debtyoungmed-300x177Big Data may be a business buzzword that puts most consumers into a big sleep, but big alarms are sounding for Americans about Big Brother intrusions into their lives via the collection and analysis of vast amounts of highly personal information. Of course, Big Pharma and medical insurers are at the fore of invasive practices — some of which patient-consumers themselves are helping, likely without knowing they’re doing so.

Millions of Americans may be little aware, for example, that they’re now working for GlaxoSmithKline, a global pharmaceutical conglomerate with $9 billion in revenues in just the most recent quarter. GSK just struck a $300-million deal with 23andMe, the company that has persuaded roughly 5 million consumers to spit in a test tube to get a glimpse of their genetic information, notably information about their ancestry and purportedly some of their genomic health risks.

Firms like 23andMe, with promotions at events like Baltimore Ravens pro football games, also have amassed highly personal genetic and medical data on millions of patient-consumers, promising to protect the information but also offering, casually and by the way, that this vital information could be shared — ostensibly for the betterment of public health.

mock-high-school-car-crash-300x169How outraged and motivated to political action might you be if an avoidable disaster in a week claimed the lives of all the youngsters in your kids’ school?  How upset might Americans be if a calamity wiped out in 24 hours  seven NBA professional basketball teams, or two pro NFL squads?

David Leonhardt, associate editor of the New York Times Editorial Page, threw a powerful jab in his Op-Ed at lawmakers and regulators who, as always, seem to be shrugging off not only the summer deadliest season but also the rising annual toll of road deaths. The carnage has made America’s streets and highways the most dangerous in the industrialized world.

As Leonhardt points out, federal data show that 100 people die daily in US vehicle wrecks. Many are young. They’re killed by drunken, distracted, and drugged drivers, or they die due to their own bad decisions, including poor maintenance of their vehicles, or because of bad luck.

buckeyes-300x295Soon, many young people  will be back to school and signing up for  sports teams. Many will have to undergo physical exams before they can play.  And it’s a tragic reality that grown-ups may need to think a lot how to protect young people from sexual predators who also are doctors.

That’s because Ohio State University, sadly, has joined the University of Southern California, Michigan State-USA Gymnastics, and Penn State University in the notoriety of dealing with a sexual abuse scandal involving adults and students. In the case of the Buckeyes, it’s Big Ten male wrestlers.

OSU said it had hired an outside law firm to investigate the allegations against Richard Strauss, who had blue-chip credentials and served as the team doctor to university wrestlers roughly from 1979 to 1997. The doctor killed himself in 2005. Lawyers interviewed more than 200 one-time OSU students, with 100 of them accusing Strauss of sexual misconduct, “including former athletes from 14 different sports teams.”

Robots are the shiny new toys of surgery in American hospitals. They promise ultra-precise, tiny cuts that give patients faster healing and better outcomes. Wherever you live, your local TV news outlets have likely run uncritical, gee-whiz stories about hospitals and surgeons bringing in these robots, featuring glowing patient testimonials.

So what’s not to like? You need to watch a new documentary airing Friday night on Netflix to get the other side of the story, and there’s plenty. And also about other medical devices that promise much but deliver more pain than benefit.

cpidrugs-300x182Uncle Sam long has allowed states to set the rules governing how Medicaid works, and a dozen or so of them have decided, with the purported goal of increased fiscal rectitude, to impose harsh rules to force poor, sick, disabled, and aged program participants to work more or to seek employment.

But taxpayers might be better served if the frugal-minded turned greater attention to Big Pharma’s insidious role at the state level in causing Medicaid costs to skyrocket, threatening budgets and creating conflicts in funding other public programs like education and transportation.

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and National Public Radio deserve praise for investigating how corruptive, drug-maker money has overwhelmed state officials’ efforts to corral soaring costs of prescription medications covered by Medicaid and governed by a patchwork of rules in each of the nation’s 50 states.

livercancer-300x173Summer tipplers may want to steer away from that second glass of  sangria, or rethink that next round of beers.  That’s because there’s yet more bad news about Americans and booze abuse: Liver disease deaths are spiking, with fatalities tied to cirrhosis jumping by 65 percent between 1999 and 2016, while those connected with liver cancer doubled in the same time span.

Americans 25- to 34-years-old saw the steepest increases in alcohol-related liver disease, with the number of annual deaths in seven years, as studied by Michigan experts, nearly tripling.

“Alcohol misuse and its complications” is striking down a new generation of Americans, Elliot Tapper, a University of Michigan liver expert and lead author of a newly published study on liver cancer, told the Washington Post.

water-300x200Families dropping into Baltimore restaurants may be surprised by what is no longer on the children’s menu, thanks to an official mandate: sugary soft drinks.

At the behest of public health officials, Baltimore has become the largest US city and an East Coast pioneer in enforcing a new restaurant ordinance that makes water, milk, and 100 percent fruit juices the default drinks for youngsters.

Parents who really want their kids to have a sugar-laden soft drink can still get them, but the parent has to place the order. The idea is to get parents to pause and think, and nudge them toward healthier choices.

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Americans should be wary lest they get in between Big Pharma and a buck.

That’s what investigators for a U.S. Senate subcommittee showed when scrutinizing how industry middlemen inundated the Show Me State with more than a billion doses of powerful prescription painkillers, making big profits but asking few questions how so many opioid drugs could be taken by so few patients.

It’s also what patients might see as drug makers retreat from research to develop needed new antibiotics and therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

hjobs-300x174It’s unlikely to surprise anyone who has visited friends or loved ones at a nursing home that such facilities too often are woefully staffed.

But why have federal regulators allowed themselves to be gulled about nursing home personnel levels, and how will not just these care-giving sites but also others, notably hospitals, deal with the growing need for and imbalances in health care staff, including a tilt toward “astonishingly high” numbers of costly administrative staff folks who don’t provide direct patient care?

Jordan Rau, a reporter for Kaiser Health News Service, deserves credit for digging into daily payroll records that Medicare only recently has gathered and published from 14,000 nursing homes nationwide. Rau found that:

hospital2-300x169As the nation deals with record numbers of suicides,  hospital emergency rooms, with a relatively simple intervention and diligent follow-up, may be able to reduce by half the high risk that patients they treat will try to take their own lives again.

National Public Radio reported on a newly published Veterans Affairs study of more than 1,600 patients at five sites across the country treated in ERs for suicide attempts, following up on their care for six months.

Researchers found that ER doctors, nurses, and social workers — even with little training — can help prevent the “ticking time bomb” of patients’ potential repeat suicide attempts by helping them with a Safety Planning Intervention.

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