fda-300x125Uncle Sam, estimating that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States, has pledged to step up preventive and protective measures to prevent these all too common health banes. Here’s the dirty secret about that vow: The federal Food and Drug Administration lacks the staff to do so in some key ways. And it faces further cuts in its funding.

Inspectors from the federal Health and Human Services department (HHS) have audited FDA inspection data from 2011 to 2015, finding, according to the Washington Post:

Government inspectors failed to take action on one of every five serious food-safety risks identified in manufacturing facilities. … In the remaining cases, the [FDA] almost always asked food manufacturers to correct violations voluntarily. In one incident in 2013, FDA inspectors found listeria in a facility where rain dripped through holes in the ceiling onto food prep areas. While FDA asked the facility to address the problems, samples from the factory still tested positive for listeria two years later. That same year, FDA inspectors found salmonella in a facility that made ready-to-eat seafood, salads and dips. They did not send the facility a warning letter or initiate any other corrective actions.

Donald_Trump-1-225x300Even as President Trump belittles Puerto Rican political leaders, the Americans on the island have been swamped by a hurricane-caused health care crisis, according to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes there.

The disturbing news reports show that sick and injured patients, with gas supplies limited, are struggling to navigate tree-blocked roads to get to hospitals that often lack power for cooling and to provide medical services. Doctors are reporting shortages of drugs and medical supplies.

Public health experts increasingly fear that health conditions will worsen, even as more rescue and recovery aid slowly trickles to a spot that long has wrestled with poverty and the isolation of many of its rural communities.

Tom_Price_official_Transition_portrait-240x300Tom Price, the orthopedist and  foe of the Affordable Care Act, may have been jettisoned from his job as Health and Human Services secretary,  but his agency’s effort to sabotage Obamacare smolders on.

Politico, the  online site, deserves a taxpayers’ salute for its dogged pursuit of Price’s self-entitled obsession with feeding at the public trough, traveling to swanky resorts in Aspen, Colo., Maine, and Georgia on the priciest public dime possible—private charter jet flights that cost thousands of dollars a pop. He purportedly did so in the people’s interest, with his agency initially claiming he was jetting off to combat the opioid drug abuse epidemic or woes connected with the recent, catastrophic hurricanes.

But over a few weeks his fabrications unraveled. Politico caught the secretary—who knew the media were scrutinizing his profligacy—jetting to Philadelphia, rather than taking a fast, cheap, and easy train. Price claimed he needed to attend a parley of health care swells in Georgia but also made tracks to a coastal resort area where he owns property. He publicly defended his travel by saying it helped him avert missed, key duties as HHS chief, only to have Politico debunk that tale by discovering Price became angry and started flying private jets because a storm-canceled commercial flight caused him to miss a stay at a session of health care execs at a luxe Ritz Carlton on the Southern California coast.

tats-300x192Could pediatricians accomplish what many parents cannot? Can they talk to rebellious youths about the body adornments that are  all the rage now, and get kids to consider the health risks and long-term issues surrounding trendy tattoos, piercings, and body scarring?

In case you’ve fallen like Rip Van Winkle into a long doze or you’re senior enough to even understand the Washington Irving reference, tats and body jewelry worn in created openings and roughing up the skin to make interesting patterns all have become so common among the young that those who go without such au trendy beauty measures may now even be the outliers among their peers.

There isn’t good data on body scarring but the public opinion experts at the Pew Research Center found in 2010 that 38 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had at least one tattoo, and 23 percent had “piercings in locations other than an earlobe.”

Sleeper-300x169

Improve Your Sleep Quality to Maximize Your Goals

Although grown-ups may struggle with health woes caused by a lack of a good night’s sleep, a long and sound slumber, without early rising, may be even more crucial for middle- and high-schoolers.  Their restful sleep may have economic benefits for us all, as well as surprising effects on attention disorders, which are one of the rising banes for the young.

New study by the nonpartisan and nonprofit RAND Corporation not only supports the health benefits from teens getting more sleep by starting school at around 8:30 in the morning— later  than  many schools now—researchers say such a move could be a, “cost-effective … strategy which could have a significant impact on public health and the U.S. economy.” As they reported:

pills-drugs-300x215The epidemic of opioid drug abuse, which increasingly is claiming children’s lives, has plenty of blameworthy causes. Here’s a new one: health insurers which steer patients to cheaper, more addictive painkillers while playing Scrooge for less addictive but pricier alternatives.

Pro Publica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism site, and the New York Times get credit for their expose of  penny-wise and pound-foolish prescription management practices.

By analyzing “Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year,” the news organizations say they saw repeated patterns in which insurers and the spin-off businesses that run their drug payment plans (so-called pharmacy benefit mangers or PBMs) easily and quickly approve opioids for patients in pain, medications that cost relatively little. They throw up all kinds of obstacles, however, to doctors and patients who try to use less potent but more expensive drugs, including patches containing Butrans (a lesser opioid) or lidocaine. They also drag their feet on approving payments for addiction-fighting medications like Suboxone.

ravensLet’s give a hurrah for Maryland health officials — they threw a red flag at a high-tech startup that planned with the Baltimore Ravens football team to serve up a mass genetic screening test at a recent game. The blunt reality is this would have been genetic malarkey.

This incident should serve as a reminder, caveat emptor, to consumers, even in settings of good cheer. It should offer a caution to those who stage big public events, like sports leagues, that health matters and highly personal and confidential medical information isn’t handled well at spectacles.

Shall we also offer a Bronx cheer for Orig3N, a Boston company that offers direct-to-consumer “genetic testing,” and talks on its web site about everything from organ donation to regenerative and personalized medicine as well as its commitment to public service? The company, a new Ravens sponsor, planned a recent promotional Sunday when it would offer its mouth swab tests to 55,000 fans flocking to the contest against the Cleveland Browns.

paxil-300x300Psychiatric medications, which doctors have prescribed freely and patients have taken dutifully, not only may have demonstrated risks for the young but also under-considered problems for adults older than 40 — 1 in 7 of whom has filled a script, for example, for an antidepressant.

The New York Times has done a service by bringing to the fore some lesser known issues of psych meds by reporting on a successful lawsuit involving a 57-year-old Chicago lawyer. He apparently suffered from severe physical and mental agitation after he started taking paroxetine, the generic form of the brand-name drug Paxil. His anxiety became so acute, a jury found, the lawyer threw himself fatally in front of an oncoming train.

Antidepressants, including Paxil, long have been controversial for the young, especially after reports cropped up describing serious issues with their use. All such meds have carried a “black box” warning label, reviewed and approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, warning that they increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, teens, and those younger than 25.

mwhc-front-entrance-300x174MedStar Washington Hospital Center, described by its chief medical officer as “the most important hospital in the most important city in the most important country in the world,” is under investigation by regulators in the District of Columbia due to maintenance failures that allowed sewage to seep down walls and onto operating room floors.

USA Today deserves credit for reporting on problems  in the 900-plus-bed hospital, which serves many of the District’s poor as well as providing trauma care sufficiently vital that it is supposed to be the go-to place of emergency treatment for top officials.

Its elite patients have included House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was taken to MedStar Washington after a deranged gunman wounded him while shooting up a Congressional baseball practice. USA Today says a room where Scalise was treated, later, after he was out of it, was among those affected by maintenance and sanitation woes.

flanursinghome-300x190Although Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have stormed off into the record books, their harms, particularly to health, persist for Texans, Floridians, and residents of the Caribbean. Recovery and return to normalcy will take the ravaged areas longer than many Americans realize, experts say. And they already are uncovering systemic woes, some fatal, with which planners and lawmakers will need to reckon with to better prepare for the next storm.

In Florida, for example, while hospitals, generally speaking, had adapted and rode out Irma maybe better than might be expected, nursing homes did not. They’re under new scrutiny, notably after eight residents died in an already troubled and roasting Hollywood, Fla., nursing home.

That incident refocused official attention on a sizable and particularly storm-afflicted population in the Sunshine State: its senior citizens. Whether in others’ care or ostensibly on their own, millions of older Floridians were left even more vulnerable after Irma, which cut off critical life services, including power, cooling, transportation, and access to medical services and food and other supplies.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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