Propaganda in Health News: An Epidemic of Fake Health Stories

A feature article in the March/April 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review discusses and labels as an epidemic the pervasive role hospitals play in producing “feel good” stories that are essentially advertisements for themselves and feeding the stories to television stations that run the stories as purported health news on their local TV news programs.

The stories chosen tend to promote expensive specialties and procedures like bariatric surgery for obesity and gamma knife surgery for brain cancer at the expense of stories about less profitable diagnoses, like AIDS or pneumonia, care for the uninsured, or critical stories such as … Read the rest

Possible Medical Malpractice LASIK Cases? FDA Advisers Recommend Clearer Warnings of Risks and Contraindications For Would-Be Patients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Ophthalmic Devices Panel convened last Friday to discuss post-LASIK surgery (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) quality-of-life issues. Of the 7.6 million people who have undergone the procedure in the United States since the mid-1990s, 140 have written letters of complaint to the FDA.

Approximately one in four people who seeks Lasik is not a good candidate. Perhaps 1 percent or fewer, suffer serious, life-changing side effects: worse vision, severe dry eye, glare, inability to drive at night. One young man committed suicide because of severe eye pain and fuzzy vision. Some patients have had to … Read the rest

Medicare Proposes Adding to Its List of Hospital-Acquired Conditions For Which It Will Not Pay the Extra Costs

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing to add an additional nine categories to its initial list of 8 preventable conditions that could reasonably have been avoided. that Medicare will no longer pay the extra costs of treating when acquired in the hospital.

In a statement dated April 14, 2008, CMS proposed to add the following to its list of preventable conditions that it will not pay for: Surgical site infections following certain elective procedures: Legionnaire’s disease; Extreme blood sugar derangement; Iatrogenic pneumothorax or collapsed lungs; Delirium; Ventilator-associated pneumonia; Deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism; Staphylococcus aureus … Read the rest

First Nationwide Hospital-By-Hospital Survey Of Patient Satisfaction Released: Results Not Flattering for Long Island Hospitals

For the first time, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has posted consumer survey information on its Hospital Compare Web site (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov) that attempts to capture the experiences of a patients in a hospital. It is a unique attempt by the government to evaluate hospital care from the perspective of the patient.

Unfortunately for Long Islanders, on average, Long Island hospitals scored lower in patient satisfaction in eight out of 10 measures compared with other hospitals statewide or nationally. The Island’s largest health system, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, did not fare well on the survey. Long … Read the rest

Doctors Successfully Repel Aetnas Unwarranted Intrusion Into How They Perform Colonoscopies

After coming under attack from doctors, Aetna has withdrawn its intention, announced late last year, that in New Jersey, effective April 1, 2008, it would drop its coverage of propofol, the anesthesia typically used during colonoscopies, calling the same medically unnecessary. In reality, it is not the propofol that Aetna minds paying for; what Aetna wants to cut-out is the $300 to $1,000 cost that Aetna pays for an anesthesiologist to be present at a colonoscopy.

Propofol, also known by the trade name Diprivan, is more powerful than other sedatives traditionally used to help patients endure the discomfort of a … Read the rest

17 More Deaths and More Recalls Associated with Heparin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the number of deaths possibly associated with the drug heparin, made from pig intestines, had risen to 21 from 4. The reported number of those suffering adverse reactions increased from approximately 350 to 455. Both increases have been reported within just a 2 week time period. But the F.D.A. cautioned that many of those patients were already seriously ill and that the drug might not have caused their deaths.

Officials described the linkage of heparin to the additional 17 deaths as more tenuous than the 4 initially reported. Federal drug regulators said … Read the rest

Study of Artificial Spinal Disk “Prodisc” – Guided by Physicians’ Finances or Concern for Patients?

When patients are considering treatment options, there is often”blind faith” in the doctor’s recommendations, as he is viewed as a concerned, educated and neutral provider. Perhaps, this view is nave. In reality, doctors are often financially motivated in the varying courses of treatment offered. Instead of acting as neutral gatekeepers of potentially harmful drugs and procedures and “neutral scientists “investigating a procedure’s safety, at times they are in actuality financially motivated advocates for the same.

For instance, Dr. Joseph E. Zigler, a well known spine specialist, and an advocate of Prodisc, an artificial spinal disk for the lower back, has … Read the rest

Report Reveals Dramatic Increase in Medication Errors Involving Drugs with Names that Look or Sound Alike

The 8th annual national MEDMARX(R) Data Report released last month by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) revealed that more than 1,400 commonly used drugs are involved in errors linked to drug names that look alike or sound alike. USP’s review revealed a near doubling since 2004 of the pairs of drug names that look or sound alike, from 1,750 pairs to 3,170 pairs.

According to findings in the MEDMARX report, 1.4% of the errors resulted in patient harm, including seven errors that may have caused or contributed to patient deaths. Medication errors are often the basis of medical malpractice cases.… Read the rest

Suspension of Heparin Sales More than a Matter of Products Liability; Described as “a National Security Issue.”

Since Baxter International announced recently that it was suspending sales of its multidose vials of heparin after four patients died and 350 suffered complications including allergic reactions, many of them serious and potentially life-threatening, significant concerns have arisen as to the effectiveness of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of imported drugs. Baxter bought the active ingredient for heparin, which is derived from an enzyme in pig intestines, from Scientific Protein Laboratories, which produces heparin’s active ingredient in its factory in Changzhou, China.

Scientific Protein moved production to China three years ago because the country is the world’s largest … Read the rest

FDA Warns Public of Contaminated Syringes Manufactured by AM2 PAT, Inc. Containing Heparin and Saline Pre-filled Flush Syringes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on January 25, 2008, a nationwide recall of all lots of heparin and saline pre-filled flush syringes manufactured by AM2 PAT, Inc., of Angier, N.C. Two lots have been found to be contaminated with Serratia marcescens, a bacterium that can cause serious injury or death, and have in fact caused blood infections in patients. These syringes are manufactured by AM2 PAT under the brand names Sierra Pre-filled, Inc. and B. Braun. They are sold in fill sizes of 3mL, 5mL and 10mL and syringe sizes of 6mL and 12mL.

Consumers and health … Read the rest