an upscale or modest neighborhood? Are you and your neighbors most likely to be highly educated professionals or blue-collar laborers?

pbj-300x172What do PBJs, PBM “black boxes,” industry friendly advisory panels, and CME (aka doctor training programs) all share in common? They’re blamed for contributing to Big Pharma’s skyrocketing prices—and it’s worth diving into recent reports on these disparate causes to understand how Americans got into such dire shape with the costs of their medical care.

Let’s start with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a little math. A jar of generic peanut butter might cost a bit more than a buck and change, with a jar of strawberry jam running about the same. Now if you buy them in a combined product—Smucker’s version is called Goober—it sets you back $3.49.

This pricing comes from Marshall Allen, a reporter for Pro Publica, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative news site. He goes on to compare PBJs with a medication his orthopedist recently prescribed for him: Horizon Pharma’s Vimovo. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Allen points out it also is little more than a combination of the pain-reliever naproxen (best known in the branded version Aleve) and the upset-stomach remedy esomeprazole magnesium (best known as Nexium).  He could walk into a drug store and buy a month’s supply of both for $40.

documents-300x139
Look out Baby Boomers and Gen Xers: Just when you or your elderly loved ones may be most vulnerable and needing nursing home care, the government is going back to allowing nursing home administrators to push a pile of documents for you to sign at you at admission time. And when you put your John Hancock on some of these, you will give away important legal protections.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, overseer of 1.5 million nursing home residents and more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funding, has posted notice that, under Trump Administration leadership, it soon will reverse its predecessors’ plan to halt agreements that forced patients and their families to give up their right to sue. Instead, Trump officials will push them to the alternative legal process known as arbitration. Officials insist they will require nursing homes to make arbitration requirements simpler, and to ensure they’re written in plain English.

But, in keeping with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Kentucky case, regulators are yielding to the nursing home industry’s aggressive lobbying and point of view that arbitration is simpler, easier, and will keep down costs.

ohio-300x185With more than 4,000 overdose deaths last year alone and a fifth of its residents having received prescriptions for powerful painkillers, the state of Ohio has sued five Big Pharma companies, accusing them of mispresenting opioid drugs’ risks and fueling the medications’ epidemic abuse.

Ohio joins Mississippi in suing makers of increasingly lethal drugs like OxyContin and Percocet, whose addictive nature was hidden and downplayed by Big Pharma, critics say. The abuse of prescription opioids has fueled heroin use, with 33,000 Americans dying last year alone due to overdoses, federal and state health and law enforcement officials have said.

Fatal drug overdoses now exceed gun- or vehicle-deaths and they are matching the terrible tolls exacted at the height of the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Heartland America, and particularly white men, have been hard hit by the opioid drug crisis, with Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire and West Virginia recording the nation’s highest numbers of overdose deaths.

Polycythemia vera is so rare that just under 3 or so per 100,000 American men, most older than 60, are diagnosed each year with this rare form of blood cancer. Pseudobulbar affect, or PBA, is an uncommon neurological condition afflicting as few as 2 million Americans, causing them to experience uncontrolled, inappropriate bouts of laughter or tears.

What  links these two unusual maladies? Big Pharma hype: Both have taken starring roles in audacious and apparently successful advertising and marketing campaigns that have surprised even experts in the field.

Tom_Price_official_Transition_portrait-150x150Chris_Collins_113th_Congress-150x150Chuck_Flieschmann_Official_Portrait_112th_Congress-150x150Patty_Murray_official_portrait_113th_Congress-150x150
Sheldon_Whitehouse_2010-1-150x150

Photos:  Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse,  Sen. Patty Murray,  Rep. Chuck Fleischmann,  Rep. Chris Collins, HHS Secty. Tom Price

The U.S. Congress, based on its members’ legally required financial disclosures, fares far better than most. Senators and representatives are worth a net $1 million on average. But is it seemly for so many of our crucial voices in the nation’s capital to be enriching themselves even more, with some trading stocks in areas—like health care—in which they also are legislating?

Politico, the website devoted to politics, deserves credit for digging into 21,300 stock trades lawmakers made in the last two years. Reporters found that 384 of the nation’s 535 members of the House and Senate had zero such activity. But a handful of lawmakers accounted for hefty dealing, with Mike McCaul, a Texas House Republican, racking up more than 7,000 trades.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Best Lawyers Firm
Contact Information