Favorable Verdict in Prempro Retrial

March 2, 2007,

"A jury on Tuesday awarded $3 million to an Ohio woman who claimed a hormone replacement drug made by Wyeth caused her breast cancer.
Jennie Nelson, 67, of Dayton, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 after taking Prempro for five years to treat symptoms of menopause. Her lawyers said Wyeth knew for decades the drug could cause breast cancer, but failed to warn patients.

More than 5,000 women have sued New Jersey-based Wyeth over its hormone drugs Premarin and Prempro. Wyeth has won two cases and lost two cases, which have been heard in Arkansas and Philadelphia.

Both drugs remain on the market and carry the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and both continue to be prescribed annually to hundreds of thousands of menopausal women."

Read the full article at NJ.com.

Lilly Settles With 18,000 Over Zyprexa

February 28, 2007,

Here's interesting news about Zyprexa:

Eli Lilly agreed yesterday to pay up to $500 million to settle 18,000 lawsuits from people who claimed they had developed diabetes or other diseases after taking Zyprexa, Lilly's drug for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Including earlier settlements over Zyprexa, Lilly has now agreed to pay at least $1.2 billion to 28,500 people who said they were injured by the drug. At least 1,200 suits are still pending, the company said. About 20 million people worldwide have taken Zyprexa since its introduction in 1996.

Supreme Court Overturns $79.2 Million Dollar Punitive Verdict Against Philip Morris

February 20, 2007,

Today, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Oregon Supreme Court's determination that a $79.2 million dollar punitive award was appropriate. The facts and procedural wranglings in the case can be read in the Wall Street Journal, but I thought the opinion deserved some comment.The Court reasoned that the award essentially penalized the cigarette maker for harms to those other than the plaintiff, and was not directed at the "reprehensibility" of Philip Morris' conduct.

Let's forget for a moment that a $79.2 million penalty to a company like Altria (formally Philip Morris) is the equivalent of a parking ticket.In a case like this, how do you not consider the harms to a society when determining the penalty to the wrongdoer?As Justice Stevens writes in his dissent, "A murderer who kills his victim by throwing a bomb that injures dozens of bystanders would be punished more severely than one who harms no one other than his intended victim."

Delay, Deny, Defend

February 18, 2007,

CNN's Anderson Cooper recently performed an investigation into the insurance claims practices of America's largest insurers.What did he find?Not to our surprise: insurers put profits over people.The investigation focused on way insurers like Allstate and State Farm actively reject claims made by those injured in automobile accidents.The insurers make it their policy to employ the "three D's", Delay, Deny and Defend, for all cases not involving serious collisions.With Allstate one must ask, are you in good hands?Only if you are the upper brass of the company.

The transcript may be read in its entirety at CNN.com and the accompanying article may be found here.

Voters Turned Victims: Supporting Tort Reform Is Coming Back to Haunt Victims of Med Mal

February 16, 2007,

People in 'tort reform' states, such as Texas and Illinois, are coming to realize their folly. In Texas, tort reform measures were voted on by the public. Insurance companies spent millions to misinform the public, and the public supported the measure. Now, it is coming back to haunt them. Below is an excerpt from the Austin Chronicle:

"Back in 2003, 71-year-old Alvin Berry of Copperas Cove went to the doctor for a routine prostate screening. He was told his antigen levels were elevated, so his doctor referred him to a urologist for a follow-up. The urologist, however, told Berry not to worry. Seven months later, Berry's antigen levels had skyrocketed – he had developed prostate cancer, and it was too late, the cancer had already spread to his bones. He was given five years to live. Unfortunately, reports the consumer-advocacy group Texas Watch, in 2003 Berry had also voted in favor of Proposition 12 – the sweeping "tort reform" package that severely limited the ability of individuals to avail themselves of the legal process and to sue in cases of medical negligence (what tort reformers – read, insurance companies – prefer to call "frivolous lawsuits") – and with its passage, discovered that now he was left without the ability to seek legal redress for his doctor's deadly oversight. 'We'd voted on something,' Berry told Texas Monthly in 2005, 'and we really didn't know what the facts were.'"

Deadly Problems With Merck's RotaTeq Vaccine

February 14, 2007,

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is notifying health care providers and consumers about 28 post-marketing reports of intussusception following administration of Rotavirus, Live, Oral, Pentavalent vaccine (trade name RotaTeq), manufactured by Merck and Co., Inc. Intussusception is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the intestine gets blocked or twisted. One portion of the intestine telescopes into a nearby portion, causing the intestinal obstruction. The most common site is where the small intestine joins the large intestine."

Read the FDA's full news release here.

Recall of HoMedics Heating Pads

February 10, 2007,

"HoMedics, Inc announced today a voluntary recall, to the consumer level of approximately 292,108 of its heating pads which were produced in 2001 and subsequently shipped to retailers in 2001 and 2002.
These heating pads were sold nationwide to Walgreens as well as to drug stores, discount stores and department stores.

It has been determined that some of the heating pads contained an inadequate connector crimp, which lead to a high resistance connection that generated excessive heat, thereby posing a risk of burn injuries, fire or damage to the heating pad itself or to materials (like bedding and furniture) that could come into contact with the pad.

Read the FDA's Press Release here.

Patient Dumped on Skid Row

February 8, 2007,

"A hospital van dropped off a paraplegic man on Skid Row, allegedly leaving him crawling in the street with nothing more than a soiled gown and a broken colostomy bag, police said.
Witnesses who said they saw the incident Thursday wrote down a phone number on the van and took down its license-plate number, which helped detectives connect the vehicle to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site.

Police said the incident was a case of "homeless dumping" and were questioning officials from the hospital.

"I can't think of anything colder than that," said Detective Russ Long. "There was no mission around, no services. It's the worst area of Skid Row."

Read the full story at CNN.com.

Tort Reform Groups Accused of Violating Illinois Campaign Laws

February 6, 2007,

"Two nonprofit groups that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Southern Illinois appellate judge this past fall appear to have violated the state's election laws.

Together, the American Tort Reform Association and the American Justice Partnership, both business-friendly groups that have supported calls for tort reform, pumped $785,000 into Illinois politics this year.

That includes $425,000 given to Belleville attorney Steve McGlynn, the Republican who ran for but lost the Southern Illinois appellate seat to which he had been appointed.

By donating directly to McGlynn, both groups triggered campaign finance reporting requirements under Illinois' election law, the State Board of Elections confirmed to the Post-Dispatch on Thursday. But as the deadline passed Wednesday, the groups, based in Washington, had neither registered as nonprofits with the board nor filed disclosure reports detailing where they got their funding."

Read the full article at the St. Louis Dispatch.

Dangers With Popular Heartburn Drugs Nexium, Prilosec

February 4, 2007,

"Taking such popular heartburn drugs as Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec for a year or more can raise the risk of a broken hip markedly in people over 50, a large study in Britain found.
The study raises questions about the safety of some of the most widely used and heavily promoted prescription drugs on the market, taken by millions of people.

The researchers speculated that when the drugs reduce acid in the stomach, they also make it more difficult for the body to absorb bone-building calcium. That can lead to weaker bones and fractures.

Hip fractures in the elderly often lead to life-threatening complications. As a result, doctors should make sure patients have good reason to stay on heartburn drugs long term, said study co-author Dr. Yu-Xiao Yang of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

'The general perception is they are relatively harmless,' Yang said. 'They often are used without a clear or justified indication for the treatment.'"

Read the full article at SignOnSanDiego.com.

Maytag Dishwasher Recall Due to Fire Hazard

February 2, 2007,

"Maytag has received 135 reports of dishwasher fires, resulting in product and/or property damage. Four injuries have been reported, including three reports of smoke inhalation and one serious hand laceration when operating a fire extinguisher to put out a fire in the dishwasher.
The recall involves Maytag® and Jenn-Air® under counter or portable plastic tub dishwashers. The dishwashers have black, white, almond, bisque and stainless steel front panels. The following model and serial numbers are printed on a label located on the dishwasher’s plastic frame on top of or to the left of the door opening. Consumers should contact Maytag to determine if their dishwasher is included in this recall."

Read the full release here.

Eli Lilly Actively Sought to Supress Internal Zyprexa Memos

January 31, 2007,

"The drug maker Eli Lilly instigated legal action against a number of doctors, lawyers, journalists, and activists over hundreds of internal corporate documents and emails said to have been obtained by them regarding the antipsychotic drug olanzapine (Zyprexa). Eli Lilly obtained a court injunction on 29 December ordering 16 individuals and organisations to stop publishing the documents and to remove any copies posted on the internet. The documents created a furore after they were leaked to the New York Times, which reported that they showed that Eli Lilly 'engaged in a decade-long effort to play down the health risks of Zyprexa'"

Read the full article at the British Medical Journal.

New Study to Investigate Effect of Direct to Consumer Drug Marketing

January 29, 2007,

"Drug companies are spending exorbitant sums of money on television advertising, and their efforts are not in vain. Nowadays, consumers go to their physicians requesting prescriptions for drugs they've seen advertised on TV. But is drug advertising misleading consumers, asks a new study in the Annals of Family Medicine .
The pharmaceutical industry says TV ads provide consumers with important information about certain drugs. However, research showed that while the ads were technically accurate, the tone of the messages were often misleading."

Read the full story at adrugrecall.com.

Cause of Death? Docs Bad Handwriting

January 24, 2007,

"Doctors' sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually. It's a shocking statistic, and, according to a July 2006 report from the National Academies of Science's Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable medication mistakes also injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually. Many such errors result from unclear abbreviations and dosage indications and illegible writing on some of the 3.2 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. every year."

Read more here.

Medtronic Defibrillator Shipment Suspended Due to Quality Issues

January 20, 2007,

"Medtronic has voluntarily suspended shipments of its emergency-response external defibrillators made by its subsidiary, Physio-Control Inc, at its Redmond, WA facility. Physio-Control makes external defibrillators and other emergency-response products. Medtronic opted to suspend delivery of products after "quality system issues" were identified, a press release notes."

Read more here.