Monthly Archive for August, 2009

Has CA’s Gov’t Healthcare Improved Since 1993?

AFTER LISTENING to advisers urging her to adopt a Canadian-style health system for the U.S., Hillary Clinton might learn something from a talk with Ronald Stokoe, of Prince George, British Columbia. Stokoe, 70, is a retired timber inspector who has been sent at Canadian taxpayers’ expense to a Seattle hospital for the radiation therapy he needs to treat prostate cancer.
“Canada let me down,” says Stokoe.
His treatment costs are entirely paid for by the British Columbia health authority, but Stokoe resents the fact that he must undergo the uncomfortable treatments far from his wife and family.
Such stories are heard increasingly these days all along the border, from Seattle to Buffalo. For decades, better-off Canadians frustrated with standing in the long lines their state-run health care system produces have dug into their own pockets and paid for care in the U.S. Now Canada’s provincial health authorities are making U.S. care available to ordinary Canadians.
“We see this as a safety valve,” says Dr. Robert MacMillan, head of health insurance for the Ontario Ministry of Health. “All of Canada faces a lag in accessibility, particularly in highly sophisticated care.”
Since 1991 the British Columbia government’s agency overseeing cancer services has contracted with U.S. hospitals for radiation oncology treatment.  Already about 750 people, some 10% of all British Columbians requiring cancer therapy, have been sent to the U.S.
Out east, in January, Ontario’s provincial health authority contracted with hospitals in Buffalo, Detroit and Duluth to provide magnetic resonance imaging services for Ontario citizens. This month Ontario will also sign contracts with U.S. hospitals for acquired brain injury care, and it is considering contracts covering child and adolescent psychiatric; eating disorder, and drug and alcohol addiction treatment.  Canadians now account for 75% of the patients in the chemical dependency unit at the Falls Memorial Hospital, International Falls, Minn.
“It seems ridiculous that we have to send people to the U.S.,” says Irene Bergman, a senior addictions counselor in Ontario. “But our system is just overwhelmed.” Her patients requiring in-hospital chemical dependency treatment wait three months in Ontario. In Minnesota they wait only three days.  (more here)

Accidental Deaths: Doctors vs. Gun Owners

There are approximately 700,000 physicians in the US who cause approximately 100,000 adverse drug reaction (ADR) deaths and 200,000 deaths annually. Some reports estimate more than 800,000 preventable deaths annually. But if we accept a conservative estimate of 120,000 preventable deaths annually, the accidental death rate per physician would be 0.171.

Conversely, there are 80 million gun owners in the US who cause approximately 1,500 accidental deaths annually. This means that the rate of accidental death per gun owner is .000188.

This means that, statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more likely to accidentally kill someone than gun owners.

While not everyone owns a gun, almost everyone has at least one doctor.

Remember, “Guns don’t kill people, doctors do.”

More Reasons to NOT Get Flu Shots?

AHRP reports that history is about to repeat itself:

In the 1976 swine flu vaccine program, 40 million people were vaccinated with an inadequately tested vaccine. The government gave the vaccine manufacturers immunity from liability, but created an alternative compensation program. Five thousand people sought benefits for vaccine injuries.

Today, as in 1976, official concern has focused on flu vaccine availability without regard for the safety of an H1N1 vaccine. Many national regulatory agencies have set-up fast-track approval processes for the H1N1 vaccine, which means that a vaccine might be licensed without the usual safety and efficacy data requirements. Vaccine safety will therefore have to be monitored through post-marketing surveillance.

But there is reason for concern that we will repeat the debacle of the 1976 H1N1 outbreak in the USA, where mass vaccination was associated with complications, which stopped the campaign and led to the withdrawal of the vaccine.

What’s more, today, the government has NOT established an ALTERNATIVE COMPENSATION PROGRAM – as it had in 1976. The existing vaccine compensation program covers only designated vaccines and does NOT cover most adult vaccines.

The U.S. government has adopted (what critics regard) a reckless policy encouraging (if not mandating) the use of untested controversial vaccines with novel adjuvants likely to be used to strengthen vaccines and stretch the supply–they are named MF59 (Novartis) and ASO3 (Glaxo Smith-Kline). Only 3 vaccines using these adjuvants have been licensed in Europe, and none have been given a license in the US.

It is likely that these adjuvants will cause far more damage and autoimmune illness than the swine vaccine used in 1976.

Indeed, manufacturers have been given immunity from liability, as have the government program planners. But no compensation mechanism has been created for citizens who are likely to suffer harm. This is but a tacit acknowledgement that the vaccines are likely to produce harm.

Wyeth Faked Reports – Harmed Thousands

The New York Times reports that pharmaceutical company ghostwriters played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers that backed the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.

The articles, published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that paid a medical communications firm to draft the papers, as sales of its hormone drugs, called Premarin and Prempro, soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.

But the seeming consensus fell apart in 2002 when a huge federal study on hormone therapy was stopped after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. A later study found that hormones increased the risk of dementia in older patients.

The ghostwritten papers were typically review articles, in which an author weighs a large body of medical research and offers a bottom-line judgment about how to treat a particular ailment. The articles appeared in 18 medical journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology.

The articles did not disclose Wyeth’s role in initiating and paying for the work. Elsevier, the publisher of some of the journals, said it was disturbed by the allegations of ghostwriting and would investigate.

The documents on ghostwriting were uncovered by lawyers suing Wyeth and were made public after a request in court from PLoS Medicine, a medical journal from the Public Library of Science, and The New York Times.

A spokesman for Wyeth said that the articles were scientifically accurate and that pharmaceutical companies routinely hired medical writing companies to assist authors in drafting manuscripts. (Story here)

Although the reporting of this story by the NYT is new, the practice is not. According to former Eli Lilly marketing executive John Virapen, fake stories and reports are part of the overall marketing strategy throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Because the industry funds the FDA, CDC and NIH officials, no one investigates the corruption because they profit from them.

As a result, thousands of people are unnecessarily killed or injured from adverse drug reactions. In the case of Prozac or hormone replacement therapy, the eventual lawsuits are merely part of the cost of doing business. If a drug like Prozac generates $10 billion in profits over 20 years and generates $4 billion in lawsuits (with confidentiality agreements), the $6 billion net profit makes it worthwhile.

The problem is not that the pharmaceutical industry harms and kills patients millions of patients for profit, but that there are no competent investigative agencies or politicians who aren’t paid to ignore the mayhem.

In this related story, pharmaceutical lobbyists have successfully pressured White House officials to stand by their behind-the-scenes deal to block Congressional efforts to extract more than their agreed-upon $80 billion.