Articles Posted in Pain

fuelingepidemic-235x300A U.S. Senate Committee has ripped Big Pharma for making millions of dollars in pernicious payments to patient advocacy groups, so they could legitimize and assist in promoting powerful prescription painkillers, a practice that investigators say helped fuel the opioid drug abuse epidemic.

The committee report says:

Patient advocacy organizations and professional societies play a significant role in shaping health policy debates, setting national guidelines for patient treatment, raising disease awareness, and educating the public. Even small organizations— with ‘their large numbers and credibility with policy makers and the public’—have ‘extensive influence in specific disease areas.’ Larger organizations with extensive funding and outreach capabilities ‘likely have a substantial effect on policies relevant to their industry sponsors.’

oxy-300x179Purdue Pharma, which built a multi-billion-dollar family empire, in part, by overcoming doctors’ resistance to prescribing powerful painkillers like its own powerhouse  OxyContin, has decided to curb its quarter-century of aggressive and controversial drug marketing — efforts that critics and lawsuits say helped fuel the nation’s opioid drug abuse epidemic.

The company has said that it will cut its sales staff by half and the 200 or so salespeople who stay no longer will haunt doctor’s offices to push OxyContin. Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials on that drug, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the U.S. surgeon general.

“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company, based in Stamford, Conn., said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

immodium-300x169The opioid epidemic has become so pernicious that it can be exhausting to even try to see its expansive harms. But it’s crucial to keep confronting the many ways this lethal scourge affects Americans and their lives, if only to hope that politicians, policy-makers, doctors, hospitals, and many others get off their duffs and do something about it.

This crisis — which includes more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2017 alone — has reached in a surprising new way into many households’ medicine cabinets. It’s not due to potential abuses of potent pain-killers that many may have stashed there. Nope, now federal officials are fretting about the current dosages of the key ingredient in common, over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications like Imodium.

It turns out that the substance known generically as loperamide, useful in stopping the runs, happens to be part of the opioid family, an addictive drug class that includes morphine and oxycodone. Drug users have turned now to abusing anti-diarrhea meds, which are sold in high-count packages and at dosages that authorities want reduced.

cough-194x300The flu season’s roaring across the country. It’s a bad one, with the H3N2 strain afflicting millions with a severe form of illness — which also has been deadly, notably for the old and young.

If you haven’t done so, consider getting a flu shot, asap. The flu shot this year may be less than optimal in the protections it may offer. Still, as Aaron Carroll — a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist — argues in a New York Times “Upshot” column, the benefits of inoculation are still clear and pronounced.

As he writes:

bullets-300x245When illness, accidents, and natural- or man-made calamities strike, victims discover in their long slog to recovery that our health insurance system only aggravates their pain and anxiety.  That’s a painful lesson that hundreds of Americans will keep struggling with in 2018, months after a madman rained gunfire from high-powered rifles down into a Las Vegas music festival crowd.

Modern Healthcare deserves credit for its follow-up of the October mayhem Nevada. It was part of what the industry publication calls an “epidemic of mass shootings,” tragedies stretching from San Bernardino, Calif., to Newton, Mass. They’re taxing hospitals’ capacities not only to provide large-scale emergency medicine but also to provide follow-up care — especially assisting survivors and their families and friends in dealing with their staggering medical expenses.

Victims in mass shootings, Modern Healthcare reported, confront a “proliferation of health plans with high deductibles and coinsurance requirements, leaving [them] exposed to many thousands of dollars in cost-sharing. Severely injured patients needing repeat surgeries may hit their out-of-pocket spending limits multiple years in a row, forcing them into bankruptcy. On top of that, even insured patients may face big balance bills if they are treated by out-of-network providers.”

overdosedeaths1-300x1812017 ends with yet more grim news about the nation’s opioid drug epidemic — not only that its toll keeps rising, it now is afflicting African Americans as never before. They had been less harmed by this crisis but the scourge is spreading to them, notably in spots like the District of Columbia and Baltimore.

Reporters for the New York Times’ “Upshot” feature dove into new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opioid drug-related deaths. They found the official numbers not only reaffirmed a sharp increase in drug fatalities in 2016 but also showed that “the drug death rate is rising most steeply among blacks, with those between the ages of 45 and 64 among the hardest hit.” As the newspaper reported:

Drug deaths among blacks in urban counties rose by 41 percent in 2016, far outpacing any other racial or ethnic group. In those same counties, the drug death rate among whites rose by 19 percent. The [new CDC] data … suggests that the common perception of the epidemic as an almost entirely white problem rooted in over-prescription of painkillers is no longer accurate, as fentanyl, often stealthily, invades broader swaths of the country and its population.

yoga2-300x200For seniors who may be rushing to squeeze in a few more pretzel-twisting sessions to ease their stress from a hectic holiday season, this is a gentle reminder: Take it easy with the yoga. It can be good for you, but don’t overdo it or you may hurt yourself.

The Washington Post reported that the number of yoga devotees has climbed to an estimated 36.7 million Americans, many of whom find that stretching and posing in various styles makes them breathe and feel better, as well being more limber, focused, and relaxed. Yoga also has special appeal to older practitioners, 17 percent of them in their 50s and 21 percent 60 and older, according to a study conducted by a yoga publication.

But public health researchers from the University of Alabama Birmingham, after examining electronic data on almost 30,000 yoga-related injuries that led patients to emergency room treatment between 2001 and 2014, reported that:

alive-300x115Nick Tullier once was a handsome, strapping sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, La. Then, in a blink, he and five others were gunned down by a former Marine and black separatist who had come from Missouri to Louisiana to kill cops. Tullier was one of three deputies who survived the attack.

What happened next to him is part of a series worth reading in the Houston Chronicle, a year-long dig the newspaper has dubbed “Alive Inside.” The work asks whether doctors and hospitals across the country have stayed current with medical advances that maybe, just might, possibly offer greater glimmers of hope to patients like Tullier who suffer traumatic brain injuries.

Such individuals, the Chronicle carefully says, may too quickly be deemed too injured to survive. Doctors, in sincere acts of perceived compassion, may be too fast to urge family and loved ones to withhold or halt medical services for the brain-injured, partly out of the pragmatic reality that their recovery prospects remain poor.

cutting-300x205Teen-aged girls are turning up in increased numbers for emergency treatment at hospitals because they have cut, burned, poisoned, or otherwise tried to harm themselves. This disturbing trend may be linked to the obsession by the young, especially girls ages 10 to 14, with smart phones and their aggressive online, but weak real world, social lives.

The data developed by researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control also provide a serious warning about girls’ struggles to reach maturity because the rise in detected instances of self-harm also may signal increases in suicides—the No. 2 cause of death of young people ages 10 to 14.

Researchers say the negative numbers —most pronounced as an 18.8 percent increase in incidents of self-harm among girls ages 10 to 14 — affected young females most, with young males showing no major changes in comparable cases of cutting, poisoning, burning, or otherwise hurting themselves.

emergency-services_overviewThe last thing Americans need to fret about as they struggle to keep down medical costs is worrying about getting hit with a  surprise bill for a ride in an ambulance.  Just how ridiculous can those bills be? Think thousands of bucks for a few miles.

The independent and nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service and the Washington Post deserve credit for their recent story on how companies slam patients with huge tabs for transporting them in dire medical circumstance. Ambulance rides, the news organizations have reported, based on a review of 350 consumer complaints in 32 states, “can leave patients stuck with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in bills and with few options for recourse.”

Lawmakers in 21 states have passed measures to protect consumers from “surprise” medical bills, many inflicted on them for “out of network services” by profit-seeking medical providers. But as much as patients would like legal protections against getting gouged by ambulance services —some run by local governments, including police and fire agencies —the issue gets complex and daunting.

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