Health Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Health Media Articles from Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important health articles reported in the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
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Boston launches flu shot tracking
2008-11-21, Boston Globe
Using technology originally developed for mass disasters, Boston disease trackers are embarking on a novel experiment - one of the first in the country - aimed at eventually creating a citywide registry of everyone who has had a flu vaccination. The resulting vaccination map would allow swift intervention in neighborhoods left vulnerable to the fast-moving respiratory illness. The trial starts this afternoon, when several hundred people are expected to queue up for immunizations at the headquarters of the Boston Public Health Commission. Each of them will get a bracelet printed with a unique identifier code. Information about the vaccine's recipients, and the shot, will be entered into handheld devices similar to those used by delivery truck drivers. Infectious disease specialists in Boston and elsewhere predicted that the registry approach could prove even more useful if something more sinister strikes: a bioterrorism attack or the long-feared arrival of a global flu epidemic. In such crises, the registry could be used to track who received a special vaccine or antidote to a deadly germ. "Anything you can do to better pinpoint who's vaccinated and who's not, that's absolutely vital," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I wish more cities were doing this kind of thing." When people arrive for their shots, they will get an ID bracelet with a barcode. Next, basic information - name, age, gender, address - will be entered into the patient tracking database. There will be electronic records, too, of who gave the vaccine and whether it was injected into the right arm or the left, and time-stamped for that day.
Note: For more on the serious risks and dangers posed by vaccines, click here and here.
State off course on 'personal genomics'
2008-11-02, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
California officials recently ordered two "personal genomics" firms to cease and desist operations within the state. The companies eventually were allowed to continue operations - with a few more regulatory conditions - but why did the state demand that they shut down in the first place? Why would a state that regards itself as progressive and high-tech act to censor what we can know about ourselves? Though regulators may shut down unscrupulous firms, the services offered by Navigenics and 23andMe meet the highest standards of accuracy, validity and reliability. The laboratories employed by both companies are fully licensed and trusted by researchers around the world. These companies give individuals the ability to take a "snapshot" of their DNA. The state objected, determining that doctors are gatekeepers of the human body, and Californians need a prescription to access their genetic blueprint. Doctors have a powerful lobby in Sacramento, and these technologies directly threaten their profits. Personal genomics aims to empower the individual, not line the pockets of an elite medical establishment. This establishment believes that individuals cannot be trusted with their own genetic information. The genome is vast, complicated and poorly understood, the argument goes, and therefore customers could be inundated with raw information of little or no practical use. Forbidding us from looking at our genes because we don't yet understand them, however, is contrary to science, innovation and human nature.
Note: For revealing reports of government corruption from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
BPA Ruling Flawed, Panel Says
2008-10-29, Washington Post
The Food and Drug Administration ignored scientific evidence and used flawed methods when it determined that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and in the lining of cans is not harmful, a scientific advisory panel has found. In a highly critical report ... the panel of scientists from government and academia said the FDA did not take into consideration scores of studies that have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems in animals when it completed a draft risk assessment of the chemical last month. The panel said the FDA didn't use enough infant formula samples and didn't adequately account for variations among the samples. Taking those studies into consideration, the panel concluded, the FDA's margin of safety is "inadequate". The panel is part of the Science Board, a committee of advisers to the FDA commissioner, and was set up to review the FDA's risk assessment of BPA. Many of the studies that the panel said the FDA ignored were reviewed by the National Toxicology Program, which concluded in September that it had "some concern" that BPA can affect brain and behavioral development in infants and small children. Officials at FDA, which regulates the chemical's use in plastic food containers, bottles, tableware and the plastic linings of food cans, accepted some of the criticism in the report. "FDA agrees that due to the uncertainties raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low doses of bisphenol-A that additional research would be valuable," said spokeswoman Judy Leon. The agency has commissioned new research on BPA.
Note: For many important reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
U.S. falls behind other developed countries in infant mortality
2008-10-16, Los Angeles Times
After a century of declines, the U.S. infant mortality rate barely budged between 2000 and 2005, causing the United States to slip further behind other developed countries despite spending more on healthcare, according to a report released Wednesday. The rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, virtually unchanged from 6.89 in 2000. In 1900, the rate was 100 deaths per 1,000 live births. The United States dropped to 29th in the world in infant mortality in 2004, the latest year for which data are available from all countries, tying with Poland and Slovakia. The year before, it was 27th. In 1960, it was 12th. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the leveling off in mortality to a 9% increase in premature births over the same period and to stalled progress in saving the earliest preterm infants. Premature birth and low birth weight are by far the biggest causes of infant death. Infant mortality rates vary by race and ethnicity, from a high of 13.63 per 1,000 births for African American women to a low of 4.42 for Cuban Americans, according to the CDC report. Differences in socioeconomic status and access to medical care did not entirely explain the gap, the report said. Premature births are increasing, possibly tied to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. What those conditions have in common is that they are preventable, and that ... is where the United States falls behind other developed countries.
Note: For a treasure trove of reports on health issues from reliable sources click here.
Gift to Center Headed by FDA Panel Chairman Raises Questions
2008-10-13, Washington Post
A retired medical supply manufacturer who considers bisphenol A to be "perfectly safe" gave $5 million to the research center headed by the chairman of a Food and Drug Administration panel about to rule on the chemical's safety. The July donation from Charles Gelman is nearly 50 times the annual budget of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, where Martin Philbert is founder and co-director. Philbert did not disclose the donation to the FDA, and agency officials learned of it when reporters asked about it. Gelman said he considers the chemical, which is used to make baby bottles and aluminum can liners, to be safe. He said he had made his views clear to Philbert in several conversations. Philbert denied that. Philbert's committee is expected to release its opinion this month. The decision of Philbert's committee is expected to have huge implications on the regulation and sale of the chemical in items such as baby bottles, reusable food containers and plastic wraps. Since the late 1990s, studies have linked bisphenol A to cancer, heart disease, obesity, reproductive failures and hyperactivity in laboratory animals. Gelman, a retired manufacturer of syringes and medical filtration devices, has fought against government regulation of pollutants for years. He is an anti-regulation activist and an outspoken supporter of organizations such as JunkScience.com, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute that attack the credibility of government and academic scientists on such topics as global warming and hazardous chemicals.
Note: For key reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
US controls bird flu vaccines over bioweapon fears
2008-10-11, USA Today/Associated Press
Deep inside an 86-page supplement to United States export regulations is a single sentence that bars U.S. exports of vaccines for avian bird flu and dozens of other viruses to five countries designated "state sponsors of terrorism." The reason: Fear that they will be used for biological warfare. Under this little-known policy, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan may not get the vaccines unless they apply for special export licenses, which would be given or refused according to the discretion and timing of the U.S. Three of those nations -- Iran, Cuba and Sudan -- also are subject to a ban on all human pandemic influenza vaccines as part of a general U.S. embargo. The regulations, which cover vaccines for everything from Dengue fever to the Ebola virus, have raised concern within the medical and scientific communities. Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were not even aware of the policies until contacted by The Associated Press ... and privately expressed alarm. They make "no scientific sense," said Peter Palese, chairman of the microbiology department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Some experts say the idea of using vaccines for bioweapons is far-fetched.
When Doctors, and Even Santa, Endorsed Tobacco
2008-10-06, New York Times
People who remember when tobacco advertising was a prominent part of the media landscape ... probably recollect that actors like Barbara Stanwyck and athletes like Mickey Mantle routinely endorsed cigarettes. But how about doctors and other medical professionals, proclaiming the merits of various cigarette brands? Or politicians? Or children? Even Santa Claus? Those images — some flabbergasting, even disturbing — were also used by Madison Avenue to peddle tobacco products. An exhibit ... in New York presents cigarette ads from the 1920s through the early 1950s in an effort to demonstrate what has changed since then — and what may not have. The exhibit is the brainchild of Dr. Robert K. Jackler of the Stanford School of Medicine. “The very best artists and copywriters that money could buy” would work on cigarette accounts, said Dr. Jackler. “This era of over-the-top hucksterism went on for decades,” he added, “and it was all blatantly false.” The genesis of the exhibit was an ad from around 1930 for Lucky Strike cigarettes, which shows a doctor above a headline proclaiming that “20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating.’ ” The Luckies doctor was joined in Dr. Jackler’s collection of about 5,000 ads by scores of scientists and medical professionals — doctors, dentists, nurses — making statements that are now known to be patently untrue. Some of the claims being made in the ads, you did not have to be a scientist in a laboratory to dispute ... ads that smoking certain brands “does not cause bad breath” or “can never stain your teeth.”
Note: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) promoted cigarette ads for 20 years "after careful consideration of the extent to which cigarettes were used by physicians in practice." Will people, even highly respected members of society, bend the truth and even lie when paid enough? This article seems to answer that with a resounding yes. Is that still true today? For excerpts from many highly revealing articles showing it's as true now as ever, click here and here.
Cancer risk in mobile phones: Official
2008-10-06, The Sun
Mobile phones DO increase the risk of brain cancer, scientists claimed yesterday. The chances of developing a malignant tumour are "significantly increased" for people who use a mobile for ten years. The shock finding is the result of the biggest ever study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation. Scientists found a type of brain tumour called glioma is more likely in long-term mobile users. French experts analysed data from 13 countries, including Britain. They cross-referenced various types of tumours with mobile use. Researchers admit the cause is unknown, but it is thought radiation from handsets could be the trigger. Study chief Professor Elisabeth Cardis said: "To underestimate the risk would be a complete disaster." Last night a British expert insisted mobiles are not dangerous. Professor Patricia McKinney of the University of Leeds said: "Reasonable use is unlikely to increase the risk of tumours."
Note: For a treasure trove of key health articles from major media sources, click here.
Scientists warn US Congress of cancer risk for cell phone use
2008-09-25, Breitbart News/Agence France Presse
Scientists on Thursday warned US legislators of the risks of brain cancer from cell phone use, highlighting the potential risk for children who use mobile phones. "We urgently need more research," said David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy. "We must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer," Carpenter said. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said that most studies "claiming that there is no link between cell phones and brain tumors are outdated, had methodological concerns and did not include sufficient numbers of long-term cell phone users." Many studies denying a link "defined regular cell phones as 'once a week,'" added Herberman. "I cannot tell this committee that cell phones are definitely dangerous. But, I certainly cannot tell you that they are safe," he said. Carpenter and Herberman both told the committee the brain cancer risk from cell phone use is far greater for children than for adults. Herberman held up a model for lawmakers showing how radiation from a cell phone penetrates far deeper into the brain of a 5-year-old than that of an adult. "Every child is using cell phones all of the time, and there are three billion cell phone users in the world," said Herberman. He added that, like the messages that warn of health risks on cigarette packs, cell phones "need a precautionary message."
Note: For a treasure trove of important reports on health issues, click here.
Humble Honey Kills Bacteria
2008-09-23, CBS News
A new study from researchers at the University of Ottawa shows honey to be effective in killing bacteria that cause chronic sinusitis [which] affects millions of people every year. In chronic sinusitis, the mucous membranes in the sinus cavities become inflamed, causing headaches, stuffy nose, and difficulty breathing.
Though it can be caused by allergies, chronic sinusitis can also be caused by bacteria that colonize in the nose and sinuses. That's where honey may help. Researchers, led by Tala Alandejani, MD, at the University of Ottawa, tested two honeys, manuka and sidr. [They] singled out three particularly nasty bacteria: two strains of staph bacteria ... and one called Pseudomonas aeriginosa. The two types of honey were effective in killing the bacteria. Even bacteria growing in a biofilm, a thin, slimy layer formed by bacteria that affords resistance to antibiotics, were susceptible to honey. The researchers also found that the two types of honey worked significantly better than an antibiotic against [the staph bacterias]. Scientists hope the results can help lead to a new treatment for people with chronic sinusitis.
Note: One note of caution: Infants one year or younger should never be given honey because it could become toxic in their underformed intestinal tract, causing illness or even death.
Mobile phone use 'raises children's risk of brain cancer fivefold'
2008-09-21, The Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones, startling new research indicates. The study, experts say, raises fears that today's young people may suffer an "epidemic" of the disease in later life. At least nine out of 10 British 16-year-olds have their own handset, as do more than 40 per cent of primary schoolchildren. Yet investigating dangers to the young has been omitted from a massive £3.1m British investigation of the risks of cancer from using mobile phones, launched this year, even though the official Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Programme – which is conducting it – admits that the issue is of the "highest priority". Despite recommendations of an official report that the use of mobiles by children should be "minimised", the Government has done almost nothing to discourage it.
Last week the European Parliament voted by 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter limits for exposure to radiation from mobile and cordless phones, Wi-fi and other devices, partly because children are especially vulnerable to them. They are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because – since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner – the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains. David Carpenter, dean of the School of Public Health at the State University of New York said: "Children are spending significant time on mobile phones. We may be facing a public health crisis in an epidemic of brain cancers as a result of mobile phone use."
Note: For many important reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
We can stop the cancer epidemic
2008-09-19, New York Times
There is an epidemic of cancer today. One in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, often before the age of 65. Since 1940, we have seen in Western societies a marked and rapid increase in common types of cancer. In fact, cancer in children and adolescents has been rising by 1 to 1.5 percent a year since the 1960's. And these are cancers for which there is no screening. For most common cancers - prostate, breast, colon, lung - rates are much higher in the West than in Asian countries. Yet Asians who emigrate to the United States catch up with the rates of Americans within one or two generations. While in Asia, Asians are protected not by their genes, but by their lifestyle. We continue to invest 97 percent of our cancer research funds in better treatments and early detection. Only 3 percent is invested in tackling causes. The World Cancer Research Fund published a report in 2007 concluding that a majority of cancer cases in Western societies could be avoided with life-style measures: 40 percent from changes in diet and physical activity (more vegetables and fruits, less sugar, less red meat, regular walking or the equivalent activity 30 minutes six times per week), 30 percent from smoking cessation, and about 10 percent from reduced alcohol consumption. We now even have data about how specific foods such as broccoli and cabbages, garlic and onions, green tea or the spice turmeric directly help kill cancer cells and reduce the growth of new blood vessels they need to develop into tumors.
Note: The author of this article, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and a founding board member of Doctors Without Borders, USA, and author of Anticancer - A new way of life. For an excellent, inspiring 10-minute video interview with this doctor, click here.
Study Links Chemical BPA to Health Problems
2008-09-17, Washington Post
The first large study in humans of a chemical widely used in everyday plastics has found that people with higher levels of bisphenol A had higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities. The research, published ... in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a team of British and American scientists, compared the health status of 1,455 men and women with the levels of the chemical, known as BPA, in their urine. The researchers divided the subjects into four statistical groupings according to their BPA levels and found that those in the quartile with the highest concentrations were nearly three times as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest levels, and 2.4 times as likely to have diabetes. Higher BPA levels were also associated with abnormal concentrations of three liver enzymes. "This is the nail in the coffin," Frederick vom Saal, a reproductive scientist at the University of Missouri at Columbia and one of the first to document evidence of health problems in rodents exposed to low doses of BPA. "This is a huge deal." More than 100 studies have linked BPA exposure to health effects in animals. The FDA maintains that BPA is safe largely on the basis of two studies funded by the chemical industry, a fact that was repeatedly cited at yesterday's forum. "We're concerned that the FDA is basing its conclusion on two studies while downplaying the results of hundreds of other studies," said Amber Wise of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "This appears to be a case of cherry-picking data with potentially high cost to human health."
Note: For many important reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
That Plastic Baby Bottle
2008-09-06, New York Times
What do you do when one arm of the government says everything is O.K. and another tells you to watch out? That is what is happening with bisphenol-A — a chemical used in many plastics and epoxy resins now found in baby bottles and liners for canned goods. The answer is a truism in every family rulebook — when in doubt, especially when it comes to children, err on the side of caution. That means it is a good idea to keep the young away from bisphenol-A, or BPA. Then this week, the National Toxicology Program, the federal agency for toxicological research, reported that their research shows “some concern” about the effects of BPA on the brain development and behavior of fetuses and young children. A new study by the Yale School of Medicine is cause for even more concern. In tests on primates, researchers found that BPA “causes the loss of connections between brain cells” that could cause memory or learning problems and depression.” John Bucher, the associate director of the toxicology program, said ... "We have concluded that the possibility that BPA may affect human development cannot be dismissed.”
Note: For many key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Clones' Offspring May Be In Food Supply: FDA
Food and milk from the offspring of cloned animals may have entered the U.S. food supply, the U.S. government said on Tuesday, but [then claimed] it would be impossible to know because there is no difference between cloned and conventional products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in January [that] meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe as products from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers had followed a voluntary moratorium on the sale of clones and their offspring. While the FDA evaluated the safety of food from clones and their offspring, the U.S. Agriculture Department was in charge of managing the transition of these animals into the food supply. "It is theoretically possible" offspring from clones are in the food supply, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman. Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother. There are an estimated 600 cloned animals in the United States. Critics contend not enough is known about the technology to ensure it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs to address concerns over animal cruelty and ethical issues. "It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many ways," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for Environmental Health.
Note: For a revealing summary of the health risks associated with genetically modified foods, click here.
Researchers Question Wide Use of HPV Vaccines
2008-08-21, New York Times
Two vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease, two articles in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine conclude. Both vaccines target the human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted virus that usually causes no symptoms and is cleared by the immune system, but which can in very rare cases become chronic and cause cervical cancer. The two vaccines, Gardasil by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline, target two strains of the virus that together cause an estimated 70 percent of cervical cancers. “Despite great expectations and promising results of clinical trials, we still lack sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer,” Dr. Charlotte J. Haug ... wrote in an editorial in Thursday’s issue of The New England Journal. “With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious.” The vaccines have been studied for a relatively short period — both were licensed in 2006 and have been studied in clinical trials for at most six and a half years. Researchers have not yet demonstrated how long the immunity will last, or whether eliminating some strains of cancer-causing virus will decrease the body’s natural immunity to other strains. Because cervical cancer develops only after years of chronic infection with HPV, Dr. Haug said there was not yet absolute proof that protection against these two strains of the virus would ultimately reduce rates of cervical cancer.
Clinical trials test potential of hallucinogenic drugs to help patients with terminal illnesses
2008-08-12, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Scientists are exploring the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD to treat a range of ailments from depression to cluster headaches and obsessive compulsive disorder. The first clinical trial using LSD since the 1970s began in Switzerland in June. It aims to use "psychedelic psychotherapy" to help patients with terminal illnesses come to terms with their imminent mortality and so improve their quality of life. Another psychedelic substance, psilocybin, has shown promising results in trials for treating symptoms of terminal cancer patients. In the Swiss trial eight subjects will receive a dose of 200 microgrammes of LSD. This is enough to induce a powerful psychedelic experience. A further four subjects will receive a dose of 20 microgrammes. Every participant will know they have received some LSD, but neither the subjects nor the researchers observing them will know for certain who received the full dose. During the course of therapy researchers will assess the patients' anxiety levels, quality of life and pain levels. Before hallucinogenic drugs became popular with the counter culture, they were at the forefront of brain science. They were used to help scientists understand the nature of consciousness and how the brain works and as treatments for a range of conditions. Dr Rick Doblin is president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in California, a nonprofit organisation which funds clinical studies into psychedelic drugs, including the Swiss LSD trial. "These drugs, these experiences are not for the mystic who wants to sit on the mountain top and meditate. They are not for the counter-culture rebel. They are for everybody," he said.
Gardasil vaccine doubts grow
2008-08-11, Los Angeles Times
Sandra Levy wants to do everything she can to safeguard the health of her 11-year-old daughter -- and that, of course, includes cancer prevention. She has had her child inoculated with one shot of Gardasil, the human papilloma virus vaccine that may prevent cervical cancer. But now, she says, she has serious reservations about going ahead with the next two injections of the course. Though most medical organizations strongly advocate using the HPV vaccine, some doctors and parents, like Levy, are asking whether the vaccine's benefits really outweigh its costs. A report released in June stirred up more doubts. Although cause and effect were not proved, the report listed serious events -- such as seizures, spontaneous abortions and even deaths -- among teens, preteens and young women who had earlier had Gardasil shots. [The] analysis, released June 30 by the Washington, D.C.-based public interest group Judicial Watch, [has] raised [these] red flags. Judicial Watch obtained records from the FDA's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a voluntary system used by doctors, patients and drug companies to report side effects with vaccines to the federal agency. The report revealed that since the vaccine's 2006 approval, when girls began getting it, nearly 9,000 had bad health events after receiving Gardasil. The incidents included 10 miscarriages, 78 severe outbreaks of genital warts and six cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can result in paralysis. There were also 18 reported deaths.
Note: For many key reports on the problems with vaccines from reliable sources, click here.
Scientists stop the ageing process
2008-08-11, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Scientists have stopped the ageing process in an entire organ for the first time, a study released today says. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine ... also say the older organs function as well as they did when the host animal was younger. The researchers, led by Associate Professor Ana Maria Cuervo, blocked the ageing process in mice livers by stopping the build-up of harmful proteins inside the organ's cells. As people age their cells become less efficient at getting rid of damaged protein resulting in a build-up of toxic material that is especially pronounced in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative disorders. The researchers say the findings suggest that therapies for boosting protein clearance might help stave off some of the declines in function that accompanies old age. In experiments, livers in genetically modified mice 22 to 26 months old ... cleaned blood as efficiently as those in animals a quarter their age. The benefits of restoring the cleaning mechanisms found inside all cells could extend far beyond a single organ, says Cuervo. "Our findings are particularly relevant for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's," she says. "Many of these diseases are due to 'misbehaving' or damaged proteins that accumulate in neurons. By preventing this decline in protein clearance, we may be able to keep these people free of symptoms for a longer time." If the body's ability to dispose of cell debris within the cell were enhanced across a wider range of tissues, she says, it could extend life as well.
Note: For many key reports on health issues from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
Prescription Data Used To Assess Consumers
2008-08-04, Washington Post
Health and life insurance companies have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans. Collecting and analyzing personal health information in commercial databases is a fledgling industry, but one poised to take off as the nation enters the age of electronic medical records. Some insurers have already begun testing systems that tap into not only prescription drug information, but also data about patients held by clinical and pathological laboratories. Privacy and consumer advocates fear [the trend] it is taking place largely outside the scrutiny of federal health regulators and lawmakers. The practice also illustrates how electronic data gathered for one purpose can be used and marketed for another -- often without consumers' knowledge, privacy advocates say. And they argue that although consumers sign consent forms, they effectively have to authorize the data release if they want insurance. "As health care moves into the digital age, there are more and more companies holding vast amounts of patients' health information," said Joy Pritts, research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "Most people don't even know these [companies] exist. Unfortunately the federal health privacy rule does not cover many of them." Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "We've got to stop these practices before the marketplace is fully developed and patients lose all control over their medical information."
Note: For lots more on increasing threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.