Articles Posted in Research Studies

govtrustpew-181x300It’s a small occupational hazard that accompanies membership in the Bar — the ribbing that all lawyers take at social functions with those groan-inducing lawyer jokes.

While the good-natured jests typically merit a chuckle and a pass, it’s worth noting, two decades after the 9/11 tragedy and with all the deeply divisive events that have occurred since, that there are clear indicators that the legal profession deserves more credit than jibes. Lawyers are striving at least to preserve their constitutional responsibilities as a pillar of truth-telling in the contentious world. Others? Maybe less so. And the public should not be confused about this.

When viewers see the splashy Netflix documentary Worth, for example, they should take judicial notice that it creates a fictionalized account about trial lawyers and the push to compensate victims of the Sept. 11 catastrophe, argues the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School.

vaper9112021-220x300The federal Food and Drug Administration punted on a scheduled showdown over e-cigarettes, delaying decisions on whether to allow Juul and other market-dominating firms to keep selling trendy “smokeless” devices while also banning millions of vaping products from other, mostly smaller manufacturers.

The agency argued with a defensive and defiant tone that it had acted on 6.5 million filings and 93% of the requests for approval to market e-cigarette and vaping-related products, rejecting most (including millions of flawed  applications from a single applicant).

But the FDA said it needed more time — how much it didn’t say — to weigh evidence from big e-cigarette makers who hold sway over 40% of the market. They claim their products’ benefits in helping adults stop smoking tobacco, especially killer cigarettes, outweighs the harms they cause to young people, likely addicting new generations to health-damaging nicotine and opening a gateway to tobacco and marijuana consumption.

bodybag-150x150In recent days, academic researchers and politicians have made distressing disclosures about the terrible toll the coronavirus pandemic took on the aged, injured, and sick in nursing homes and other long term care facilities with new data suggesting the disease infected more of the vulnerable and killed more of them than previously known.

Government officials, in the pandemic’s early days, may have failed to count 16,000 nursing home deaths due to the coronavirus, researchers at Harvard, UCLA, the University of Minnesota, and Massachusetts General Hospital reported in an online section of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Before federal reporting rules took effect in May 2020, officials also may have missed 68,000 more nursing home infections, the researchers found.

shapona-large-150x150housougami-150x150To those unfamiliar with the history of world religions and disease, the formidable duo shown here are Hosogami (left) and Shapona (right). In two different societies of yore, in the 600s and 700s A.D. in Japan and in the 18th and even into the 19th century in Nigeria, the fervent built religious rites around these smallpox deities.

Worshippers hoped various behaviors would appease their lords of infection, with later experts coming to believe that the priests of Shapona (aka Sopona) also helped to spread the highly contagious and disfiguring illness by scratching villagers as part of extortion schemes. Science and vaccinations eventually eradicated smallpox globally, with infectious disease and public health experts historically mindful how fear, ignorance, and societal pressures can lead numbers of people to embrace counterfactual and cultish responses to scary illnesses.

Now, can President Biden and his administration — with a new and tougher program to get millions of unvaccinated Americans to finally get coronavirus shots — back down what increasingly has become a politically partisan and almost theological opposition to proven methods to quell a disease that has killed 660,000 Americans already and is taking 1,500 lives each day?

bloodtest-300x200Lights are flashing and alarms are blaring. A health care nightmare is growing before us and threatens the future of the nation: Younger people — those under age 40 or even age 50 — are sicker than they should be, and their conditions are worsening, not improving, especially with the destructive coronavirus pandemic.

An independent and highly respected federal advisory panel has just recommended a drop in the age at which doctors should screen overweight adults for diabetes and prediabetes, urging that a fasting blood test or possibly a glucose tolerance test be given to these patients and lifestyle questions be posed to them at age 35, not at 40 years old, as was the previous advice.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — elite specialists who review tests and screenings for their effectiveness and usefulness and issue recommendations that hold big sway, notably with insurers — said that diabetes poses serious and growing risks to young adults. They can benefit from earlier interventions, such as changes in diet and lifestyle, that can prevent prediabetes from developing into a chronic, and potentially debilitating or even fatal condition. As experts reported in an accompanying editorial, published in an online section of the Journal of the American Medical Association:

covidhospitalizations08212021nyt-300x171The coronavirus keeps ripping through the country with a fourth, Delta-variant fueled surge that also is producing confounding, confused behaviors that only add to the pandemic’s considerable gloom.

The pandemic, which already has killed at least 635,000 Americans and infected just under 40 million of us, is slamming hospitals. More than 100,000 coronavirus patients, including rising numbers of children and younger patients, are jamming intensive care and other units in numbers not seen since the pandemic’s start (see New York Times graphic). This is slashing hospitals’ capacity to treat non-coronavirus patients, even many in serious shape. And hard-hit southern facilities braced for the double-whammy of a hurricane making landfall.

Disease deaths continue their scary spike, now averaging 1,000 a day. Florida is taking a bludgeoning from the disease, crashing records for infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities.

bugatti-300x118If big hospitals really want to keep surgeons happy and provide them with greater comfort during procedures, why not build giant, sanitary glass garages next to operating rooms and let docs park their Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and Bugattis there for ogling and maybe even to take a break under the vehicles’ hoods?

Okay, maybe we’re being a bit too snarky.  Yet that hyperbolic scenario just might be cheaper and more medically justifiable than the sustained embrace by specialists and profit-seeking institutions of fancy robotic surgical devices costing more than $1 million annually — and for which patients, ultimately, pay. Here’s what the New York Times reported of yet another published meta-analysis of dozens of studies on the devices and their outcomes found:

“Surgical procedures performed with the aid of a robot is sometimes marketed as the ‘best’ form of surgery. But a recent review of 50 randomized controlled trials, testing robot-assisted surgeries against conventional methods for abdominal or pelvic procedures, suggests that while there may be some benefits to robotic surgery, any advantages over other approaches are modest … Some surgeons believe that these robots allow more precision during the operation, shorter recovery time, and generally better clinical outcomes for patients. But the review found that in many ways, compared outcomes from the robotic and conventional procedures showed little difference.

commonwealthintlcomp-300x196The U.S. health care system, again, ranks last among 11 high-income countries — the seventh such time it trailed its peers since a leading, independent nonprofit conducted its first study in 2004.

The Commonwealth Fund, in its latest published research, says it examined 71 different measures to study health systems in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

commonweatlhspend2019-300x194The U.S. performed worst among these countries, based on surveys conducted in each country and administrative data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization, the Washington Post reported. Eric Schneider, the lead author behind the findings and Fund senior vice president for policy and research, told the newspaper:

fdanulogo-300x126The federal Food and Drug Administration may be putting patients’ safety at serious risk by allowing medical device makers to self-police their products, notably in making crucial determinations in reporting to the agency the severity of harms the devices inflict.

Using artificial intelligence techniques to scan a sampling of filings made by makers to the FDA over nine years, Christina Lalani, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues found that just under a quarter of the documents mis-categorized cases in which medical devices were tied to patient fatalities.

These were not reported as deaths in an important FDA information source known as MAUDE (the Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience database). Instead, they were “classified as either malfunction, injury, or missing (the report was not put in any category),” reported the medical site MedPage Today.

debtmedicalnytjuly2021-300x250A scandal of the U.S. health system may be far worse than imagined, with the medical debt sold to collection agencies alone amounting to a staggering $140 billion.

The $140 billion estimate came from researchers who published in a medical journal and found that such unpaid sums had increased significantly from an $84 billion calculation in a similar 2016 study, the New York Times reported (see excellent chart, courtesy of the newspaper).

The newspaper noted the debt estimate is an ugly number hanging over the finances of tens of millions of patients who are too often poor and uninsured — debtors who could benefit significantly, if politicians in their states had expanded Medicaid coverage for them as allowed under the Affordable Care Act:

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