Articles Posted in Pharmaceuticals

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The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D), a consumer rights group out of New York Law School, has shared their list of 22 famous figures who have been harmed and even killed by medical malpractice.

Most of us are familiar with the high profile drug-related tragedies of Michael Jackson (2009) and Prince (2016) and even Judy Garland (1969) and Marilyn Monroe (1962). Some of us are familiar with the details surrounding the death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during an endoscopy at a New York City clinic.  But it was surprising even to us to read the details of medical neglect in cases involving other beloved celebrities. As CJ&D pointed out in their report, no one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even celebrities with all the money and resources in the world at their fingertips. The report also shared several findings that now have become well known to the public. Among them, that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Each of the 22 cases highlighted in the report has resulted in a settlement or verdict (or is pending) and in many of them, grieving loved ones or the victims themselves have said that it’s not about money, but instead about enforcing a sense of right vs. wrong in the face of injustice.

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“We can no longer continue to treat Caucasians as the default or universal patient model.” 

     -Dr, Danielle N. Lee to Ebony Magazine, July 2014 

Higher Risk, Different Presentations, but Still Hardly Studied

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In April, we covered ProPublica’s investigation into UIC’s renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Mani Pavuluri.

From 2009-2013, Dr. Pavuluri conducted a study on the effects of lithium in children with bipolar disorder. The study was abruptly cancelled when one of the subjects reported an illness serious enough to notify federal officials. Initially UIC would not disclose the total number of study participants.

Test subjects were given 8 weeks of lithium following a manic episode and then exposed to brain scans to monitor changes. UIC failed to properly oversee the study, only finding out later that their star pediatric psychiatrist had violated FDA standards, general research standards, and university rules to carry out her study.

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Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and lesser known MS Contin, is facing scrutiny after several recent articles exposed information from a Justice Department investigation into the company. The investigation focused on evidence that showed Purdue’s legal council and executives were aware of the addictive nature of their drugs, including their popularity with drug seekers. Despite knowing their drugs were being misused, the company continued a false marketing campaign that promoted the drug as safer than other opioids because it was less likely to be abused or cause addiction. The company still maintains that they weren’t aware of users abusing their drugs until Maine’s attorney general issued an alert about the drug in 2000, despite federal investigators finding proof that company salespeople were aware as early as 1997, just a year after the release of OxyContin.

The federal investigation ended in 2007 with Purdue Pharma pleading guilty to a felony charge of deceptive advertising and 3 top executives pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. The company paid $635 million in fines to the government, while the execs did community service and avoided jail time. According to many familiar with the case, Purdue’s executives were given a proverbial hall pass, missing a potentially huge opportunity to throw a roadblock in the now public health crisis that is America’s opioid crisis. Many have called drug company executives behind opioids at the center of the crisis “suited drug pushers,” no better than street drug dealers. Others have said that if they were a minority in street clothes selling these drugs, they’d be locked up. Instead, drug company executives who knowingly market these drugs and force their sales reps to push them on doctors with false claims of safety and less addictive formulations are skating by, continuing to receive large bonuses and stock options while fueling the ongoing drug crisis.

Internal Emails Reveal Awareness of OxyContin’s Street Reputation

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An April 10th report by a Goldman Sachs analyst has been making the rounds in the media. The report, entitled “The Genome Revolution,” advised pharmaceutical companies to consider making and selling drugs that treat, not cure, diseases. Why? Making drugs so effective that they eradicate a condition or disease isn’t a profitable business model in the long run.

Drug Companies Hold Our Future in Their Hands

The opioid crisis has put a national spotlight on drug companies for their role in creating and distributing drugs that have caused many in this country to spiral into devastating addiction. These companies have the knowledge and financial means to create drugs that can destroy lives. They also have the ability to save lives and help many struggling with diseases and conditions live pain-free, symptom-free, or at least better than they would without pharmaceutical intervention. Cancer patients are living longer and people with debilitating or problematic conditions and diseases are able to manage and treat symptoms, thanks to big pharma. Drug companies are not all bad. Except that we must remember that they are, at their core, a business. And businesses exist to make money.

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In collaboration with the New York Times, ProPublica authored a multi-part series on the falling cost of generic drugs and insurance. One article sought to answer what politicians and many consumers have been asking lately: If generics are cheaper, why are some insurance plans requiring consumers to use the more expensive brand name versions? ProPublica spoke to a California pediatrician who said he began receiving memos from pharmacies telling him that he had to prescribe name brand versions of attention deficit drugs such as Adderall XR.

ProPublica has revealed that deals with insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (companies such as CVS Caremark who manage drugs plans for insurance companies) are receiving kickbacks and deals, while leaving consumers footing the bill for higher out of pocket costs.

Adderall XR and Insurance Companies: Back Room Negotiations

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In a collaborative report with Chicago physician Dr. Steven Fox and two pharmacy professors who specialize in drug interactions, the Chicago Tribune has pulled back the curtain on a frighteningly common occurrence. Pharmacists at both major chains and independent pharmacies are dispensing medications with well-known interactions with no warning to the patient. The study, conducted over 9 months at 255 Chicagoland, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin pharmacies, found that 52% of the time, pharmacists entirely missed the opportunity to notify the patient of interactions or to call Dr. Fox to confirm that the two conflicting drugs prescribed were intentional, which is considered a best practice.

Prescription drug interactions cause thousands of hospitalizations a year. The FDA, citing data obtained from a JAMA study, estimates that 2 million people a year experience a serious drug interaction (from both prescription and over the counter meds) and that 100,000 a year die from these combinations. The pharmacy failure rate demonstrated in our region alone should be enough of a cause for concern to major pharmacies and small pharmacies alike. If some of the 5 combinations chosen by the pharmacists that led the study were actually taken by patients, the end results could’ve been kidney failure, stroke, birth defects, multi organ failure, extremely low blood pressure, gangrene and even death. According to one of the pharmacists leading the study, the possible interactions of the drug combinations they had Dr. Fox write were ‘no-brainers’ for pharmacists.

CVS Has Highest Failure Rate of Any Chain Pharmacy

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Pharmacists and pharmacy professionals are expected to provide us with medical guidance based on their expertise and training. In one recent case, a serious mistake was made and it caused a man to experience an allergic reaction. The man has filed a lawsuit in cook County seeking damages of more than $50,000. The lawsuit names the pharmacist as well as Elsdon Medical Pharmacy, where he worked. According to the lawsuit, the man suffered serious and permanent injuries as a result of the negligence.

Medication Mistakes

Medication mistakes are very common. In fact, medication errors are among the most common type of medical malpractice that occurs in the United States. Medical mistakes, including errors in medication, account for thousands of injuries and deaths every year. In this case, the man alleges that the pharmacy dispensed medication that contained sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, an antibiotic, however, he was allergic to it. The pharmacist was negligent by providing the wrong medication thus causing his severe medical reaction.
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Pharmacy errors are a serious problem in the United States. This form of serious medical malpractice happens regularly, and in the most severe cases it can result in serious injury or even death. The thing about these errors is that they are almost always caused by simple human error. Pharmacists and techs who are working too quickly and too carelessly wind up filling a prescription incorrectly and the patient pays the price. One hospital may have found a solution to the problem, however.

Robots Fundamentally Change a California Hospital Pharmacy
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As readers know, a mass fungal meningitis outbreak has been sweeping across half of the country. Facilities in twenty three states received contaminated vials of a spinal steroid injection, with hundreds already having been infected, 24 killed, and thousands more waiting for confirmation that they have or have not developed meningitis as a result of their injection. It is a terribly tragic situation, and it is critical that all of us pay attention to the individual stories at the heart of the ordeal.

For example, MyDesert.com reported on one story involving a family that has been decimated as a result of this incident. According to the report, a husband a wife both recieved the contaminated injections–usually given for back pain. They did not have the shot at the same time, however. The wife had hers in August and the husband about a month later in mid-September. They obviously had no idea at the time, but those shots would change their lives and that of their family forever.

Only a few days after the husband had his shot, the wife began to feel sick and showing signs of the meningitis. Only September 22nd she suffered one the most serious consequences associated with the condition–a stroke in her brainstem. The stroke proved damaging, and the woman passed away about a week later. Experts explain that the vast majority of the deaths connected to the outbreak thus far occur in that matter, from stroke complications.