Articles Posted in Medications

oighhslogo-150x150Buh-bye? Arrivederci? Sayonara? Can it be that the coronavirus pandemic puts an end to one of the disgraceful ways that Big Pharma and medical device makers push their wares on all-too malleable doctors — with big-money speaker programs?

The inspector general’s office of the giant federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency has warned drug- and medical device-makers that these pandemic-paused marketing shams should not resume. The $2 billion that industry players have forked out for the in-person gab fests in the last three years looks sketchy at best to federal watchdogs and prosecutors, the HHS inspector general warned in a rarely issued “special fraud alert.” It reported this:

“The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have investigated and resolved numerous fraud cases involving allegations that remuneration offered and paid in connection with speaker programs violated the anti-kickback statute. The Federal government has pursued civil and criminal cases against companies and individual [health care providers] involving speaker programs … Our enforcement experience demonstrates that some companies expend significant resources on speaker programs and that some [health care providers] receive substantial remuneration from companies. This Special Fraud Alert highlights some of the inherent fraud and abuse risks associated with the offer, payment, solicitation, or receipt of remuneration related to company-sponsored speaker programs.”

magicshrooms-150x150Voters in the nation’s capital joined with peers across the country to nudge forward a further reconsideration of mind-affecting substances popularized in the Sixties but made illicit thereafter.

Support ran strong for a District of Columbia ballot initiative directing local law enforcement to make among its lowest priorities the prosecution of those who use or sell certain hallucinogenic plants and fungi — aka magic mushrooms and psilocybin, the Washington Post reported.

Those substances also appeared to be headed to legalization in an Oregon vote, which also would “decriminalize the possession of all illegal drugs,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

buildingpurdue-300x200Christmas arrived before Halloween for a notorious Big Pharma firm. Federal prosecutors effectively gave its family founders and its executives gilded skates, so they can slide away for now from major criminal charges and severe financial penalties for their part in fostering the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and cost the nation more than $1 trillion.

The devil is in the details in the announced settlement by the U.S. Justice Department with Purdue Pharmaceutical, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin.

Federal prosecutors painted a picture of their planned deal with Purdue as an historic, $8.3 billion knock-out for a company that critics say played a major role in the opioid crisis, with the firm creating a template for hyping falsehoods about the safety and effectiveness of prescription painkillers. As the Washington Post reported, the first glance at the multibillion-dollar Purdue settlement seems tough:

oxylabel-300x180So, who doesn’t daydream a little about money? Maybe even big money. Just imagine a scenario where, if you could put up $3,000, you could keep $13,000, or if you forked over $30,000, and walked away with $130,000? So how great would it be if you paid $3 billion but could stuff $13 billion into your pockets?

What a deal! Of course, it depends on whose perspective you look at it from.

Federal prosecutors and a bankruptcy court may give a plutocratic family that deal, along with a hard-to-imagine get-out-of-jail free card, news organizations report.

antibodiesregeneron-300x157Well, there he goes again (as President Reagan used to say): President Trump, whose White House has become a coronavirus hot spot and who has clearly played a role in a super spreader event, is hyping yet another medical treatment for Covid-19.

He has referred to his own viral infection as “a blessing from God,” used the C word (as in “cure”) and has called an incipient therapy used on him as a “miracle.” So, now Americans may be racing to reference works to learn more about coronavirus care with monoclonal antibodies, specifically those developed by the Big Pharma firm Regeneron. It is headed by Dr. Leonard Schleifer, and as CNN reported:

[Schleifer] and President Trump are acquainted: The CEO has been a member at Trump’s golf club in Westchester, New York, and his company also received $450 million in government funding in July as part of the president’s Operation Warp Speed plan to quickly develop a vaccine and other treatments for Covid-19 … Trump also recently owned shares of Regeneron (REGN) [as] listed as assets on Trump’s 2017 filing with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, though [not] on the president’s most recent filing for 2020.”

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are pounding Big Pharma executives for price gouging, publishing an 18-month investigation of the soaring costs of select prescription medications and grilling  high-paid corporate leaders on whether those meds’ spiking prices were all too prevalent in the profit-ravenous drug industry.

The prescription medications targeted by the lawmakers included “Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007,” reported the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service. “Those costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the [congressional] probe.”

cnndocsconditionreport-300x148Falsehoods, even when loudly repeated, do not magically become true. The Covid-19 pandemic rages across the United States, and the facts do not support in any way the myth that the nation is “rounding a corner” in seeing the disease diminish its destructive course or magically disappearing.

The toll of the coronavirus is ripping toward 210,000 deaths and more than 7.3 million infections, with those figures likely understated.

As the Washington Post reported of its data analysis:

burningcash-300x200Taxpayers and lawmakers have ensured that the federal Health and Human Services agency operates with roughly $2 trillion in discretionary and mandatory funding. This means the agency can employ about 80,000 staffers, many of them top experts in medical science, health care policy, and public health.

This concentration of expertise and experience, however, may mean less than ever.

That’s because just one man, and his hand-picked few, insist that they hold the absolute power to make life and death decisions for more than 330 million Americans, especially when it comes to health care and government spending on it.

benzos-300x180Signs abound that the coronavirus pandemic has really stressed out Americans. Dentists say they are seeing a surge in patients needing care for jaw-clenching and teeth grinding. Doctors report treating increased numbers of patients who have shed abnormal amounts of hair due to fear and anxiety about getting sick with Covid-19, losing a job as part of the disease’s economic shocks, or losing friends or loved ones to illness.

But there also is an increasingly worrisome way to deal with the mental health challenges of the coronavirus: prescription drugs, specifically the class of medications known as benzodiazepines. “Benzos,” as they commonly are known, are widely “prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, panic disorders and other health problems,” the New York Times reported.

“They are also often given before certain medical procedures. They slow brain activity, causing sedation or calming effects. The drugs are enormously popular. In 2019, according to the agency, roughly 92 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines — such as the highly prescribed Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan — were dispensed in the United States.”

debtcomsurvey-300x254Americans have made health care a central concern of the upcoming elections with excellent reasons. Their nightmares about this issue are getting worse, not better:

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