Leading Cancer Specialists Say Drug Companies Must Lower Prices

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In continuing coverage, NBC Nightly News reported, “The cost of cancer drugs has soared in recent years pushing so many patients to the brink of bankruptcy. Tonight, more than 100 of this country’s top cancer experts are fighting back.” NBC’s Ann Thompson said that “118 leading cancer specialists say drug companies must lower prices that can top 100,000 dollars a year.”

Medscape pointed out that “at the recent ASCO annual meeting…a leading oncologist warn[ed] that current pricing is unsustainable by highlighting a new immunotherapy that could cost more than $1 million per patient per year.” Meanwhile, also pointed out that in a full-length feature last year, Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FASCO, chief medical officer at ASCO, said, “Clearly, many therapies are complicated to develop and manufacture, and there are many failures; we recognize all that. We need innovation and drugs companies to be profitable to continue R&D, and we accept all of that.” However, “none of that provides the clear rationale for the current pricing schemata, he noted, because even drugs that are easy to develop, quick to manufacture, and receive support from foundations, government, and other sources still come out with a very high price.”

Meanwhile, NPR carried the transcript of an interview with Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Schilsky discussed ASCO’s cancer medication database, which gives medications a score based on how effective they are, and also provides cost information.

Rising cost of cancer drugs examined. Newsweek reports on the high cost of cancer medications, with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center leukemia department chair Dr. Hagop Kantarjian commenting “the prices today are essentially extortion, and people are being taken hostage.” In addition to highlighting biological factors necessitating more sophisticated treatment, the article draws attention to what Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, characterized as “a perfect storm of laws and regulations,” particularly the fact that Medicare is required to cover any drug the FDA approves. Newsweek also writes that “the US, because the pharmaceutical industry is insulated from the natural price controls of a competitive free market, Americans pay 50 to 100 percent more for the same drugs than patients in other countries.” The article concludes by highlighting “cautious” optimism as some drug makers show a willingness to cut costs.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Cruise Giant Carnival Settles Disability Discrimination Claims With Department of Justice

Carnival_funnel_logoUSA Today reports that the Justice Department announced that cruise giant Carnival Corp. “will pay more than $400,000 in penalties and damages as part of a settlement over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” The parent company of Carnival, Princess and Holland America “also has agreed to survey and, if necessary, make changes to 42 existing vessels at the three brands to comply with ADA regulations.” USA notes that seven vessels “in various stages of design and construction also will be surveyed and, if necessary, updated to comply with the regulations,” and “another 13 ships operated by the brands will be subject to possible changes if they continue to be in service in U.S. ports in four years.”

The AP reports that Carnival Corp. “will pay a civil penalty of $55,000 to the government and $350,000 in damages to individuals harmed by past discrimination, the government announced.” The settlement “is the result of an investigation of complaints by the Justice Department,” among which “were allegations that the company failed to properly provide and reserve accessible cabins for individuals with mobility disabilities; afford individuals with disabilities the same opportunities to participate in programs and services, including leaving the ship and returning; and provide effective communication during emergency drills. ‘People with disabilities who travel must be able to count on getting the accessible cabin they reserve and the cruise lines must provide equal access to the choice of amenities and attractions that passengers expect from a major cruise company like Carnival Corporation,’ Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Miami-based cruise company “agreed under the settlement to make 3% of the cabins on 49 of its ships accessible to disabled passengers.” Carnival “must also appoint a compliance officer to ensure the company meets the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide ADA training to its employees and managers.”

The Miami Herald reports that Carnival Corp. spokesman Roger Frizzell said in a statement, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the U.S. government, which was borne out of a cooperative effort. We have historically maintained a strong focus on accessibility and have a longstanding track record of meeting the needs of all our guests.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice

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This Video Illustration Showing the Scale of Human Loss From World War II Is Devastating

040526-N-0295M-035 National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. (May 26, 2004) Ð The Commemorative Area of the National World War II Memorial recognizes the sacrifice of America's WWII generation and the contribution of our allies. A field of 4,000 sculpted gold stars on the Freedom Wall commemorates the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives, and symbolized the sacrifice of families across the nation. Established by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the memorial honors all military veterans of World War II, the citizens on the home front, the nation at large, and the high moral purpose and idealism that motivated the nationÕs call to arms. On May 29, 2004, the memorial will be formally dedicated with an estimated 200,000 people expected to attend, and includes 100,000 visiting veterans of all wars. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerÕs Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain (RELEASED)

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National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. (May 26, 2004) Ð The Commemorative Area of the National World War II Memorial recognizes the sacrifice of America’s WWII generation and the contribution of our allies. A field of 4,000 sculpted gold stars on the Freedom Wall commemorates the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives, and symbolized the sacrifice of families across the nation. Established by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the memorial honors all military veterans of World War II, the citizens on the home front, the nation at large, and the high moral purpose and idealism that motivated the nationÕs call to arms. On May 29, 2004, the memorial will be formally dedicated with an estimated 200,000 people expected to attend, and includes 100,000 visiting veterans of all wars. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerÕs Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain (RELEASED)

This lengthy, matter-of-fact video chart shows the staggering human cost of World War II.

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Suit Alleges Blue Cross Overcharges Customers and Underpays Doctors

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia “has overcharged customers for health insurance while at the same time cutting payments to doctors outside of their coverage ‘network,’ according to a lawsuit filed this week that seeks class-action status.” Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine filed the lawsuit “on behalf of 11 surgical centers, their patients and a claims filing service.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Families Face Tough Decisions as Cost of Elder Care Soars

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The Dallas Morning News recently published a troubling article about the costs of long-term care, and specifically the costs of nursing home care.

Almost everyone will potentially face this situation for themself or for a family member. Please read the article for tips on dealing with this serious financial issue. Here are a few excerpts:

For the two-thirds of Americans over 65 who are expected to need some long-term care, the costs are increasingly beyond reach. The cost of staying in a nursing home has climbed at twice the rate of overall inflation in the last five years, according to insurer Genworth Financial. One year in a private room now runs a median $91,000 a year, while one year of visits from home-health aides runs $45,760.

Prices are slightly less in Dallas, but still high.

According to Genworth, which sells long-term care insurance, staying in a private room in a Dallas nursing home last year averaged $78,475. Having someone come to your home for five hours a day in 2014 cost an average of $46,722. Those are costs Medicare doesn’t cover.

How do people manage the widening gap between their savings and the high cost of caring for the elderly? Medicare doesn’t cover long-term stays, so a large swath of elderly people wind up on the government’s health insurance program for the poor, Medicaid. For those solidly in the middle class, however, the answer isn’t so simple. They have too much money to apply for Medicaid but not enough to cover the typical three years of care.

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FDA Talking to Google About Using Data Mining to Identify Unknown Drug Side Effects

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Bloomberg News reports that the Food and Drug Administration “is talking to Google about how the search engine could help the agency identify previously unknown side effects of medications.” FDA officials had a conference call with senior Google researcher Evgeniy Gabrilovich, who specializes in data mining and “co-wrote a paper two years ago that used Yahoo search data to identify suspected drug reactions.” Both Google and the agency declined to comment about the discussion.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Four Low-Impact Exercises that Anyone in the Family Can Do

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Getting in a good workout doesn’t necessarily mean pounding the pavement, lifting weights or signing up for an expensive aerobics class. There are plenty of great ways to get up and get moving that are gentle on the body. As a bonus, just about anybody can participate in low-impact workouts—from younger kids who want to exercise with their grandparents to teens and adults who are recovering from an injury. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Water aerobics

If you have a backyard or neighborhood pool, you have the perfect venue for a low-impact workout that is literally cool. Water aerobics not only helps to build muscle tone and strength, but it is very gentle on the body. A blogpost on IntheSwim.com lists several different types of underwater exercises that you can try. For example, march slowly in one place in the pool—this seemingly simple exercise will build up your leg muscles and lower body strength. Another fun water exercise is to stand with your feet apart and hold your arms out in front of you while holding a small beach ball. Push the ball under the water and then bring it back up again. Repeat about 10 times for a simple but results-producing arm workout.

Walking

When it comes to low-impact exercises, walking is definitely among the best. In addition to being a cheap way to workout—all you need is some supportive and comfortable walking shoes—you can do it just about anywhere. It’s also the type of exercise that is easy to add to, both in terms of time and difficulty. For example, start off by taking an easy stroll around the block with your grandkids a few times a week—aim for about 15 minutes or so. As you get used to walking, gradually extend your route until you are walking for around a half hour each time. To make the walk more challenging, find some hills in your area or wear lightweight ankle weights.

StairMaster

There’s a good reason Greatist.com lists the StairMaster as one of the best low-impact exercises. The exercise machine is gentle on the body, but it will definitely get your heart pumping. And you don’t have to get a gym membership to use a StairMaster; if your house has a staircase you can get in an effective workout right at home. Start by walking up and down the stairs slowly, and be sure to hold onto the banister. Take note of how many times you can go up and down before you start to get tired, and use this as your baseline number. A couple of times a day walk up and down the stairs this same number of times, and as you gain fitness and endurance, increase the number.

Cycling

If you have a stationary bike, set it up near the TV, hop on, and pedal away while watching one of your favorite shows. According to wellness website Prevention.com, biking at a moderate pace for 45 minutes will burn an impressive 381 calories in a low-impact and safe way. If you are comfortable riding a traditional bike, head out with the whole family for a group ride around the neighborhood. One of the best things about cycling is that you can do it at your own pace; while you can certainly pretend you are in the Tour de France and zip around the block as fast as you can, it is not necessary for a good workout.

Author information: Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.

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FDA Warns of Possible Pulmonary Hypertension Risk in Infants Treated with Diazoxide

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The FDA warned Thursday that clinicians “need to watch for pulmonary hypertension in infants treated with the antihypoglycemia drug diazoxide (Proglycem, Merck) and discontinue it if they appear,” according to Medscape. Between the medical literature and its FDA Adverse Event Reporting System, the FDA has so far identified 11 cases of pulmonary hypertension in infants taking diazoxide since 1973, the year the drug was approved.

The Pharmacy Times reports that “in all reported cases, the…condition resolved or improved after” the medication “was stopped.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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President Obama Marks 25th Anniversary of ADA

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The AP reports that President Barack Obama this week “celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which he said has ushered in a ‘bright new era of equality, freedom and independence’ for millions of Americans.” Obama “was joined by Vice President Joe Biden during a White House reception to commemorate the law. ‘Thanks to the ADA, the places that comprise our shared American life — schools, workplaces, movie theaters, courthouses, buses, baseball stadiums, national parks — they truly belong to everyone,’ Obama said.” The White House “outlined government commitments to improve employment, education, health and housing policies affecting disabled Americans,” which include “a collaboration between the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to streamline investigations of discrimination complaints and boost outreach and training.”

The Washington Times reports that on Monday, the President said that the nation has made good progress in the 25 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but “he said physical and mental disabilities still keep too many men and women out of the workforce.” In brief remarks celebrating the 25th anniversary of the law, the President said, “Days like today are a celebration of our history but they’re also a chance to re-dedicate ourselves to the future, to address the injustices that still linger, to remove the barriers that remain. … We all know too many people with disabilities are still unemployed — even though they can work, even though they want to work.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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VA Wait Lists Longer Now Than a Year Ago: “Something has to give.”

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The Christian Science Monitor recently published a good article calling out the VA for the inexcusable waiting lists at most of the VA medical facilities. Here are the opening paragraphs:

The number of veterans waiting more than a month for medical attention is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago, when it prompted a national scandal.

The number of veterans seeking health care and ending up on waiting lists for a month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago, when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported.

The VA also faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion, the Times reported in a story posted online. The agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap, the newspaper reported. The VA budget was increased $16 billion last summer in the wake of the scandal, noted the Christian Science Monitor last August: “Here’s what the ‘do-nothing’ Congress actually did do.”

“Something has to give,” the department’s deputy secretary, Sloan D. Gibson, said in an interview. “We can’t leave this as the status quo. We are not meeting the needs of veterans, and veterans are signaling that to us by coming in for additional care, and we can’t deliver it as timely as we want to.”

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