Articles Posted in Medications

drugbottles-300x200Tens of billions of dollars. Those sound like hefty sums. But will it ever be enough? Will, say, $50 billion offer justice and appropriate recompense to a nation wracked by an opioid and overdose crisis?

These figures aren’t pulled from thin air. They’re part of the reported settlement under negotiations to resolve more than 2,300 lawsuits, all bundled up now and under the sway of a federal judge in Ohio. He will launch a landmark opioids’ trial this week, starting with claims by two Ohio counties, unless Big Pharma firms remaining as defendants and the plaintiffs — including states, counties, cities, and Indian tribes — can strike a deal and settle.

The claimants, of course, themselves represent huge and diverse interests: their millions of individual constituents. And they disagree on how much money is fair, how it should be divided, and more. The drug makers and distributors, having seen some of their peers bail already for significant sums, assert they have reached their negotiating ceiling, somewhere around that magic $50 billion.

Risperdal-300x150When regular citizens get together in the civil justice system to deliberate difficult claims about complex matters, they may not get everything just right to the satisfaction of the disputing parties. But jurors’ wisdom and findings should not be taken lightly, especially by Big Pharma.

That’s why Johnson & Johnson — and other drug makers — may want to heed the message in a just-announced $8-billion verdict in a Philadelphia courtroom in a case involving a young Baltimore patient and Risperdal, a prescription antipsychotic medication.

It’s true that the whopping award to Nicholas Murray, now 26, likely will be reduced, probably substantially for J&J, a company that has built its brand on being “family friendly.”

Tens of millions of Americans may have been startled in recent days by the much-publicized pulling from the shelves of widely used drugs like ranitidine (aka Zantac), an over-the-counter heartburn remedy, and select lots of the prescription blood-pressure medications losartan, valsartan and irbesartan.

The actions occurred after cancer-causing chemicals known as nitrosamines — N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid, or NMBA, and N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA— were detected in them.

careforsuicide-300x154Dogged medical detective work combined with public advocacy to dispel the shame that surrounds suicide — these may be productive ways to attack the public health nightmare of increasing numbers of Americans taking their own lives.

This is a crisis that can’t be hidden or allowed to keep going up, with some experts estimating that roughly 47,000 Americans commit suicide annually. That’s about 129 lives lost each day. Suicide, hitting a record-setting pace, also is a significant problem for the U.S. military.

If you are in crisis or know someone who may be, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741. Both work 24/7. More resources are available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

bernie-225x300Critics have attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders for his proposal to wipe out $81 billion in medical debt, including by changing rules around debt collection and bankruptcy. He also called for “replacing the giant credit reporting agencies with a ‘public credit registry’ that would ignore medical debt when calculating credit scores,” reported the New York Times.

Well, there he goes again, with interesting but hard to execute ideas, critics replied to Sanders’ medical debt idea, dissecting it to pieces.

But dig into some of the news articles and important realities flare up. Even his critics concede that medical debt has become a nightmare for too many Americans, contributing in unacceptable fashion to family stress and anxiety and, more importantly, adding to the nightmare of medical bankruptcy.

logopurdue-300x169For those who get a rise out of following the plight of plundering plutocrats, forget about pop culture shows like Succession, Dynasty, or Empire. Instead, it may be worth peeking in on the true-life Sackler family saga. It also underscores the truth of this idea: Never get between Big Pharma and a buck.

The Sackler story, turning on the fate of the family’s Purdue pharmaceutical firm and a fortune estimated at $13 billion, has been ripe with recent developments, including a potential settlement of thousands of claims by states, counties, cities, Indian tribes, and others — all claiming billions of dollars in damages due to the maker’s aggressive and less than accurate sales and marketing of its prescription painkiller OxyContin.

With a federal judge in Ohio consolidating and pushing a “global resolution” of a giant number of opioid-related lawsuits, Purdue and the Sacklers announced a tentative settlement of many of the governments-filed claims. Roughly half the plaintiffs were eager to get what money they could — to not only help constituents staggered by damages due to opioids, overdoses, and addictions, but also to refill government coffers depleted by the huge costs of dealing with nightmares caused by the painkillers.

billssurprisefearof-300x228It may be bad for the blood pressure. But to understand a key reason why Americans seethe when talking about medical bills and medical costs, just start perusing a timely new magazine report on hospitals and debt collection.

The Atlantic article — “What Happens When You Don’t Pay a Hospital Bill” — details the horrors and frustrations experienced by Joclyn Krevat, an occupational therapist in New York. She sought medical care for what she thought was a nasty case of flu. She, instead, suffered from a severe heart inflammation — and ended up undergoing a costly and physically draining heart transplant.

Weak, sick, and on the brink, Krevat still was hounded by out-of-control debt collectors — cruel men and women who not only lack hearts of their own but who engage in relentless, often ridiculous tactics (like trying to connect on social media, just to harp on patients there about their bills) to wring pennies out of those with illness and injury, reported writer Olga Khazan.

brandjj-300x106Big Pharma has hit at least two pain points of potential significance as government officials and trial lawyers work to hold drug makers accountable for at least some of the carnage caused by prescription painkillers.

There’s still a far way to go before companies see a full legal reckoning in the civil justice system for opioid overdose deaths that have killed an estimated 400,000 Americans since 2007, as well the drugs causing tens of thousands of cases of suffering and addiction.

brandpurdue-300x170But Oklahoma officials have struck hard at pharmaceutical interests by winning a $572-million nuisance ruling from a state judge against Johnson and Johnson, a legendary and once-respected health care brand.

All drugs carry costs, risks, and harms as well as benefits. Illegal ones too. Americans can’t escape the toll of harm as they use and abuse recreational and illicit substances, recent news reports show.

With the long Labor Day weekend upcoming — the traditional summer’s end, with gatherings of friends and families for outdoor barbecues, relaxing, fun, and potentially drinking and use of marijuana or more — it may be worth taking note of some indicators of the serious problems associated with substance abuse:

  • The nonprofit, independent RAND Corp. reported that its studies suggest that American drug users spent an estimated $150 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in 2016 alone. The marijuana market is now roughly the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined, and the size of the retail heroin market is now closer to the size of the marijuana market than it is to the other drugs. Further, after plunging from 2006 to 2010, cocaine consumption’s decline slowed by 2015. Results suggest there were 2.4 million individuals who used cocaine on four or more days in the past month in 2015 and 2016. Results also suggest that consumption grew in 2016 among a stable number of users as price per pure gram declined. And heroin consumption increased 10% per year between 2010 and 2016. The introduction of fentanyl into heroin markets has increased the risk of using heroin. From 2010 to 2016, the number of individuals who used marijuana in the past month increased nearly 30%, from 25 million to 32 million. RAND experts estimate a 24% increase in marijuana spending over the same period, from $42 billion to $52 billion.

beaumonthospital-300x115When doctors become medical outliers, shouldn’t hospitals, colleagues, insurers, and the rest of us ask how and why an individual practitioner diverges so much from the way others provide care?

Olga Khazan details for the Atlantic magazine the disturbing charges involving Yasser Awaad, a pediatric neurologist at a hospital in Dearborn, Mich. As she describes him, for a decade he racked up hundreds of cases in which he is accused by patients of “intentionally misreading their EEGs and misdiagnosing them with epilepsy in childhood, all to increase his pay.” Khazan says his case “shines a light on the grim world of health-care fraud—specifically, the growing number of doctors who are accused of performing unnecessary procedures, sometimes for their own personal gain.”

In the malpractice cases that are unfolding against him, Awaad’s pay has become a central issue, with evidence showing his hospital contract rewarded him for boosting the number of screenings he ordered and diagnoses he made. Jurors have been told that Awaad, whose salary increased from 1997 to 2007 from $185,000 annually to $300,000, “turned that EEG machine into an ATM.” He earned bonuses exceeding $200,000, if he hit billing targets.

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