bathroomscale-300x300Many of us may feel a little too hefty after weeks of seasonal feasting and merrymaking. But Old Man Winter also may share a slice of the blame for our weight gain at this time of year and beyond.

Packing on a pound or two, maybe even five, may be more common at this time of year than many realize, researchers say. Blame it not only on drinking and eating with friends for the holidays. It also may be due to our increased sedentary behaviors due to cold and stormy weather. As the Washington Post reported:

“On average, research shows that people gain one to two pounds over the winter months. For instance, a study of 195 people at the National Institutes of Health found weight gain of about one pound between late September and March. A study of 248 U.S. military personnel, who were enrolled in a weight-loss program, found that people added about two pounds from fall to winter. Here’s something else. There also is evidence that American adults gain one to two pounds each year, gradually accumulating weight over decades. Winter weight gain may be a major culprit, so perhaps we should view the season as a particularly risky time for adding excess padding. Indeed, 165 subjects in the NIH study returned for a September weigh-in and, on average, were 1.4 pounds heavier than the year before. A note: One to two pounds on average means that some people don’t gain any weight while others gain five pounds or more. And in a rude twist of fate, the people who gain the most are more likely to be already overweight or obese.”

zenmagnets-1-150x150Consumers may need to give a few seasonal gifts a second look about their safety and other health-related issues:

docprescriptionpad-300x238Although it’s always important to remember in research studies that associations don’t prove causation, findings from two separate works should raise serious concerns about doctors’ independence and judgment in prescribing drugs and reporting conflicts of interest about payments from makers of medical devices.

That’s because doctors who get money from drug makers in connection with a specific medication tend to prescribe that drug “more heavily” than colleagues who don’t get similar cash, ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site, has found.

And doctors who are among those receiving the highest compensation from surgical and medical device manufacturers show some of the biggest discrepancies between the sums they report for institutional conflicts of interest and what a federal database of payments shows, according to  physician-researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

21md-261x300Consumers soon may need to be 21 or older to buy burning tobacco cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the key component of the national health nightmare of “vaping.”

Both the House and Senate have passed the higher age requirement and President Trump is expected to sign it, joining hundreds of states (including Maryland, as illustration shows) and cities that have sought to make it tougher for Americans to damage their health with the popular products.

The damage caused by smoking have been well proven for decades now, with the American Cancer Society reporting the nasty habit’s persistent toll:

gabapentin-300x158A widely prescribed drug, formally approved only for limited uses but now dispensed for many nerve-related conditions, can put patients at serious risk of breathing problems, especially if they are aged, suffer from all too common chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or may also be taking opioid pain killers or other medications that depress the central nervous system.

That’s a toughened new warning about gabapentin and pregabalin from the federal Food and Drug Administration, which says it will require new packaging and cautions for the drugs. They may be better known in their branded versions as Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant (gabapentin) or Lyrica and Lyrica CR (pregabalin).

The nerve meds have been subject to “growing” medical “use as well as misuse and abuse,” the FDA said in a statement, adding:

cpsc-150x150One of the nation’s top consumer protection agencies cozied up to the businesses it was supposed to watch over, leaving children and other consumers vulnerable to significant harms.

That’s the disturbing conclusion of congressional staffers reporting to Maria Cantwell, the ranking Democrat on a U.S. Senate committee with oversight responsibilities for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Democratic staffers ripped the agency, headed by a Republican appointee who has since resigned, for its poor performance with high-profile cases involving Britax’s BOB jogging stroller, Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play inclined sleeper, and the safety of residential elevators.

khnocarechart-300x183Insurers feast on uncertainty the way most of us attack a holiday spread. They can relish risk because they know it can mean higher premiums and profits for their dealing with clients’ risks. This is one point to keep in mind while reading the abundant coverage of the latest step in Republicans’ decade-long assault on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

A federal appeals court has struck down the zero-penalty piece of Obamacare, what many call a key part of the ACA (which, effectively, didn’t exist anyway). The judges also sent back this ACA challenge to their extremist colleague in Texas to parse which parts of Obamacare he thinks can stand up now that the sweeping health care law no longer has its “unconstitutional” individual mandate — the legal requirement that Americans must carry health insurance.

In response to a lawsuit filed against the ACA by 20 Republican attorneys general — and supported by the flip-flopping Trump Administration through the Justice Department — “U.S. Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth struck down the entire law [almost a year ago], saying the individual mandate could not be severed from the rest of the Affordable Care Act because it was ‘the keystone’ of the law, essential to its regulation of the health insurance market,” the New York Times reported.

hiriskdrivergovsafety-300x169Politicians 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].”

pickpocket-300x200If department stores, car mechanics, or restaurants billed their customers in the same way that hospitals and doctors do, prosecutors might have their hands full. That’s because what patients now accept in sheepish fashion as simple “errors” or misstatements or curious charges on their medical bills more correctly ought to be called something else: fraud.

That’s the reluctant but tough view now taken by Elisabeth Rosenthal, an editor, journalist, and onetime practicing doctor.

She has written an Op-Ed for the New York Times, her former employer, in which she recounted how she long has reported on health care costs and economics, including in her much-praised book, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.” She said she has listened to too many patient complaints, as well as experienced problems of her own, to keep allowing establishment medicine to deem its relentless chiseling, oops, a little mistake.

alexahhs-150x150cmsseemav-150x150Here’s a point to ponder: A quarter of Americans say they or someone they know has put off treatment for a serious medical condition due to cost. That’s the worst such response pollsters at Gallup have gotten on this matter in almost three decades.

Two people have a lot to say about Americans’ health care finances, including their insurance, drug prices, and protections if they are poor, old, young, or chronically ill, physically or mentally. But, gee, the duo of Alex and Seema just can’t get along. They’re not playing nice. It’s gotten so bad that their big bosses, Don and Mike, have called them both in for a tough chat about working together.

carecostdelaychart-300x215Now, if it were you and me, and the office politicking got so out of hand that it attracted enough national attention to potentially embarrass majordomos of the organization, wouldn’t there be a screen door banging with some suits also getting tossed to the curb?

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