What Made Your Doctor Prescribe that Drug?

April 29, 2013

Could an all expenses paid fishing trip or dinner at a five star restaurant influence your doctor when it comes to which prescription to give you? It’s a serious concern which is the focus of attention again because the US Attorney in Manhattan filed suit against drug maker Novartis for allegedly paying kickbacks to increase its prescription-drug sales.

Whistleblower Case

A whistleblower first brought the case to light and now the federal government is putting its power behind the allegations with the filing of this federal lawsuit.  The Switzerland based drug-maker is accused of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute to increase sales of two hypertension drugs, Lotrel and Valturna.  US Attorney in the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara said in a statement, “Novartis reaped dramatically increased profits on these drugs, and Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health-care programs were left holding the bag.”

Pharmacy Kickbacks?

This suit against Novartis comes just days after the same US attorney’s office filed suit against the company for another alleged violation of the False Claims Act.  That suit claims Novartis paid kickbacks, disguised as rebates and discounts, to at least 20 pharmacies for switching patients to its drug Myfortic, which is an immuno-suppressant.

It’s not the first time Novartis has faced such allegations.  Just three years ago, the company settled criminal and civil charges that it illegally promoted drugs for off-label uses. Once again, the company was accused of providing illegal kickbacks to doctors through special junkets and entertainment.  Novartis paid $422.5 million to settle that case and signed a corporate integrity agreement to promise that its promotions would comply with federal anti-kickback laws.

Returning Money to Taxpayers

When whistleblowers working for pharmaceutical companies come forward to report suspected violations of these anti-kickback laws, it lays the groundwork for the government to recover what often amounts to millions of dollars in improper Medicare and Medicaid payments. That means money returned to the taxpayers.

Novartis denies wrongdoing in both of these most recent cases and vows to defend itself in court.

Fight Back! File a Complaint When You Have a Problem

April 9, 2013

If you’ve been ripped off or are fed up with the run around and bad service, fight back!  The head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants you to file a complaint when you have a consumer problem.  We often feel powerless as consumers to effect any change, but if you don’t take that extra few minutes to make people who CAN make change aware of a problem, nothing will ever improve.  CFPB Director Richard Cordray told TODAY.com he wants to hear from you.  Take him up on it!

The CFPB is already taking complaints about problems with credit cards, mortgages, banks and private student loans.  They’ve logged some 90,000 consumer complaintS, so far.  The CFPB will start taking complaints about debt collection later this year.  Cordray says the complaints make it possible to see patterns of problems so they can take action to do something about it.

Right now you can file complaints with the CFPB on these issues:

  • Bank account or service
  • Credit card
  • Credit reporting
  • Money transfer
  • Mortgage
  • Student loan
  • Vehicle or consumer loan

Click here to read more on Cordray’s interview with TODAY.com.


The Healthiest Foods You Can Eat

March 5, 2013

Staying healthy and fit can be a lot of work, but there are certain foods that can help.  Fitness Magazine profiled ten super foods that can do everything from help you lose weight to improve your memory and fight against cancer.  Here are the top five.  To read about the rest visit fitnessmagazine.com.

1. Lemons

  • Just one lemon has more than 100 percent of your daily intakeof vitamin C which may help increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels and strengthen bones.
  • Citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.

2.  Broccoli

  • One medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement and almost 200 percent of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C — two essential bone-building nutrients.
  •  The same serving also helps stave off numerous cancers.

3.  Dark Chocolate

  • Just one-fourth of an ounce daily can reduce blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
  • Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, antioxidantsshown to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL levels.
  • A dark chocolate bar contains about 53.5 milligrams of flavonoids; a milk chocolate bar has fewer than 14.

4. Potatoes

  • One red potato contains 66 micrograms of cell-building folate — about the same amount found in one cup of spinach or broccoli.
  • One sweet potato has almost eight times the amount of cancer-fighting and immune-boosting vitamin A you need daily.

5.  Salmon

  • A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and cancer.
  • A 3-ounce serving contains almost 50 percent of your daily dose of niacin, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

Also on the list are walnuts, avocados, garlic, spinach and beans.  Click here to read more about their benefits from Fitness Magazine.


Go Red for Women! Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

February 1, 2013

If you’re a woman, you probably think the last thing that will happen to you is a heart attack. Think again. Heart disease is the number one killer of women.

Today is a day to raise your awareness on the warning signs. The American Heart Association developed its “Go Red for Women” campaign to help educate all women and those who love them about the warning signs of a heart attack. This video “It’s Just a Little Heart Attack” really hits home.   It’s a must see. Click here to check it out!

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How to Find the Right Doctor for You

October 21, 2012

It can be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, especially if you face a difficult diagnosis.  Finding the right doctor is key to getting the right care for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t feel bad if your doc doesn’t feel like the right fit. Just move on. That’s advice from someone who should know: ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.  Dr. Besser took a look at how to navigate the doctor maze and make that all important decision for your health.  **Click on the video above to see his report.

One of Dr. Besser’s best tips is to find a doctor you know and feel comfortable with BEFORE you’re faced with a crisis.  A General Practitioner or Internist, who can help guide you to the right specialists, if needed.  It’s not always easy and it does take some work.  Here are a few points to consider when choosing a doctor:

  • Look at your health plan to see who’s covered
  • Get personal referrals from friends and family
  • Don’t be intimidated if the doctor you try isn’t a right fit– try another one
  • Ask your doctor who they to go – try to find the doctor’s doctor

Meningitis Outbreak: What You Need to Know

October 8, 2012

By Nicole Mayer:

As of October 10, 2012, 137 people have been affected by the fungal meningitis outbreak in ten states, and at least twelve have died.

Health officials estimate that 13,000 people have been exposed to lots of an epidural steroid, which must be injected.

Growing Concern

On October 6, 2012, Massachusetts-based pharmacy, The New England Compounding Center (NECC) expanded its recall of products potentially linked to the recent fungal meningitis outbreak.

On October 4, 2012,  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the FDA previously recommended that health care professionals cease use of any products produced by NECC.  Initially, only three lots of injected steroids were recalled.

Now, in what it is referring to as an abundance of caution, NECC is recalling  all of its other products as well.

A full list of the products recalled by NECC is now posted in a 71-page document titled “list of all products manufactured since January 2012.”   While most items on the list have complex pharmaceutical-sounding names, some items have much more common names, such as certain types of “Magic Mouthwash.”

Who’s Affected?

The CDC, reporting on the outbreak, updates its website daily to reflect new cases.  As of October 10, 2012, the 137 cases and 12 deaths reported were found in the following states:

Tennessee – 44 cases, including 6 deaths

Michigan – 29 cases, including 3 deaths

Virginia – 27 cases, including 1 death

Indiana -15 cases

Maryland – 9 cases, including 1 death

Florida – 6 cases, 1 death

Minnesota – 3 cases

North Carolina – 2 cases

New Jersey – 2 cases

Ohio – 1 case

Of the states with confirmed cases, the following are the locations of facilities known to be affected, as reported by each state’s health department:

The Tennessee Department of Health reports three facilities with cases associated with epidural steroid injections provided at three facilities: (1) PCA Pain Center in Oak Ridge, (2) Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville, (3) Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville.  You may call the Tennessee Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 with questions about the outbreak.

The Michigan Department of Health  reports four affected facilities but the list of the facility names was not immediately located on its website. The Detroit Associated Free Press reports the affected facilities as: (1) Michigan Neurosurgical Institute in Grand Blanc; (2) Michigan Pain Specialists in Brighton; (3) Neuromuscular & Rehabilitation in Traverse City; and (4) Southeast Michigan Surgical Hospital in Warren.

The Virginia Department of Health  reports two affected medical facilities: (1) Insight Imaging in Roanoke, which already contacted more than 600 of its patients and (2) New River Valley Surgery Center in Christiansburg, which contacted less than 30 patients.  Individuals with questions may call their local health department or 211.

The Indiana State Department of Health reports the following six health care facilities known to have received the infected lots: (1) Ambulatory Care Center, LLP, Evansville; (2) Ft. Wayne Physical Medicine, Ft. Wayne; (3) OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center, Elkhart; (4) South Bend Clinic, South Bend; (5) Union Hospital, Terre Haute; (6) Wellspring, Columbus. Patients who have received steroid injections at these facilities since July 1, 2012, and who are experiencing symptoms of meningitis may contact Ken Severson at (317) 233-7104 or via email at kseverson@isdh.in.gov.

The Florida Department of Health reports six facilities in Florida received products from the contaminated steroid lots which are leading to meningitis cases: (1) Florida Pain Clinic, Ocala; (2) Marion Pain Management Center, Ocala; (3) Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery, Orlando; (4) Pain Consultants of West Florida, Pensacola; (5) Surgery Center of Ocala, Ocala; (6) Surgical Park Center, Miami. If you received back or joint injections there since May 21, 2012, it is advised that you watch for symptoms.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports usage of the implicated drugs at: (1) Medical Advance Pain Specialists (MAPS) in Edina, Fridley, Shakopee and Maple Grove; (2) Minnesota Surgery Center (MSC) in Edina and maple Grove.   It is estimated that approximately 950 patients were treated with the implicated steroid product and the facilities contacted those individuals over this past weekend.  For more information, residents may call Buddy Ferguson at (651) 201-4997.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports  receipt of the affected product at seven facilities: (1) Berlin Interventional Pain Management, Berlin; (2) Box Hill Surgery Center, Abingdon; (3) Greenspring Surgery Center, Baltimore; (4) Harford County Ambulatory Surgery Center, Edgewood; (5) Maryland Pain Specialists, Towson; (6) SurgCenter of Bel Air, Bel Air; (7) Zion Ambulatory Center, Baltimore.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports three clinics having received the recalled products. The first two used the lots for spinal injections: (1) High Point Surgery Center, High Point; (2) Surgical Center of Wilson, Wilson. All 94 patients who were exposed at these clinics have been notified. The third clinic (3) North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic, Durham, used the product for joint injections to relieve pain. The clinic is working to contact all those potentially exposed.

The Ohio Department of Health reports that the tainted medication was sent to the following four Ohio healthcare facilities: (1) Marion Pain Clinic, Marion; (2) BKC Pain Specialists, Marion; (3) Cincinnati Pain Management, Dublin; (4) Ortho-Spine Rehab Center, Dublin.

The New Jersey Department of Health reports that the following six facilities have now removed the tainted medication from their inventory: (1) Central Jersey Orthopedics Specialists, PC in South Plainfield; (2) Edison Surgical Center, Edison; (3) IF Pain Associates/Isaiah Florence, Teaneck; (4) Premier Orthopaedic Associates, Vineland; (5) Comprehensive Pain Management, Sparta; (6) South Jersey Healthcare, Elmer and Vineland.

Other States Affected

Other states that received the implicated products, but that have no confirmed cases reported, include: California; Connecticut; Georgia, Idaho; Illinois; New Hampshire; Nevada; New York; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Texas; and West Virginia.  If you live in any of these states and have questions, you may want to contact your state’s health department to see if it has a list of facilities that received the affected products.


The CDC reports that the potentially contaminated injections were given starting May 21, 2012.  Those who think they may have been affected are advised to look for symptoms such as: fever, new or worsening headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, new weakness or numbness, increasing pain, redness or swelling of the injection site.

The type of meningitis caused by the affected products is fungal meningitis and is NOT contagious.

In just the past four days, the number of cases reported has increased 114% (from 64 cases to 137 cases) and the number of deaths reported went up by 41% (from 7 to 12).

Another Possible Benefit of Drinking Red Wine

August 21, 2012

If you thought drinking red wine could make you a little tipsy, well, yes it can do that, but over time, the opposite might actually be true. A new study shows that resveratrol, a chemical compound found in red wine, might improve balance.  Scientists at the American Chemical Society have presented research showing that vino can actually help improve senior mobility and prevent falls.

Lead researcher Dr. Jane Cavanaugh, of Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, said: “Our study suggests a natural compound like resveratrol, which can be obtained either through dietary supplementation or diet itself, could actually decrease some of the motor deficiencies seen in our aging population.

Researchers fed young and old laboratory mice a resveratrol rich diet for eight weeks.   Periodically, they measured the mice’ ability to navigate a steel mesh balance beam, counting the number of times each took a misstep. At first, older mice had a much tougher time keeping their balance, but in the 4th week, the senior mice were able to stay on the beam longer.

Falling is a major problem for seniors as they age. One in three Americans over the age of 65 have trouble walking and maintaining their balance, according to the American Geriatrics Society.  Research at Cayuga Medical Center showed that one-quarter of adults who experience a hip fracture died the following year.

There is one hiccup.  An average sized 150 pound person would have to drink 700 four ounce glasses of red wine to get enough resveretrol for any benefits.  But don’t be discouraged, scientists are looking at ways to create man-made compounds that can mimic resveratrol’s effects without requiring such a massive dose.

Past research has also suggested that red wine can lead to a longer life.

Luxury Cars Score Poorly in Crash Test

August 17, 2012

It’s the kind of car crash that kills about a quarter of those involved in an accident. The front end bumper collides with another car or a fixed object. Turns out, this is not one scenario the auto industry has made a top priority when it comes to car safety.  That may change after the latest crash test data developed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Click here to read more and watch this report from CBS News.

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Buy a Coffee with Just Your Name: How Much Privacy are You Willing to Give Up?

August 9, 2012

By Angie Moreschi:

Just think.  You could walk into Starbucks, say your name and the barista would automatically whip up your double mocha skinny latte. No,  not because you’re such a frequent customer that they know who you are and what you want when you step up to the counter. This has to do with them tracking your every move through technology.

In today’s big brother, cyber spy world, computer chips can pretty much let retailers know a whole heck of a lot about you and your buying habits. And now, if you’d rather not waste all that breath to tell the cashier what you want, a new app at Starbucks will do the ordering for you. All you have to do is say your name.

The Java App

Starbucks is teaming up with Square, the San Francisco company that brought us the  mobile payment app.  Starting this fall, 7000 Starbucks cafes will start using Pay With Square, which uses a GPS technology to indicate when a Square user is in the cafe.

All you do is install the Square app on your smart phone, and then link a credit or debit card to the account.  Techno-wizardry takes it from there and identifies your location when you walk into Starbucks. Your name and picture pop up on the store’s computer system, so when you’re ready to order, all you have to do is say your name.  The cashier matches your name and picture to their “point-of-sale” system, and voila!  No need to go through all the trouble of remembering your favorite beverage’s exotic description or getting your wallet out and fumbling with a credit card or cash and all that.  This is just like saying, ‘Hey Sal, it’s me. Put it on my tab.”

Technology Trumps Privacy

To make all this possible for your caffeine inducing pleasure, Starbucks is investing $25 million in the new Square system and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s board of directors.  Pay with Square has been around for awhile, but  it’s mainly used by small businesses.  This venture by Starbucks could really launch the company to another level.

So, starting this fall, if you choose to give another little piece of your privacy away, you can order your cup of  Joe, just by saying your name.  Funny thing is, paying with the Square app might make you feel like a “regular,” but you’ve got to wonder if it’s actually kind of sad that someone you really don’t know at all, is going to treat you like an old pal.

Is iTunes Killing Music Nostalgia?

July 26, 2012

By: Darrin Clouse

It’s no secret these days. Everyone is well aware of how easy it is to download your favorite music in less time than it takes to find your car keys. It’s a natural progression in our techno-hungry world, and music was destined to change as the ability to receive it and listen to it changed as well.

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