In what may be seen as more evidence of the American healthcare system’s failures, a newly released study has shown that some senior citizens are forced to forgo prescription medications due to high costs.
The study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare’s Part D – a prescription drug plan which covers only up to $2,250 in related expenses creating the so called ‘doughnut hole’ – were much less likely to use prescription drugs than their peers enrolled in Medicare through their employers.
"Our findings raise concerns about whether people with chronic illnesses who lack doughnut hole coverage are able to effectively manage their conditions," says the study’s lead author Dr Yuting Zhang, assistant professor of health economics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
He adds, "Without needed prescriptions, we could potentially see an increase in hospital and physician costs."
The authors suggest a policy change that would mandate the coverage of generic drugs beyond the $2,250 limit through a modest increase in initial prescription co-pays.
President Obama campaigned on the platform of reforming the healthcare system which has left some 40 million American’s without any health care coverage. The new stimulus package also contains provisions for $19 billion in spending on health IT.
Reacting to a recent slew of news about toxic compounds causing heath problems, a nonprofit organization has appealed to the government for more stringent regulations.
In recent months scientists from Europe and the United States have linked exposure to compounds such as perifluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and agricultural pesticides to infertility in both men and women, and the Environmental Working Group is taking the government to task.
Dr Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist with EWG says that these "alarming findings" reinforce the case for stricter regulation of harmful chemicals.
"Until we reform the nation’s chemical laws, we should expect to discover more and more links between chemical exposures and serious health conditions like infertility, childhood cancer, learning disabilities and asthma," she says.
The EWG is urging Congress to overhaul U.S. policy on man-made toxins by adopting policies that would place the burden on chemical companies to prove that their products are safe before they can sell them.
In recent months, scientists from Mount Sinai School of Medicine suggested that a cluster of a rare blood cancers diagnosed in several counties in northern Pennsylvania may be linked to hazardous waste materials coming from waste-coal power plants and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that works to protect human health and the environment.
Scientists have observed that dry beans have a potential to reduce the risk of mammary cancer.
Scientists at Colorado State University analyzed the impact of the consumption of six different types of beans – small red, great northern, navy, black, dark red and white kidney beans – on the cancer history of laboratory animals in a standard preclinical model for breast cancer.
They found that cancer incidence in the group fed beans fell to 67 percent compared to 95 percent incidence in the control group. The average number of malignant tumors also fell from 3.2 in the control group to 1.4 tumors in the group fed beans.
The study was published in the January-February 2009 issue of the journal Crop Science.
This is yet another example of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle which includes legume consumption. Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are known to be high in antioxidants, which play a crucial role in the body’s defense against cancer-causing free radicals.
Despite government claims that electronic passports take security to a new level, a researcher has proven their protection mechanisms are easy to break.
Chris Paget has demonstrated that it is possible to remotely scan and download information from passports issued with a chip approved by the Department of Homeland Security, according to darkreading.com.
What’s more, he did so using a $250 scanner he had purchased on eBay and a simple antenna installed in his car.
"This is just simply the wrong technology," Paget told the website. "My goal is to inform people about the risks with these things and how much impact it could have on your personal privacy and security if you don’t keep [these IDs] in a protective wallet or if you carry it on your person."
These findings are bound to alarm electronic passport owners, and they provide additional evidence of the government’s lax oversight in the area of privacy protection.
Last month a USA Today report listed several federal agencies which failed to appoint civil liberties protection officers and report to Congress on the efforts to safeguards private citizens’ personal information, including passport and medical data.
A new study sheds light on the role of dietary supplements in the treatment of patients with chronic kidney disease who require dialysis.
Advantages of CKD are often associated with malnutrition which manifests itself through hypoalbuminemia – abnormally low concentration of a protein called albumin in the blood.
The study, published by a group of Californian researchers in the Journal of Renal Nutrition, suggests that hypoalbuminemia is becoming more widespread among CKD patients and is strongly associated with poor prognosis.
Nutrition is key to counteracting this side effect of dialysis, and the researchers suggest that in patients for whom proper diet is not sufficient, oral nutritional supplements (ONS) can provide important benefits.
This study supports previous findings, such as those published in 2006 in the Journal of the American Association of Nephrology which found significant improvements in skeletal muscle protein balance in patients receiving ONS during dialysis.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, another often overlooked factor in managing CKD is physical exercise which has a number of beneficial effects and should be encouraged.
A coalition of human rights groups has written to President Obama to request access to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch want full access to the detainees to review the conditions of confinement and make recommendations for revising U.S. policies.
"The Bush administration’s past policy of secrecy regarding detention conditions at Guantanamo makes it critically important for your administration to open Guantanamo to independent review as part of a new government policy of transparency," states the letter.
It goes on to say that if the new administration allows human rights experts access full access it will "set an example that will help advance human rights worldwide."
Just days after taking office last January, Obama signed an executive order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year and to ban harsh interrogations techniques.
This is not the first attempt by human rights advocates to shed more light on some key decisions taken by the Bush administration.
In January, ACLU has petitioned the Justice Department to release the memos that provided the legal basis for the former administration’s controversial national security policies.
President Obama came to power promising to reform the ailing healthcare system, and proponents of alternative medicine call on his administration to treat their industry on par with traditional medicine.
According to the editorial in the January issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine the reform should take into consideration treatments and therapies that rely on evidence-based methods of prevention, chiropractics, and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Government policies should encourage a shift in health research budgets "away from the longstanding emphasis on single intervention therapeutics and toward multifactorial integrative and whole-systems approaches," writes Dr Daniel Redwood, associate professor at Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City.
He adds, "There is no lack of scientific evidence for these approaches; what is lacking is a deep appreciation of their importance and the will to teach these to the patients who so desperately need them."
Redwood stresses the need to acknowledge that chiropractic services provide essential health benefits, and as such they should be covered by medical insurance and reimbursed.
The stimulus plan’s health IT provisions include new regulations regarding privacy protection, but the debate about their merits is far from over.
Most of the patient privacy advocacy groups have welcomed the provisions as a step in the right direction, although some have pointed out that the proposed legislation does not resolve the issue of patient consent in the use of records.
However, it has emerged that pharmacy chains and health insurance trade associations are unhappy with stronger privacy regulations which they believe put an undue burden on their business model.
According to Government Health IT, the magazine of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) stated that the requirement to inform patient about disclosures of their electronic health records "is likely to have the unintended consequence of discouraging — rather than encouraging — the use of electronic health records."
And the National Association of Chain Drug Stores released a statement saying stronger privacy provisions will negatively impact the industry’s ability "to operate efficiently and freely communicate with patients about legitimate and beneficial treatment options."
The Senate version of the stimulus package passed yesterday and has to be reconciled with the House version before becoming law. It contains provisions for multibillion dollar government investment in infrastructure, healthcare, IT technology, and environment.
As the aftermath of the Bernie Madoff scandal reverberates throughout the economy, an analyst has testified that his warnings over the years were ignored by the government’s securities watchdog agency.
Harry Markopolos appeared before the House Financial Services subcommittee last week to detail the investigative work he and his colleagues launched when they started suspecting that the brokerage firm ran by Madoff was a scam. He talked about threats he received during the time and the fact that his efforts went ignored by the Securities and Exchange Commission for almost a decade.
Incredibly, Markopolos’ investigation relied solely on open source information. "Every bit of information we obtained was in the public domain. We never had any secret insider documents or smoking gun e-mails," he said, as quoted by US News and World Report.
He added, "What troubles us is that dozens of highly knowledgeable men and women also knew that [it] was a fraud and walked away silently, saying nothing and doing nothing."
On Monday, the SEC announced that its top enforcement official, Linda Thomsen, will resign.
Bernie Madoff, former chairman of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, was arrested on December 11 and charged with running a massive Ponzi scheme that wiped out some $50 billion dollars in wealth.
In yet another example of serious oversight, advocacy groups have revealed that the health industry watchdog is failing to act on information about cosmetics containing lead.
Although Campaign for Safe Cosmetics signaled a year ago that 61 percent of lipsticks it had tested contained lead, and despite pressure from politicians and health advocates, FDA has thus far failed to issue a public warning or conduct its own study.
"The typical turnaround time in a laboratory for lead tests is 10 days. There’s no reason for FDA to sit on its lead-in-lipstick research for over a year," says Stacy Malkan of the CSC, a national coalition of health and environmental groups.
The coalition believes that the lead problem stretches beyond lipsticks and cites a recent announcement from the Canadian government that it had found lead in children’s face paint.
Health Canada, the equivalent of FDA, has designated several compounds found in cosmetics as toxic, a step towards their elimination. However, FDA "has no such toxic designation, does not conduct routine safety testing of personal care products, and does not publicly report information in a timely manner," according to the CSC statement.
These latest revelations follow recent criticism leveled at the agency by President Obama after a salmonella outbreak linked to tainted peanut butter killed eight people and sickened hundreds.