Articles Posted in Medications

urine-sample-cup-263x300With opioid drugs now the leading cause of death for Americans 50 and younger and killing more than 64,000 people last year, was it inevitable that some shady characters are profiteering off the miseries of those struggling to get off potent painkillers?

And is it predictable that key politicians keep talking big but still haven’t backed up their boasts with the money and means to attack a public health crisis that is claiming more lives than cars or guns and at a faster pace than HIV-AIDS did at the peak of that epidemic?

Americans have plenty cause to be — forgive the vulgar word play — pissed off at the doctors and labs that are raking in profits on urine testing for drugs. This business has exploded but with little or no oversight. As reporters Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas have written:

Marijuana-206x300Let’s give them their just deserts and dispatch them with alacrity. In this week’s hokum alert:

epipen-300x119Big Pharma’s rapacious profit-seeking can seem to hit no bounds, even if it afflicts millions: Just consider what federal and state regulators are mulling about the makers of a popular anti-allergy therapy and those who supply a critical diabetes medication.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has replied to Bloomberg News Service that, so far, in 2017, it has recorded 228 reports of EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. failures, and the failure of EpiPens to deploy correctly has been cited in seven deaths through mid-September.

The agency said it is monitoring closely these “adverse event complaints.” These are unconfirmed reports that do not necessarily tie a product to a harm. But they might constitute sufficient grounds to investigate further and to potentially order product recalls, though, so far, the FDA says it believes patients can keep using EpiPens on the market without worry.

reuters-300x153Although countless doctors and nurses put in untold blood, sweat, and tears to provide quality care to their patients, health care profiteers can undo these good works in an instant with shameful plundering. Here is a roundup from multiple fronts.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service deserves credit for its painful reporting on the rising problems in the once much-admired area of hospice care.

Reporters JoNel Aleccia and Melissa Bailey have written, in a story carried by Time Magazine, that they “analyzed 20,000 government inspection records, revealing that missed [hospice worker] visits and neglect are common for patients dying at home. Families or caregivers have filed over 3,200 complaints with state officials in the past five years. Those complaints led government inspectors to find problems in 759 hospices, with more than half cited for missing visits or other services they had promised to provide at the end of life.”

trumpdrugs-300x177As the Republican-controlled Congress rams through a national budget and a package of changes to the tax system, President Trump and his partisans are staying true to course. They’re determined to slash taxes for the rich, even if they only half-heartedly tackle one of the biggest public health crises in decades, and if they inflict great harms on the health of the poor, sick, young, and old.

In answer to long and increasing criticism, Trump finally declared the opioid drug abuse epidemic a “public health emergency” (with zero new dollars in spending)  but not a “national emergency,” which would have opened the door for millions in new spending.  He scored points with some commentators with his discussion of how alcoholism destroyed his older brother Fred’s life, and, how his brother’s advice and example had kept him from any temptations of substance abuse. (He also reminded critics of ineffectual “Just say no” anti-drug campaigns.)

But for all his pronouncements, the president’s actions fell short of what many anti-drug experts and advocates had hoped would be White House leadership against opioids abuse and overdose deaths, a scourge that has claimed almost 60,000 lives since 2016.

marino-300x169Some powerful political players deserve a big dose of public condemnation for bungling and stalling the nation’s desperately needed war on the epidemic abuse of opioid drugs.

President Trump  can step up for the first of a series of smacks for nominating yet another dubious candidate for one of the nation’s high offices—in this case the “drug czar,” who plays a critical role in the campaign to curb the tens of thousands of deaths now blamed on opioids’ abuse.

Trump had put up for the position Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican congressman (photo above). The president spoke with enthusiasm on his behalf. He did so even after CBS TV’s “60 Minutes” and the Washington Post put out their joint investigation of Marino, showing how the congressman had acted as a Big Pharma tool. Marino arm-twisted the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and congressional colleagues to get a law passed that gutted regulators’ authority to prevent Big Pharma’s wholesale distributors from flooding parts of the country with tens of millions of opioid doses, drugs that caused untold addictions and deaths.

nudextaWith baby boomers leading a graying wave that’s sweeping the nation, there’s little wonder why there’s a furious search under way to medically assist and to support seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. But should the appropriate response be to burst out laughing, crying, or just to scream out loud about Avanir Pharmaceuticals’ little red Nudexta pills and how they’re getting foisted by the millions on the elderly in nursing homes?

CNN deserves credit for its reporting on the sketchy prescribing of Nudexta. Millions may know something about this drug due to the barrage of commercials for it, featuring the accomplished actor Danny Glover (hope he got a giant paycheck for this role).

Authorities have approved Nudexta to treat sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying, aka the pseudobulbar affect or PBA. Less than 1 percent of all Americans suffer from PBA, which most commonly is seen in those with multiple sclerosis (MS) or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Collinslab-300x300Is Uncle Sam launching a way to speed and improve   cancer treatments so they get to patients sooner—or is Big Pharma about to fleece taxpayers, yet again? The National Institutes of Health should carefully consider its just announced, five-year public-private partnership with a dozen drug makers, the “Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies” or PACT.

Under this agreement, the makers each will pony up $1 million annually or a total of $55 million over the term of the accord. The NIH, in turn, will provide $160 million of its formidable research support.

The aim is to “identify, develop and validate robust biomarkers — standardized biological markers of disease and treatment response — to advance new immunotherapy treatments that harness the immune system to attack cancer,” the agency says.

pacemaker-300x186Big medical device makers, like Big Pharma, have complained relentlessly that Uncle Sam hamstrings them with red tape and bureaucracy that slows or prevents innovative, life changing and lifesaving products from reaching the public. Most of this criticism has been targeted at the federal Food and Drug Administration, which under the Trump Administration, has promised to speed and ease its industry oversight.

But internal watchdogs for the Health and Human Services department have provided a rebuke to the move-faster crowd, detailing the costly cleanup—paid for by taxpayers like you and me— that results from defective medical devices.

The HHS inspector general’s office, in what some patient advocates are calling “a drop in the bucket” of the magnitude of this concern, has found that Medicare paid “at least $1.5 billion over a decade to replace seven types of defective heart devices [that] apparently failed for thousands of patients,” according to a story by Pro Publica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting web site.

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