Medicine

California’s Prop. 61 Offers Opportunity to Take on Big Pharma

by RoseAnn DeMoro – The drug corporations are running scared… and spending big to defeat this ballot measure. While the world is watching the Presidential race Tuesday night, another election battle in California provides a window in the ability of voters to challenge corporate power – in this case one of the most abusive industries in the world, big pharma. Proposition 61 in California pits the drug cartel and those shilling for it, against patients, nurses, and consumer advocates. At a time when the drug giants have buried proposals in Congress and state legislatures to block any restraints on its predatory pricing, Prop. 61 would actually begin the process of lowering prices. The drug corporations are running scared. They’ve poured in over $120 million, the most ever spent on a California ballot measure (and likely the most ever in the U.S.) with a non-stop pounding of deceptive and misleading ads intended...

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Big Pharma Spending Big to Defeat Drug Price Measure

by Nika Knight – The battle over a California ballot measure to put a stop to pharmaceutical price gouging is heating up as the election draws near, with Big Pharma pitting itself against consumer watchdogs, parents of sick children, and nurses. Big Pharma has spent nearly $90 million to defeat Proposition 61, which “would require all prescription drugs purchased by the state of California to be priced at or below the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which pays the lowest price of any federal agency,” as the Los Angeles Daily News writes. The battle takes place just as Mylan, the producer of the life-saving epinephrine injectors known as EpiPens, was fined hundreds of millions of dollars by the Justice Department for overcharging Medicaid for the devices. Mylan infamously raised EpiPen prices by over 500 percent. Yet despite weeks of negative media coverage of Mylan’s price gouging,...

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What the Media Doesn’t Know About the Clinton Foundation Could Fill a Warehouse

by Frank Vyan Walton – Sometimes it’s just plain embarrassing.  Sorry, I mean stupifying how much the media doesn’t know about what they’re talking about.  I mean, they’re supposed to know.  They’re supposed to have a clue, but there times when they really really don’t.  One of those times was just the other day as CNN’s Dana Bash attempted to grill ClintonFoundation spokesman campaign manager Robby Mook on the announcement that if Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency that the Foundation will reject all foreign donations and also that Bill Clinton will not make any foreign speeches during her administration. Her initial question betrays just how much she doesn’t know. Bash: If it’s not ok for the Foundation to accept foreign donations while she is President, why was it Ok while she was Secretary of State? First of all, Hillary Clinton was not a participant in the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State. In fact...

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Disgusted With Sky-High Drug Prices, California Voters Take On Big Pharma

by Fran Quigley, Truthout | News Analysis –   Enormous public frustration with the skyrocketing prices of essential medicines in the US has not yet led to any meaningful reform. But a historic initiative on the November ballot in California, championed by health care and consumer advocates and fiercely opposed by multinational drug corporations, may finally rein in Big Pharma. It is hard to overstate the level of dysfunction in the US medicines system. The headline-producing greed of “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli was just the most dramatic example of a pharmaceutical industry whose patent monopolies grant it immunity from market forces while its political clout shields it from government regulation. Taking full advantage of taxpayer-funded research, drug corporations make record profits, even by Fortune 500 standards, and pay their CEOs as much as $180 million a year. Those corporations spend far more on incessant marketing to consumers and physicians than they...

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Obamacare Might be Making People—Especially Poor People—Healthier

by Joan McCarter – The health impacts of a program like Obamacare are generally hard to measure in the short term and over a population as large as the United States’. But the Supreme Court unwittingly did researchers a favor by ruling that the Medicaid expansion part of the law could be optional among states. While Republican governors in many states screwed their citizens by refusing that expansion, they set up a perfect research opportunity, “a huge natural experiment” in the words of  Dr. Benjamin Sommers, as reported by The New York Times. He’s an author of a new study study published in JAMA last week. The Times summarizes: Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand. The researchers gathered their results by conducting a large telephone survey of low-income residents of the...

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Gonorrhea Could One Day Be Untreatable, Doctors Say

by ANNA SCANLON – Gonorrhea has long been a sexually transmitted disease that is treated with a strong dose of antibiotics. However, it may soon become untreatable as it develops resistance to the two antibiotics left that can treat it: azithromycin and ceftriaxon. CBS News reports that antibiotic resistant strains of this STD have more than quadrupled in the United States. Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, stated: “The confluence of emerging drug resistance and very limited alternative options for treatment creates a perfect storm for future gonorrhea treatment failure in the U.S.” However, the rates of antibiotic resistant strains are still low, despite the fourfold increase in gonorrhea that is resistant to azithromycin. The rate recently rose from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent. For the other drug used to treat the disease, ceftriaxon, antibiotic resistance has doubled from 0.4 percent to...

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WADA Calls For Russian Ban From Rio Olympics After Report Confirms ‘Unprecedented’ Doping Scheme

by LINDSAY GIBBS – On Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released the much-anticipated report on its investigation into Russia’s anti-doping efforts. The findings were damning, particularly for Russian athletes hoping to compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio in a mere 18 days. According to the report, the Russian Ministry of Sport erased at least 312 positive doping tests between 2011 and 2015. WADA is requesting that Russia be banned from all international competitions, including the Rio Games. WADA commissioned Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer, to produce the report after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, acted as a whistle-blower and told the Times about the extensive nature of Russia’s cheating during the Sochi Games in 2014. Rodchenkov told the Times that Russia’s secret service figured out how to open up sealed urine samples months before the Sochi Games began, and during the Games samples from athletes...

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Doctors In Australia Ordered To Prescribe Fewer Antidepressants

by JULIE FIDLER – Antidepressants are not as effective as previously thought Australian health experts are warning that antidepressants are not as effective as previously thought. As a result, physicians in that nation are being told to scale back on prescribing the drugs. Nearly 1 in 10 Australian adults take antidepressants – that’s 10% of the population – and a growing number of children and teens are being prescribed the psychiatric drugs. But the medications don’t work in many cases. In fact, psychiatrists say there has been a drastic breakdown in research backing antidepressants’ effectiveness. Christopher Davey, a psychiatrist at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, told the Sydney Morning Herald that as experts analyze more and more studies of antidepressants, they are discovering that the drugs have proven to be ineffective in 30-40% of people who use them for the sole purpose of treating depression. They are also...

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Pfizer Cuts States Off From Execution Drugs

by BRYCE COVERT – After pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced on Friday that it will clamp down on the distribution of its drugs so that they can no longer be used in executions, any state that wants to use lethal injection will now have to resort to getting them on underground markets. Pfizer announced that it will restrict seven products — pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide, and vecuronium bromide — that are used in executions. Those products will now only be available to a select group of wholesalers, distributors, and direct purchasers who verify that they won’t resell them to correctional institutions for executions, and any government entity that wants to buy them has to certify that they will only be used for patient care and will not be resold. Pfizer says it will “consistently monitor” the seven drugs to root out any noncompliance and modify its...

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Utah Orders Abortion Doctors To Put Their Patients In Danger

by ALEX ZIELINSKI – A new Utah law that went into effect on Tuesday will force doctors to shirk their promise to “do no harm” by dangerously over-anesthetizing women who seek a later abortion. Informed by anti-abortion state lawmakers rather than by medical experts, the “Protecting Unborn Children Amendment” requires physicians to administer an anesthetic to any women seeking an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later, to “eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child.” Like many anti-abortion laws on the state level, Utah’s law rests on the unscientific belief that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation. Most states that introduce “fetal pain” legislation try to ban abortions entirely after 20 weeks — and at least 12 have been successful. Utah is the first to pass a anesthesia-related bill instead of outright prohibiting the practice. But according to physicians, it may as well...

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No, Obamacare Isn’t Making The Opioid Epidemic Worse

by  RYAN COLLINS – Just when a bipartisan consensus was forming around solutions to the growing opioid epidemic, Republican senators who are in danger of losing reelection have started playing politics with the issue by blaming it on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Opioid abuse is a serious danger to many American communities. According to the CDC, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999. Not surprisingly, so has the sale and marketing of opioids as prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Today, at least half of deaths due to opioids overdosing involve a prescription opioid. In 2014 alone, over 14,000 Americans died from an opioid overdoses. And this epidemic is hitting younger populations hardest. There are many examples of responsible, bipartisan policy prescriptions that would help reduce opioid abuse. For instance, one can...

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Oklahoma Lawmakers Send Bill Pulling Licenses of Doctors who Perform Abortions to the Governor

by Meteor Blades – Abortion remains legal nationwide despite being ever more hampered by forced-birther machinations. It therefore seems impossible that the bill just passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives to pull the license of any doctor who performs an abortion will pass constitutional muster. Indeed, a few representatives—all of them Democrats—made that very argument during debate. The bill nevertheless passed the House overwhelmingly late Thursday, just as it passed by a lopsided vote in the heavily Republican state Senate last month. It now heads to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature. She has not indicated whether or not she will sign it. Under the bill, any doctor who performs an abortion—except to save the life of the woman or to preserve her health—would have his or her license taken away. The Oklahoma State Medical Association has opposed the bill, viewing it as an attempt to intimidate physicians and inject politics into the physician-patient relationship. Amanda Allen, the...

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Now There’s Proof: Docs Who Get Company Cash Tend to Prescribe More Brand-Name Meds

by Charles Ornstein, Ryann Grochowski Jones and Mike Tigas – The more money doctors receive from drug and medical device companies, the more brand-name drugs they tend to prescribe, a new ProPublica analysis shows. Even a meal can make a difference. Doctors have long disputed that the payments they receive from pharmaceutical companies have any relationship to how they prescribe drugs. There’s been little evidence to settle the matter — until now. A ProPublica analysis has found for the first time that doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do indeed tend to prescribe drugs differently than their colleagues who don’t. And the more money they receive, on average, the more brand-name medications they prescribe. We matched records on payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers in 2014 with corresponding data on doctors’ medication choices in Medicare’s prescription drug program. (You can read our methodology here.) Doctors who got...

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Children On Antidepressants Have Increased By 54% Since 2005

by John Vibes – A recent report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that children are being prescribed antidepressants at an alarming rate. According to the report, antidepressant prescriptions for children have increased by over 54% in the past 7 years. WHO director of mental health Dr Shekhar Saxena said in a recent statement that, “Anti-depressant use amongst young people is and has been a matter of concern because of two reasons. One, are more people being prescribed antidepressants without sufficient reason? And second, can antidepressants do any major harm?“ The study, ”Trends and patterns of antidepressant use in children and adolescents from five western countries, 2005-2012“, has been published in the European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. In most other countries the average of increase is around 50%, but in some places like Denmark, it is even higher, around 60%. Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs,...

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Need a Link Between Federal Reps and Big Pharma Companies? Here it is

by JULIE FIDLER – As Big Pharma delays guidelines for prescribing painkillers In an effort to cut prescription painkiller addiction and overdose deaths, the CDC created prescribing guidelines. But it looks like Big Pharma is delaying those guidelines, likely to protect drug sales. Under the proposed guidelines, doctors would prescribe patients non-opioid painkillers first for chronic pain, and only prescribe opioids, like OxyContin, if the non-opioid drugs don’t work. The agency also wants physicians to prescribe the smallest amount of the drugs possible, typically 3 days or less for acute pain. Doctors would only continue prescribing the drugs if patients show significant improvement. Those guidelines were set to go into effect this month, but last month, the agency abandoned its January release date amid harsh criticism from drug-makers, industry-funded organizations, and public health officials. A federal panel – the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) – has been one...

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Major Drug Distributors Flooded West Virginia with Millions of Pain Pills

by JULIE FIDLER – Contributing to a major drug problem One of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical drug wholesalers is under fire from West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey. On Friday, Morrisey announced a lawsuit against San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation alleging the company violated state consumer protection laws and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act by flooding West Virginia with tens of millions of prescription pills. McKesson allegedly failed to detect, report, and stop the flood of suspicious prescription drug orders into the state, contributing to widespread drug abuse. The state says the company pushed narcotics to anyone who wanted them in a state that has more problems with prescription drug abuse than any other in the nation. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show West Virginia’s rate of fatal drug overdoses was 28.9 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, most of those involving prescription drugs. The problem...

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Pharmacists Can Now Prescribe Birth Control in Oregon. Why Not Make It Over-the-Counter Everywhere?

by Stephanie Slade – Getting government out of the way would protect women and employers alike As of last Friday, January 1, women in Oregon can skip the doctor’s visit that all other states require before they’re allowed to purchase birth control pills. Henceforth, pharmacists in the state can issue prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives themselves. The change moves the state closer to the over-the-counter scheme that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed in 2012. It doesn’t quite go all the way, though, since technically the pills remain regulated as prescription meds. A better solution would be to allow their sale to anyone, anywhere, without requiring a prescription at all—something Sen. Cory Gardner (R–Colo.) and a number of other Republicans proposed last year. As my colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown has explained, getting rid of the prescription requirement would increase women’s freedom to make choices for themselves. Not everyone can afford to take time...

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Antibiotics Expert Warns It’s ‘Almost Too Late’ to Stop Global Superbug

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘We have got a 50-50 chance of salvaging the most important antibiotics but we need to stop agriculture from ruining it again,’ says UK health expert Following the discovery in the UK of bacteria that resist the most common antibiotic of last resort, a leading British expert is warning it is “almost too late” to stop a global superbug crisis. News outlets reported Monday that UK government scientists have found a gene, known as mcr-1, that gives bacteria resistance to colistin, often used by doctors when other antibiotics fail. Such resistance was first discovered last month in China, and in the past few weeks, the resistance gene has also been found in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and in several Asian and African countries. The rise of the so-called post-antibiotic era is widely linked to over- and misuse of antibiotics in industrial agriculture. Public Health England found...

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A Corrupt CEO Busted? Well, Merry Christmas

by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed – He is a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks, like a rotten mackerel by moonlight. – John Randolph I’ve never seen a mermaid or a space alien or a leprechaun. I never expected to, of course; these are all creatures of myth and folklore and fabulation, but still … it would be pretty cool to see a mermaid, right? Another thing I never expected to see was a greedy lying thieving scumbag corporate CEO arrested for his serial crimes, but that changed on Thursday when Martin Shkreli was led away before the eyes of the world. You know this guy. He’s the one who acquired the anti-malarial and anti-parasitical drug Daraprim – used primarily to treat children and AIDS patients – and jacked up the price from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. For those of...

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In Biggest Tax Evasion Scheme of Its Kind, Big Pharma Becomes Behemoth

by Deirdre Fulton – Mega-merger between pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Allergan could lead to higher drug prices, watchdogs warn Big Pharma just became Huge Pharma. Creating the world’s largest drugmaker—and paving the way for higher pharmaceutical prices—Viagra-maker Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC, which manufactures Botox, said Monday that they would merge in a so-called inversion deal worth up to about $155 billion. The takeover “would be the largest inversion ever,” according to the Wall Street Journal, allowing Pfizer to profit from a lower corporate tax rate in Allergan’s home country of Ireland. The LA Times reported that the deal “is likely to fuel critics’ concerns that consumers would pay even more for drugs as competition declines among manufacturers, insurers and retailers.” As Gustav Ando, research director for the business information and consulting company IHS Life Sciences, told the Washington Post: “This merger isn’t meant to benefit patients, it isn’t meant to innovate in...

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