Articles Posted in Medications

artsacklerdc-300x129A plutocratic clan that has labored to portray itself as enlightened patrons of the arts, science, and medicine, instead has been depicted in new court documents as drug profiteers, eager to exploit the misery and even deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.

The stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and at the online medical science news site Stat paint a damning picture of the Sackler family and their avarice with the family-owned Big Pharma firm Purdue. The company made the clan billions of dollars but also has become the focus of news stories, official investigations, and now a barrage of lawsuits, all asserting that Purdue played a crucial role in fomenting the nation’s opioid drug crisis.

The Sacklers had sought to distance themselves from the horrors unleashed by powerful opioid painkillers, including their company’s top-selling drug OxyContin. The opioid crisis last year alone claimed 70,000 lives, and the prescription and illicit painkillers of their ilk have become a leading cause of death for Americans younger than 50. Overdoses now savage white men, especially in ex-urban and rural areas; women 30 and older; blacks in big cities; and even children.

berenson-223x300Moderation matters with health issues, so skepticism about marijuana and its widening use may be welcome. But let’s see how much of recent wariness about this intoxicant is just a puff of smoke — or does it catch fire and become something more?

Author Alex Berenson has become the latest advocate for tamping down the national exuberance for pot. It has in recent days become legal for recreational use in 10 states and the District of Columbia and has been broadly legalized for medical purposes in 19 other states. Cannabis products have become trendy, and stocks in pot-selling enterprises have become a hot investment topic.

But Berenson — in Opinion pieces in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as well as in a new, well-selling book — paints a more ominous picture of weed. He’s not harkening back to risible scare campaigns, ala the  movie classic Reefer Madness. Berenson says his concern about dope started in a casual mention by his wife, a psychiatrist, that the criminal patients she specializes in treating shared a commonality: They all smoked grass.

drugoverdosewomen2019-272x300A new kind of gender equality can only be seen as tragic and sad: Drug overdoses are soaring among women older than 30, with a giant spike in these deaths due to opioids.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that since 1999, drug overdose death rates “increased by approximately 200 percent among women aged 35–39 and 45–49 years, 350 percent among those aged 30–34 and 50–54 years, and nearly 500 percent among those aged 55–64 years.” Overall for women aged 30-64, the CDC says, the rate of opioid overdose fatalities increased by a whopping 492 percent from 1999 to 2017.

The new data show the malignancy of the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 70,000 American lives in just the last year — more men than women. The overdose death rate itself rose in one year alone by 10 percent, and federal authorities say such incidents, intentional or accidental and too often now involving the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, have become a leading killer of Americans 50 and younger.

dirtydrugs-300x143Even as Big Pharma launched the new year with yet another round of profiteering price hikes for prescription medications, a new investigation has uncovered how drug makers get away with nasty manufacturing practices, which, combined with lax oversight, send billions of doses of tainted products to market each year,  imperiling patients’ health.

Sydney Lupkin, writing for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service (KHN), has done the public a service in exposing the weak, irregular, and risky oversight of drug making by the federal Food and Drug Administration. This is a significant problem, Lupkin reported:

Since the start of 2013, pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S. or abroad have recalled about 8,000 medicines, comprising billions of tablets, bottles and vials that have entered the U.S. drug supply and made their way to patients’ medicine cabinets, hospital supply closets and IV drips, a Kaiser Health News investigation shows. The recalls represent a fraction of the medicines shipped each year. But the flawed products contained everything from dangerous bacteria or tiny glass particles to mold — or too much or too little of the drug’s active ingredient. Over the same period, 65 drug-making facilities recalled nearly 300 products within 12 months of passing a Food and Drug Administration inspection…

drunkdriving-300x122Don’t be tempted over the next few days of new year’s revelry to drive while distracted or intoxicated — whether under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or prescription drugs.

It’s a myth that the start of the year is the deadliest time for motorists across the country. But Jan. 1, statistically and without great explanation, has been most lethal for pedestrians nationwide. Pedestrians also are in greater harm’s way than they should be here in Washington, D.C.

Drunk driving poses significant problems in the nation’s capital, where alcohol-related fatalities increased 33 percent in 2017. Officials in the District of Columbia need to crack down even more on an issue that puts motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists alike in peril.

chickenwash-300x107Here’s hoping the season stays merry for all and that holidays are relaxing, restful, and healthful. A few tips to stay on the right side of health and safety:

  • Be sure to follow best practices when it comes to food hygiene and safety. Do wash fruits and vegetables to rid them of surface contaminants, including dirt and pesticides. This isn’t foolproof and doesn’t clear these products of all bacteria that can cause foodborne illness — far from it. But washing does help. As for raw meat and poultry, don’t for cleanliness’ sake rinse it, then pat it dry. This just spreads contaminants all around the kitchen, food scientists have found. And, tempting though it may be, don’t eat that cookie or cake dough, and don’t think that baking recalled products might make them safe.
  • Don’t give necklaces, bracelets, or anklets to ease the tooth discomfort experienced by babies or children with special needs: The federal Food and Drug Administration has warned this jewelry can be risky for the vulnerable, noting instances in which they have experienced “choking, strangulation, injury to the mouth and infection.” The agency also cautioned that amber teething necklaces contain “succinic acid, which allegedly may be released into an infant’s blood stream in unknown quantities. Manufacturers of these products often claim succinic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and relieves teething and joint pain. The FDA has not evaluated these claims for safety or effectiveness and recommends parents not use these products.” The agency issued its warning after a 7-month old choked to death on a wooden teething bracelet while under parental supervision, and an 18-month old was fatally strangled by his amber teething necklace during a nap. The FDA also reminded that it urges caregivers to “avoid using teething creams, benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges for mouth and gum pain. Benzocaine and other local anesthetics can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is reduced. This condition is life-threatening and can result in death.” Pediatricians say that discomfort to teething can be eased with adults offering a gentle gum massage with a clean finger or by giving babies a hard rubber ring to chew.

genericfda-237x300To paraphrase what a one-time colleague once wrote about her bosses: Never trust Big Pharma, never trust Big Pharma, never trust Big Pharma. Here’s some of the latest evidence why: Even the industry’s so-called “white hats,” makers of supposedly less expensive and more patient-accessible “generic” drugs, now are ensnared in an ever-expanding investigation of illegal price fixing.

As the Washington Post reported:

What started as an antitrust lawsuit brought by states over just two drugs in 2016 has exploded into an investigation of alleged price-fixing involving at least 16 companies and 300 drugs, Joseph Nielsen, an assistant attorney general and antitrust investigator in Connecticut who has been a leading force in the probe, said in an interview. His comments … represent the first public disclosure of the dramatically expanded scale of the investigation.

actelion-300x110Patients now have more than half a billion reasons to wonder whether advocacy groups that purport to speak up for the special needs of folks with diseases and conditions like theirs really do so. Or has Big Pharma corrupted these organizations with cash?

The New York Times reported Actelion Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay a $360 million settlement in an investigation by federal prosecutors of the firm’s allegedly funneling kickbacks through a charity that claimed to assist patients with the cost of drug co-payments. This case involved financial exchanges connected with pricey medications to treat a rare lung disease.

But the newspaper said it was just the latest of several such matters involving Big Pharma and patient advocacy and charity groups in which prosecutors sought to ferret out “contributions” designed to help makers plump up prices for already expensive products:

brawley-300x243

Dr. Otis Brawley, formerly of the American Cancer Society

The rising flood of health care hype, bunk, and conflicts of interst really can harm patients, as has just been emphasized by a $105-million jury verdict, the brave actions of a leading patient advocacy expert, and the commentary of an expert health researcher and New York Times columnist.

In a more perfect world, a patient like Dawn Kali, 45, and a mother of four, wouldn’t give the time of day to the wild claims of Robert Oldham Young. Both live in San Diego, and when she was diagnosed with cancer, she told a court that she found Young persuasive.

dsuvia-300x225Big Pharma is a broad commercial sector with many diverse enterprises large and small, but they keep showing they’re united in their giant gall when it comes to their unacceptable products and practices, as timely news reports demonstrate.

Just consider:

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