- Powerful rare-earth magnets, used in many toys and especially in shape construction kits, pose big risks to kids when swallowed.
- Widely used over-the-counter genetic testing kits may subject users to major privacy concerns they never contemplated. The risks have risen enough so the Pentagon has issued a warning to service personnel.
Politicians and police may need to step up their crackdown on drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers, targeting repeat offenders with substance-abuse and mental health problems who also are “disproportionately responsible for fatalities,” a leading traffic safety group recommends.
As the Wall Street Journal reported of new work by the Governors Highway Safety Association and its consultant Pam Fischer:
“Nearly 30% of all vehicular-crash deaths in the U.S. last year were alcohol-related … Last year, 10,511 people died in crashes involving at least one driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least .08%, the legal cutoff in every state except Utah, federal figures show. While that represented a 3.6% drop from 2017, alcohol-related fatality levels have largely stagnated for the past decade. ‘What we’re failing to do is get to the root cause of why they’re doing this, what’s behind the behavior,’ [said Fischer].”
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.
They were yanked in an abundance of caution, and doctors and public health experts have told patients to consult with their pharmacists and doctors to ensure they do not suddenly halt their use of needed treatments, especially because there are ready options.
There seems to be a never-ending outbreak of a certain kind of pathology in the United States. Big Pharma has it and spreads it around, a lot. So, too, do public health figures. Let’s call this scourge what it is — unmitigated gall.
The problem with this nasty condition is that it afflicts the rest of us. Just consider how stomach-churning these shenanigans can be:
Penalties for bogus prescribing of ‘little red pills’ on elderly dementia patients
Many more women would benefit if their doctors took time to put them through a relatively easy screening using readily available questionnaires to determine if they might need further specialist assessment and a medical test for a genetic mutation linked to breast and other forms of cancer.
Women, however, should not routinely be subjected to the assessment, counseling, and testing for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation, the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended, based on its blue-chip review of medical evidence. The task force gave the broad, routine approach its D grade, as in it should not be done.
The panel gave the careful and appropriate BRCA screenings its “B” grade, meaning they have moderate to significant benefits. The screening by primary care doctors is best suited for women with “a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer or who have an ancestry associated with breast cancer susceptibility 1 and 2 (BRCA1/2) gene mutations.”
The U.S. government will try to tackle two of the toughest health care challenges around with new pushes involving graphic imagery and smoking prevention and the encouragement for doctors to screen their adult patients to better detect, avert, and treat drug abuse.
Both initiatives have their soft spots.
But officials say they must act in as many ways as they can. That’s because 480,000 people in the United States die each year from illnesses related to tobacco use, the American Cancer Society reports, adding, “This means each year smoking causes about 1 out of 5 deaths in the US.” Drug abuse and overdoses, meantime, killed more than 68,000 Americans in 2018 alone, exceeding the nation’s peak annual deaths from car crashes, AIDS or guns, the New York Times reported, based on data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When 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.
Rare good news on destructive infections is emerging from Africa: Medical scientists, Good Samaritans, and public health officials are hailing the successes of powerful new therapies in treating a deadly and extremely drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis and Ebola, a killer viral hemorrhagic fever that spreads like wildfire.
Americans may skip over dispatches about these “foreign” news developments. They would be wise not to do so, because they have heightened importance these days, domestically, including in providing key lessons to be learned about how to safeguard the public health.
The TB care that is winning great attention overseas requires patients to take three drugs in a regimen in which they take five pills a day for six months. That already is a boon compared with other, now common therapies in which they might need 40 pills a day for as long as two years, or daily antibiotics shots with bad side effects like deafness, kidney failure, and psychosis.
The concerning incidents involve “pay to play” clinical trials and “manipulated” data submitted to the federal Food and Drug Administration by maker Novartis as part of the approval process for a gene therapy drug with a sky-high price.
Neither instance, officials insist, had immediate effects in endangering patients. But both show extreme practices and conduct that regulators should slam to a halt.
As a scrutiny of data by Science magazine shows:
“From monitoring clinical trials and approving medicines and vaccines, to ensuring the safety of blood transfusions, medical devices, groceries, and more, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the nation’s most vital watchdogs. By several measures, however, FDA’s compliance and enforcement actions have plummeted since President Donald Trump took office … The agency’s ‘warning letters’—a key tool for keeping dangerous or ineffective drugs and devices and tainted foods off the market—have fallen by one-third, for example. Such letters typically demand swift corrections to protect public health and safety. FDA records from Trump’s inauguration through 22 May show the agency issued 1,033 warning letters, compared with 1,532 for the most recent equivalent period under former President Barack Obama. Compared with the start of the Obama presidency, Trump-era letters dropped by nearly half. Warnings from the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which helps ensure the safety and quality of medical devices, and from some of the agency’s district offices—including Philadelphia, Florida, and New York—have dropped even more steeply, by more than two-thirds. Two district offices have not issued a warning in more than 2 years. The numbers don’t just reflect a new administration’s slow start. FDA sent significantly fewer warning letters in the second year of Trump’s presidency than in his first.