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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Concerns raised about RFID and privacy

RFID technology raises privacy concernsThe growth of radio frequency identification (RFID) and related technologies raises questions about how to protect people’s privacy, according to participants at a Federal Trade Commission workshop.

Government officials, industry representatives and consumer advocates met earlier this week to discuss concerns about security, CNET reports.

Some industry representatives argued that regulations relating to these concerns could interfere with the technology’s development, while consumer groups cautioned that privacy standards should be set sooner rather than later.

"Our discomfort stems from the fact that strong security is not always built into the (RFID technology) to begin with," Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America, was quoted as saying. "Very often, it’s an afterthought."

The U.S. Department of State already issues passports that are equipped with a 64-kilobyte RFID chip containing the traveler’s name, nationality, gender, birth date and place, and photograph.

Some states have passed legislation addressing privacy concerns connected to RFID. Washington and California both have laws that limit how RFID may be used.
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Ron Paul: Big government got us into this mess

Paul says the government meddles too much in the economyRepresentative Ron Paul of Texas has placed the blame for the current economic downturn squarely on missteps taken by U.S. government.

In an exclusive column for CNN, Paul describes how government intervention in the market has resulted in artificially inflated prices that do not match consumer demand.

He criticizes the government support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as the Federal Reserve’s "loose monetary policy" that allowed it to manipulate interest rates, as factors that have resulted in the housing bust and subprime mortgage crisis.

Furthermore, Paul suggests that the recent bailouts and proposed $700 billion rescue scheme will only exacerbate the situation by further distorting the market and encouraging banks’ risky behavior.

"Using trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to purchase illusory short-term security, the government is actually ensuring greater instability in the financial system in the long term," he writes.

Paul, who serves on the House Committee for Financial Services, is not the only politician who has criticized government bailouts recently. In a speech, Senator John McCain said the Federal Reserve should "get back to its core business of managing our money supply and inflation."
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Warning about hospital blood thinner errors

Hospitals have made thousands of errors with blood thinnersHospitals made nearly 60,000 errors involving blood thinners over a five-year period, according to a new safety alert from a regulatory group.

The figures, cited by the Joint Commission, come from a database operated by drug standard-setting group U.S. Pharmacopeia.

Responding to these findings, as well as statistics reporting 28 patient deaths between January 1997 and December 2007, the Joint Commission is urging hospitals to enforce stricter guidelines for the use of anticoagulants (blood thinners).

Patients who are given anticoagulants such as Heparin or Warfarin should be monitored for drug and food interactions, the group says.

It also raises concerns that confusion of labeling and packaging of blood thinners can result in widespread confusion among hospital staff and "devastating errors."

"The systems necessary to ensure that these drugs are used safely are not adequate," commented Dr. Mark R. Chassin, president of the Joint Commission.

In July, CBS News reported on a case in which 14 premature babies at Christus Spohn Hospital South in Corpus Christi were given overdoses of Heparin.
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Govt’s copying of travelers’ information called unconstitutional

Does copying data infringe on civil liberty?Most people who travel with personal and business information stored on their laptops, cell phones and notebooks expect that data to remain private.

However, a report in the Washington Post claims that the U.S. government has been "quietly" introducing changes that affect traveler’s civil liberties, such as allowing federal agents to copy and keep this information at will.

This summer, the Department of Homeland Security said that federal agents were allowed to copy a traveler’s documents, books, and electronic data regardless of whether they had probable cause to suspect a law was being broken.

Some groups, including the Asian Law Caucus, have protested this policy, claiming that it violates First Amendment rights.

It points out that between 1986 and July 2008, the government’s policy stated that agents needed probable cause before they could copy materials.

Responding to this criticism, DHS spokesperson Amy Kudwa told the news provider that the changes reflect "the realities of the post-9/11 environment."

Her comments come after it emerged that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the National Security Agency and members of the Bush administration for what it describes as illegal surveillance.
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Retirees’ wealth hit by stock market turmoil

Retirees struggle to protect their wealthPlanning for retirement is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your wealth, but what if you watched your careful plans crumble due to stock market turmoil?

That is precisely the situation that is currently being faced by millions of retirees, according to a report in the New York Times.

It describes how many older people are experiencing increasing financial uncertainty, with a combination of stock market drops, high fuel costs and decreasing property values behind the pain.

"If you’re 45 and the market goes down, it bothers you, but it comes back," Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, told the publication. "But if you’re retired or about to retire, you might have to sell your assets before they have a chance to recover."

People with assets may be among those most affected by current economic conditions, due to the recent disintegration of the U.S. housing market.

Findings from the AARP reveal that more retirement-age Americans have been consigning themselves to working longer, as well as reducing the amount they contribute to their nest egg in order to pay bills.
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Health concerns over rocket fuel in drinking water

Is rocket fuel in your water?It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but a toxic ingredient found in rocket fuel is also present in some Americans’ drinking water – and the Environmental Protection Agency said it will not take action to get rid of it.

A report reviewed by the Associated Press reveals that perchlorate has been identified in as many as 395 sites across 35 states.

The majority of perchlorate contamination stems from years of defense testing of missiles and rockets, according to congressional investigators.

However, when the EPA was faced with these facts, it decided that cleaning up the water supply would not lead to a "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems," the AP reports.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has denied that it has influenced the EPA’s decision, claiming that its conclusions are "based on criteria in the Safe Drinking Water Act."

Recently, a separate AP investigation revealed that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are present in the drinking water of millions of people across the U.S.
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Dollar plummets on bailout worries

Uncertainty is affecting the stock marketInvestors concerned about their wealth were not given much reason to feel optimistic on Monday, as the dollar experienced record losses against the euro.

As of 4:22 p.m. EST, the dollar had fallen 2.33 percent to $1.4802 per euro, according to Fox Business. The day’s losses were the worst seen since the euro was introduced nine years ago.

Some analysts were quick to place the blame on the Fed’s $700 billion bailout plan, which would take bad debts off the balance sheets of banks.

"It’s an indictment of what Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson are trying to pull off," equity strategist Peter Boockvar told the news source.

"People are realizing that the government’s plan is not necessarily going to be the answer," he added.

Meanwhile, investors seeking a more reliable way of growing their wealth turned to gold. Prices of the commodity increased by more than $44 per ounce, according to CNNMoney.com.

In addition to fears about government bailouts, speculation about whether or not the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates also resulted in a weakened dollar.
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GAO: More should be done to protect patient privacy

Hospitals could be putting patient details at riskToday’s medical facilities say they are committed to implementing the most hi-tech patient data systems available, but do they really know how to protect your personal information?

The lack of an adequate system to safeguard Americans’ electronic medical records could be putting their privacy at risk, a new report from the Government Accountability Office claims.

It explained that although the Department of Health and Human Services had taken actions to identify data security milestones and outcomes, it has still fallen short of ensuring the security of people’s details.

The GAO’s report determined that the HHS had "fallen short" of meeting its security recommendations and may have difficulty winning the trust of the public as a result.

It is not the first time that the office has raised concerns about the U.S. cabinet department’s systems for guarding Americans’ privacy.

For example, a 2006 GAO report found evidence of several data breaches related to Medicare and Medicaid records. More than 40 percent of contractors and state agencies reported a breach during the previous two years.
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Hospital waste raises health concerns

Are pharmaceuticals in your drinking water?Millions of Americans are consuming minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals that are flushed down the drain each year by hospitals, an Associated Press investigation reveals.

The journalists raise concerns that our drinking water is increasingly being contaminated by chemicals that – even in trace amounts – have been shown to cause health problems in animals and in human cells.

Wastewater tests carried out in various European countries and within the U.S. have revealed quantities of hormones, antibiotics, pain relievers and other medicines, the AP states.

And some tests have linked drugs in the water supply to gene mutations that could potentially lead to cancer. For example, a Swiss study found that one antibiotic could disfigure bacterial DNA, though the significance of this discovery for human health is still unclear.

Pharmacist Boris Jolibois, who has participated in research on the issue, told the AP that hospitals should take action as soon as possible regarding their waste disposal.

"Something should be done now. It’s just common sense," he remarked.

Drug disposal in landfills or in incinerators are two options that are raised by the AP, though there are arguments against each of these methods as well.

The Water Quality Association suggests that home filtering systems could help consumers remove some of these contaminants from their drinking water.
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Quick Health Tip: Drink More Water!

75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. In 35 percent of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger. Most of the time when we are eating, we should be drinking water—even more so as we get older.

Even mild dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 3 percent. One glass of water shuts down hunger pains.

Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue. Research indicates that 8 to 10 glasses of water a day can significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80 percent of sufferers.

8 to 10 glasses of water a day will reduce the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer.