Cost of biotech drugs rises

The cost of biotech drugs is rising faster than inflationPeople who rely on a number of specialty biotech drugs to treat their health conditions saw prices rise by 8.7 percent last year, an AARP investigation found.

The cost of these medications, which are often used by the elderly to treat diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, rose at three times the rate of inflation, the advocacy group claimed.

It looked at 144 brand-name and generic drugs that are commonly used by people enrolled in Medicare.

John Rother, AARP executive vice president of policy and strategy, said that specialty drug makers "continue to raise the costs of drugs that have already been developed and tested," which increases the amount paid by patients as well as employers who sponsor health plans.

"Even the most miraculous drug is useless if people can’t afford to take it," he added.

The report also revealed that the price of more than 100 specialty medications jumped by 42.9 percent between 2003 and 2007, while inflation increased by 14.1 percent during that period.

The news comes after a report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust discovered that U.S. health insurance premiums rose by an average of 5 percent in the past year.
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Could taxpayers benefit from the bailout?

A bailout could help rescue the housing marketThe government’s $700 billion bailout of troubled financial institutions may actually end up benefiting taxpayers in the long run, analysis by Barron’s has claimed.

According to the business newspaper’s Monday edition, the Treasury Department is likely to actually turn a profit as a result of the bailout in the coming years, which – if it comes to pass – would also be good news for taxpayers.

The article suggests that the mortgages and mortgage securities involved in the deal "aren’t as toxic or widespread as commonly assumed."

By purchasing these mortgages, the Treasury will provide a boost to credit markets and improve the prices of securities supported by home loans, Barron’s says. This could help prevent further decline in the real estate market.

Commenting on the potential effects of the government’s actions, Jeffrey Gundlach, chief investment officer of TCW, told the news source that "there’s a good chance that the bailout plan will be a win-win for both the taxpayer and the financial system."

However, not everyone is convinced that government intervention is a good idea. Reuters reported that one venture capitalist, Bill Perkins, bought a full-page advertisement in the New York Times last Tuesday to protest the action.

He told the news provider that the U.S. has become "a socialist-communist country in the form of trickle-down communism."
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Investors turn to gold to protect wealth

As stocks drop, investors turn to goldThe current economic turmoil on Wall Street makes it more difficult than ever to know where to store your precious cash.

Now, it seems that many investors have been turning toward gold as a safe haven for their wealth.

Paul Walker, chief executive officer of research firm GFMS, told Bloomberg that investment in the metal could rise to a record high during the next six months.

"The physical market is extremely strong," he said. "Investment demand is driving prices higher. What we have seen over the past couple of weeks is a flight to quality."

Following the rejection of the government’s proposed $700 billion bailout by the House of Representatives, the demand could grow even higher.

Gold futures increased on Monday following indications that the bailout plan would fail, according to MarketWatch.

Meanwhile, the stock market dropped sharply on the same news. Bloomberg reports that Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell by the highest amount since 1987, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its steepest tumble since September 12, 2001.

The news agency estimates that U.S. equities lost nearly $1 trillion of value on Monday.
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Is your hospital storing radioactive material?

Your hospital may have radioactive waste on the premisesHospitals in dozens of states across the country could be storing low-level radioactive material on their premises because there is no disposal alternative, according to a report in the Associated Press.

In July, a South Carolina law put an end to a practice in which nuclear waste from hospitals and research installations throughout the U.S. could ship their radioactive waste to a landfill in the state.

This was one of the main ways that hospitals disposed of this waste. It was sealed in concrete drums, placed in specially designed trenches and buried under six feet of soil.

As a result, these materials – which include capsules of radioactive cesium isotopes, cobalt-60 pellets and powdered cesium – are now often stored at the hospitals themselves until they lose their radioactivity, the AP explains.

"Instead of safely secured in one place, it’s stored in thousands of places in urban locations all over the United States," Rick Jacobi, a nuclear waste consultant, told the news source.

The government says that it is monitoring this waste and many facilities use safety precautions such as alarm-fitted doors and warning signs to keep materials contained.

However, concerns remain about the lack of a long-term alternative plan for disposing of these low-level radioactive items.
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Congress warned about cell phone health risks

Experts raise concerns about health risks of cell phonesHealth risks connected with cell phone use have not adequately been explored, an expert has warned a congressional subcommittee.

David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, expressed concerns about the effects of long-term exposure to mobile phone radiation, particularly on children.

He also drew links between the current uncertainties surrounding cell phones’ link to brain cancer and those seen several decades ago in regard to cigarettes’ link to lung cancer.

Fellow scientist Ronal Herberman of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute displayed a model of a child’s brain to demonstrate how radiation may penetrate more deeply for younger users.

"Every child is using cell phones all of the time, and there are three billion cell phone users in the world," he commented.

The pair also cited various studies that have drawn connections between cell phones and cancers, including Swedish research that linked frequent use with benign tumors on the ear’s auditory nerves.

Some 89 percent of U.S. adults say they own a wireless or cell phone, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive earlier this year.
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ISPs say they are not invading customers’ privacy

ISPs promise to protect your privacyAmerica’s largest internet service providers have told the Senate Commerce Committee that they do not engage in behavior that infringes on customers’ privacy.

Executives for Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable and AT&T testified before the committee, claiming that they do not track users’ online habits and sell the information to advertisers.

They also proposed that a "self-regulatory approach" should be adopted in regard to customer privacy, in which people would be asked to give permission before their surfing could be monitored for targeted advertising.

Not everyone is sure if this plan would be successful. Gigi Sohn, president of advocacy group Public Knowledge, told lawmakers that "gaps in the law have allowed the privacy of some internet users to fall between the cracks."

Meanwhile, a recent poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center revealed that online privacy is a major concern for many Americans, with 72 percent of respondents saying that they are uneasy about the potential for companies to track their internet behavior.

Also, 93 percent think that organizations should always ask permission before using their information.
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Bob on the Economic Bailout

Actually the government doesn’t bail anybody out. They simply create credit and make it available to those on the inside. Unknown completely to the American people, every "bailout" cost every dollar holder because it dilutes their dollars and the result is reduced purchasing power. They steal trillions of dollars this way and they will finally reduce the middle class in the US to poverty.

There is plenty of precedent and history. It happened in Germany in 1923 and ruined most of the German people. Only those who bought gold and foreign currencies preserved their savings.

— Bob

Gold Confiscation

I believe that the government could try to confiscate gold at any time. They can make up a reason and the people will believe what they are told. I think that the ETFS were set up to confiscate. This is the perfect scheme for a huge catch of gold for the government to take all at once. Its too tempting when things get really bad with paper money.

Remember, there is a vast difference in the thinking of the people who own gold and the people who don’t. The people who own gold don’t trust the system as others do. They are not likely to give up their gold so easy as they did NOT in 1933. So the goverment mostly got the gold held in the banks in safety deposit boxes.

For survival, everyone needs some silver coins dated thru 1964 which are still legal tender and will have great exchange value in the collapse of paper money. This is everyday money to buy food and small items of necessity.

Health insurance getting more expensive

Insurance costs are risingAmericans are paying more out of their own pockets for health insurance than ever before, according to new statistics.

A survey by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust found that the cost of health insurance premiums in the U.S. increased by an average of 5 percent during the past year, with employees paying $3,354 of that premium, on average.

Premiums have more than doubled in cost since 1999, the study reveals, while the average salary has only increased by 34 percent.

Employees have also been landed with higher deductibles, particularly those who work for smaller firms with fewer than 200 workers.

A total of 18 percent of employees at companies of all sizes faced a deductible of $1,000 or more, a rise from 12 percent in 2007.

"Health insurance is steadily becoming less comprehensive, and it’s no wonder that in today’s tough economic climate many families count health care costs as one of their top pocketbook issues," commented Kaiser CEO Drew Altman.

U.S. expenditures on healthcare totaled nearly $1.9 trillion in 2004, according to the KFF, citing the most recent statistics available.
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Air quality regulations ‘overlook dangerous pollutants’

Particle pollutants are not being regulatedLarge quantities of fine, organic particle pollutants are not being addressed by current air quality regulations, scientists suggest.

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that although a large amount of effort has focused on combating pollutants directly emitted by vehicles and industrial processes, the lesser-studied volatile organic compounds (VOC) are being overlooked.

VOCs – vapors from gasoline, paints, varnishes, cleaning supplies and automotive products – are oxidized and condense into existing air particles. These fine particles have a diameter that is equal to less than one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

Lead author Ken Docherty of the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences explained that the study indicates these particles "contribute more significantly to poor air quality, even in very polluted urban regions."

The report, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, also suggests that more research is needed to explore how exposure to these particles may affect people’s health.

Previous research has demonstrated that pollution from vehicles, factories and power plants can cause asthma attacks. According to the National Resources Defense Council, around 30 percent of childhood asthma is a result of environmental factors.
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