Health Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Health Media Articles in Major Media
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Allergan Inc., the maker of wrinkle-smoothing Botox, has agreed to pay $600 million to settle a yearslong federal investigation into its marketing of the top-selling, botulin-based drug. The Justice Department and the company said Wednesday in a statement it will plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of "misbranding," in which the company's marketing led physicians to use Botox for unapproved uses. Those included the treatment of headache, pain, spasticity and cerebral palsy in children. Companies are prohibited from promoting drugs for unapproved, or "off-label," uses. Allergan said it will pay $375 million in connection with the plea, which includes the forfeiture of $25 million in assets. Additionally, the company will pay $225 million in civil fines — $210 million to the federal governments and the rest to several states — related to the investigation, although the company denies liability for the civil claims. Allergan "paid kickbacks to induce [physicians] to inject Botox for off-label uses and Allergan also taught doctors how to bill for off-label uses, including coaching doctors how to miscode Botox claims leading to millions of dollars of false claims being to submitted to federal and state programs," Assistant Attorney General Tony West said.
Note: $600 million is nothing to sneeze at, yet this kind of find is becoming almost commonplace in the pharmaceutical industry. Could it be that industry chieftains are more interested in profit that public health? For more powerful information along these lines, see our two-page health summary.
While the world was focused on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP refinery [in Texas City, Texas] released huge amounts of toxic chemicals into the air that went unnoticed by residents until many saw their children come down with respiratory problems. For 40 days after a piece of equipment critical to the refinery’s operation broke down, a total of 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene, poured out of the refinery. Rather than taking the costly step of shutting down the refinery to make repairs, the engineers at the plant diverted gases to a smokestack and tried to burn them off, but hundreds of thousands of pounds still escaped into the air, according to state environmental officials. Neither the state nor the oil company informed neighbors or local officials about the pollutants until two weeks after the release ended, and angry residents of Texas City have signed up in droves to join a $10 billion class-action lawsuit against BP. The state attorney general, Greg Abbott, has also sued the company, seeking fines of about $600,000. Scores of Texas City residents said they experienced respiratory problems this spring, and environmentalists said the release of toxic gases ranked as one of the largest in the state’s history. Neil Carman of the Lone Star Sierra Club said the release was probably even larger than BP had acknowledged.
The mother of a Cheshire teenager who was left severely brain damaged by the MMR vaccine has won a compensation award from the government. Robert Fletcher, 18, from Warrington, suffered a fit 10 days after he had the vaccination when he was 13 months old. His mother Jackie received the Ł90,000 payout from a medical assessment panel last week. The family successfully appealed after their application for compensation was originally turned down in 1997. Robert has frequent epileptic fits, is unable to talk, stand unaided or feed himself, but is not autistic. Mrs Fletcher always believed that her son's epilepsy was triggered by the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Dr Andrew Wakefield was the lead author of the controversial study, published in The Lancet in 1998, which suggested there may be a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease. His comments and the subsequent media furore led to a sharp drop in the number of children vaccinated against these diseases. The study has since been discredited and The Lancet has said it should not have run it. Mrs Fletcher has campaigned for justice for her son for the past 16 years. She said: "I feel vindicated by it because over the years I've been labelled anti-vaccine and a scaremonger and all sorts of things, when all I've been trying to do is highlight what's happened to my son, to help safeguard other parents' children."
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the dangers to children from vaccines, click here.
A recall of a half-billion eggs from two mega-farms in Iowa is stoking a fierce controversy over whether factory farming is inherently unsafe - and a battle in California over a 2008 voter initiative banning the standard industry practice of packing hens so tightly in battery cages that they cannot spread their wings. Voters passed Proposition 2 overwhelmingly in 2008 after animal welfare activists released horrific undercover videos of strangled, deformed and mummified hens in battery cages. Animal welfare activists are linking battery cages to the Iowa salmonella outbreak, saying they are not just cruel to animals but a threat to food safety." Proposition 2 requires cage-free treatment of laying hens, and the evidence is very clear that caging laying hens increases the risk of salmonella," said Paul Shapiro, head of the Humane Society of the United States' Factory Farming Campaign. Animal rights activists and egg farmers, usually arch enemies, came together behind a law signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger last month that will ban all eggs coming from outside the state that fail to comply with the battery-cage ban. The new law could save the state's egg farmers and spread Prop. 2 nationally.
Note: To read the Humane Society's report on the negative impacts of factory farming, click here.
U.S. Army specialist Ethan McCord was one of the first on the scene when a group of suspected insurgents was blown up on a Baghdad street in 2007, hit by 30-mm bursts from an Apache helicopter. "The top of one guy's head was completely off," he recalls. "Another guy was ripped open from groin to neck. A third had lost a leg ... Their insides were out and exposed. I'd never seen anything like this before." Then McCord heard a child crying from a black minivan caught in the barrage. Inside, he found a frightened and wounded girl, perhaps 4. Next to her was a boy of 7 or so, soaked in blood. Their father, McCord says, "was slumped over on his side, like he was trying to protect the children, but he was just destroyed." McCord couldn't look away from the kids. "I started seeing images of my own two children back home in Kansas." McCord Pulled the two kids out of the minivan--the boy was still alive--and helped get them to a hospital. The Apache gunship killed a dozen men, including a pair working for the Reuters news agency; the episode became a video sensation after WikiLeaks released footage of it in April. Back at his base, McCord washed the children's blood off his uniform and body armor. That night, he told his staff sergeant he needed help. "Get the sand out of your vagina," McCord says his sergeant responded. "He told me I was being a homo and needed to suck it up." McCord says he never spoke to anyone about it after that because he didn't want to get in trouble and instead did what soldiers have done forever. "I decided to try to push it down and bottle it up," he says.
A growing body of evidence is suggesting that exposure to organophosphate pesticides is a prime cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. The findings are considered plausible to many experts because the pesticides are designed to attack the nervous systems of insects. It is not surprising, then, that they should also impinge on the nervous systems of humans who are exposed to them. Forty organophosphate pesticides are registered in the United States, with at least 73 million pounds used each year in agricultural and residential settings. ADHD is thought to affect 3% to 7% of American children, with boys affected more heavily than girls. The newest study, reported [on August 19] in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, examines the effects of both prenatal and childhood exposure to the pesticides. Epidemiologist Brenda Eskenazi of UC Berkeley and her colleagues have been studying more than 300 Mexican American children living in the heavily agricultural Salinas Valley. After correcting the data to account for lead exposure and other confounders, they found that each tenfold increase in pesticide levels in the mothers' urine was associated with a fivefold increase in attention problems as measured by the assays.
Note: For important reports on health from reliable sources, click here.
Our diet is indeed killing us, and it's killing the planet too. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta released a study revealing that nearly 27% of Americans are now considered obese (that is, more than 20% above their ideal weight), and in nine states, the obesity rate tops 30%. We eat way too much meat — up to 220 lb. per year for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — and only 14% of us consume our recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Our processed food is dense with salt and swimming in high-fructose corn syrup, two flavors we can't resist. Currently, enough food is manufactured in the U.S. for every American to consume 3,800 calories per day — we need only 2,350 in a healthy diet. Keeping the food flowing — and the prices low enough for people to continue buying it — requires a lot of industrial-engineering tricks, and those have knock-on effects of their own. Up to 10 million tons of chemical fertilizer per year are poured onto fields to cultivate corn alone, for example, which has increased yields 23% from 1990 to 2009 but has led to toxic runoffs that are poisoning the beleaguered Gulf of Mexico.
Recalls of prescription and over the counter drugs are surging, raising questions about the quality of drug manufacturing in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration reported more than 1,742 recalls last year, skyrocketing from 426 in 2008, according to the Gold Sheet, a trade publication on drug quality that analyzes FDA data. One company, drug repackager Advantage Dose, accounted for more than 1,000 of those recalls. Even excluding Advantage Dose, which has shut down, recalls jumped 50% last year. "We've seen a trend where the last four years are among the top five for the most number of drug recalls since we began tallying recalls in 1988," said Bowman Cox, managing editor of the Gold Sheet. "That's a meaningful development." The fast pace of drug recalls seems to be continuing in 2010. Drug recalls totaled 296 from January through June of this year, said Cox. "If we continue at this same rate, we could get 600 or more recalls by the end of the year," he said. "That's still a very high rate of recalls." High-profile recalls of Tylenol and other products by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, have drawn attention to quality concerns in manufacturing. The spike in recalls, especially of generic and over-the-counter drugs, is being driven by manufacturing lapses, experts say. Some of the biggest culprits: the quality of raw materials, faulty labeling and packaging and contamination.
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from major media sources, click here.
The White House was accused today of spinning a government scientific report into the amount of oil left in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP [blowout] which had officials declaring that the vast majority of the oil had been removed. Environmental groups and scientists – including those working with government agencies – said White House officials had painted far too optimistic a picture of a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency [NOAA] into the fate of the oil. "Recent reports seem to say that about 75% of the oil is taken care of and that is just not true," said John Kessler, of Texas A&M University, who led a National Science Foundation on-site study of the spill. "The fact is that 50% to 75% of the material that came out of the well is still in the water. It's just in a dissolved or dispersed form." Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska marine biologist, suggested that the White House had been too eager to try to put the oil spill behind it, with Democrats in Congress facing tough election fights in November. "It seems that there was a rush to declare this done, and there were obvious political objectives there," he said. "Even if there is not a drop of oil out there, and it had truly magically vanished, it would still be an environmental disaster caused by the toxic shock of the release of 5m barrels of oil."
Note: For lots more from major media sources on government corruption, click here.
The Obama administration is facing internal dissent from its scientists for approving the use of huge quantities of chemical dispersants to tackle the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Guardian has learned. Jeff Ruch, the exective director of the whistleblower support group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said he had heard from five [EPA] scientists and two other officials who had expressed concerns to their superiors about the use of dispersants. "There was one toxicologist who was very concerned about the underwater application particularly," he said. "The concern was the agency appeared to be flying blind and not consulting its own specialists and even the literature that was available." Veterans of the Exxon Valdez spill questioned the wisdom of trying to break up the oil in the deep water at the same time as trying to skim it on the surface. Other EPA experts raised alarm about the effect of dispersants on seafood. Ruch said EPA experts were being excluded from decision-making on the spill. "Other than a few people in the united command, there is no involvement from the rest of the agency," he said. EPA scientists would not go public for fear of retaliation, he added.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on government corruption, click here.
This summer, when Kellogg recalled 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Honey Smacks, the company blamed elevated levels of a chemical in the packaging. Dozens of consumers reported a strange taste and odor, and some complained of nausea and diarrhea. Federal regulators, who are charged with ensuring the safety of food and consumer products, are in the dark about the suspected chemical, 2-methylnaphthalene. The [FDA and EPA have] no scientific data on its impact on human health. The cereal recall hints at a larger issue: huge gaps in the government's knowledge about chemicals in everyday consumer products, from furniture to clothing to children's products. Under current laws, the government has little or no information about the health risks posed by most of the 80,000 chemicals on the U.S. market today. The information gap is hardly new. When the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976, it exempted from regulation about 62,000 chemicals that were in commercial use -- including 2-methylnaphthalene. In addition, chemicals developed since the law's passage do not have to be tested for safety. Instead, companies are asked to volunteer information on the health effects of their compounds.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on government corruption, click here.
Hospital doctors who quit their jobs are being routinely forced to sign "gagging orders" despite legislation designed to protect NHS [National Health Service] whistleblowers. Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being spent on contracts that deter doctors from speaking out about incompetence and mistakes in patient care. Nearly 90 per cent of severance agreements hammered out between NHS trusts and departing doctors contain confidentiality clauses. The widespread use of "gagging orders" against senior NHS staff who could raise patient safety concerns will intensify the doubts over the protection given to whistleblowers. Campaign groups claim that NHS managers sometimes resort to intimidatory tactics to deter medics from coming forward, while others that break cover can face years of expense and uncertainty before their cases reach court. The result, they say, is that doctors accept the gagging clauses in order to protect their careers and avoid legal wrangling. Mike Parker, of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "The trusts find something upon which they can influence this individual and hold them virtually to ransom, and say: 'You speak up and this will happen.' It's effectively a form of bullying, if you like, but we do hear about this sort of thing happening."
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government corruption, click here.
We may be on the path to a new technology in which quite literally, we will be growing new body parts. It's called "regenerative medicine," where cells in the human body are manipulated into regrowing tissue. Researchers have so far created beating hearts, ears and bladders. Biotech companies and the Pentagon have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in research that could profoundly change millions of lives. Dr. Anthony Atala runs the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina. You name the body part, chances are Dr. Atala is trying to grow one. "The possibilities really are endless," he said. Atala says every organ in our body contains special stem cells that are unique to each body part. The key to regeneration, he says, is to isolate and then multiply those cells until there are enough to cover a mold of that particular body part. In Pittsburgh, researchers are taking a different approach: at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine they are trying to trick the body into actually repairing and regenerating itself. Dr. Steven Badylak, the institute's deputy director, [is] convinced that the key to regeneration is finding the switch in our bodies that tells our cells to grow when we are still in the womb. Badylak said. "If we could make the body or at least the part of the body that's missing or injured think that it's an early fetus again. That's game set and match."
Note: Robert Becker did amazing, pioneering research in this field over 25 years ago, yet was shunned by conservative academia. For his landmark book The Body Electric, click here.
Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study. Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents. Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait. Dr Chris Busby, ... one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said ... "to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened". US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.
Note: For many reports from major media sources of the horrific impacts of the US wars of aggression in the Middle East and Central Asia, click here.
The head of the American Association of University Professors has accused BP of trying to "buy" the best scientists and academics to help it contest litigation after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. "This is really one huge corporation trying to buy faculty silence in a comprehensive way," said Cary Nelson. BP faces more than 300 lawsuits so far. In a statement, BP says it has hired more than a dozen national and local scientists "with expertise in the resources of the Gulf of Mexico". The BBC has obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It says that scientists cannot publish the research they do for BP or speak about the data for at least three years, or until the government gives the final approval to the company's restoration plan for the whole of the Gulf. And it adds that scientists must take instructions from lawyers offering the contracts and other in-house counsel at BP. What Mr Nelson is concerned about is BP's control over scientific research. "Our ability to evaluate the disaster and write public policy and make decisions about it as a country can be impacted by the silence of the research scientists who are looking at conditions," he said. "It's hugely destructive. I mean at some level, this is really BP versus the people of the United States."
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.
In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda. Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart. But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up, according to documents recently obtained by The New York Times. The company did not post the results on its Web site or submit them to federal drug regulators, as is required in most cases by law. The heart risks from Avandia first became public in May 2007, with a study from a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who used data the company was forced by a lawsuit to post on its own Web site. In the ensuing months, GlaxoSmithKline officials conceded that they had known of the drug’s potential heart attack risks since at least 2005. But the latest documents demonstrate that the company had data hinting at Avandia’s extensive heart problems almost as soon as the drug was introduced in 1999, and sought intensively to keep those risks from becoming public.
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from major media sources, click here.
California retailers who accuse manufacturers of scheming to inflate prices scored a significant legal victory [on July 12] when the state Supreme Court allowed them to sue for triple damages despite their ability to pass higher charges along to customers. The court unanimously reinstated a price-fixing suit by a group of pharmacies that accused major drug companies of conspiring to overcharge purchasers by as much as 400 percent from 2000 to 2004. While denying the allegations, the companies also argued that pharmacists could avoid any damages by raising their own prices. Overturning lower-court rulings that dismissed the suit, the court said a "pass-on" defense - allowing manufacturers to avoid damages for illegal overcharges that could be passed on to consumers - is unavailable in California. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar ... said enforcement of the law is promoted by allowing a retailer or wholesaler who buys directly from the manufacturer to seek damages - tripled under antitrust law - for overcharges caused by price-fixing. If such suits were prohibited, Werdegar said, overcharged retailers would have to choose between absorbing the losses or raising their prices and potentially losing sales. Such a ban might allow manufacturers to fix prices with impunity, Werdegar said, because individual consumers' losses might be too small to make a suit worthwhile.
Note: The ruling in Clayworth vs. Pfizer, S166435, can be viewed at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S166435.PDF.
Researchers have found a drug that can help the brain grow new cells and said their study may lead to ways to improve experimental Alzheimer's drugs. The researchers' work, done on rodents, builds on findings that all mammals, including humans, make brain cells throughout their lives. Most of these die, but this drug helps more of the baby cells survive and grow to become functioning brain cells. "We make new neurons every day in our brain," Andrew Pieper of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview. "What our compound does is allow more of them to survive." The compound is called P7C3 for now, and the researchers have already started tweaking it to make it more effective. They said it seems safe and appears to work even when taken as a pill. The compound is similar to Medivation Inc and Pfizer Inc's experimental Alzheimer's drug, Dimebon, and may provide ways to improve its effects, Pieper and colleagues reported in the journal Cell. Alzheimer's gradually destroys the brain and affects 26 million people globally. Drugs, such as Pfizer's Aricept, improve symptoms only minimally.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
What goes on inside your brain when you exercise? That question has preoccupied a growing number of scientists in recent years, as well as many of us who exercise. Some of the most reverberant recent studies were performed at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. There, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bone-morphogenetic protein or BMP in the brains of laboratory mice. In the brain, BMP has been found to contribute to the control of stem cell divisions. Your brain, you will be pleased to learn, is packed with adult stem cells, which, given the right impetus, divide and differentiate into either additional stem cells or baby neurons. As we age, these stem cells tend to become less responsive. They don’t divide as readily and can slump into a kind of cellular sleep. It’s BMP that acts as the soporific, says Dr. Jack Kessler, the chairman of neurology at Northwestern and senior author of many of the recent studies. But exercise countermands some of the numbing effects of BMP, Dr. Kessler says. In work at his lab, mice given access to running wheels had about 50 percent less BMP-related brain activity within a week. They also showed a notable increase in Noggin, a beautifully named brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist. “If ever exercise enthusiasts wanted a rationale for what they’re doing, this should be it,” Dr. Kessler says. Exercise, he says, through a complex interplay with Noggin and BMP, helps to ensure that neuronal stem cells stay lively and new brain cells are born.
Note: For many excellent reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
Genetic engineers, move over: the latest scheme for creating children to a parent’s specifications requires no DNA tinkering, but merely giving mom a steroid while she’s pregnant, and presto —- no chance that her daughters will be lesbians or (worse?) ‘uppity.’ Or so one might guess from the storm brewing over the prenatal use of that steroid, called dexamethasone. In February, bioethicist Alice Dreger of Northwestern University and two colleagues blew the whistle on the controversial practice of giving pregnant women dexamethasone to keep the female fetuses they are carrying from developing ambiguous genitalia. Dreger and her colleagues pluck numerous brow-raising statements from the writings of pediatric endocrinologist Maria New of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, who has long promoted prenatal dexamethasone. New has indeed argued that prenatal androgens can affect a woman’s sexual orientation, her interest in becoming a mother and housewife, her interest in traditionally masculine careers, and—in childhood—whether she plays with dolls or trucks. A book that Harvard University Press will publish in September, called Brain Storm: Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, argues that studies claiming to find innate, sex-based brain differences are seriously flawed.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.