HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pfizer Settles for $2.3 Billion: Obama Administration Serious About Cracking Down on Health Care Fraud

Washington Post reports that drug manufacturer, Pfizer, settled for a record $2.3 billion, pleading guilty to a felony charge of fraudulent marketing of drug, Bextra. This marks the first major Obama administration victory in cracking down on health care fraud, indicating that the administration is prioritizing this important issue.

The Pfizer unit Pharmacia & Upjohn pleaded guilty to a single felony charge that accused the company of marketing its anti-inflammatory drug Bextra for broader uses and higher dosages than those approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The company allegedly enticed doctors to prescribe the drug for pain relief by taking them on lavish trips, created sham requests for medical information as an excuse to send unsolicited advertising materials to physicians, and drafted articles promoting the pills without disclosing its role in preparing the stories.

September 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fears of Flu Pandemic - More Harm Than Help?

LA Times questions whether public health officials were too preemptive in declaring a health emergency this past April when swine flu first hit the U.S. Fear of catching H1N1 has even affected the financial market, a harm perhaps disproportionate to the true health threat:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a “nationwide public health emergency” on April 26, when there were only 20 confirmed cases and no deaths.  The declaration prompted a huge spike in lab testing for H1N1, which in turn produced what Doshi calls a “concern bias, in which concern and anxiety may drive events more than the disease itself.”

Fears about H1N1 have been costly to the pork and travel industries, caused healthy people to endure mandatory isolation, and prompted massive government outlays for lab testing, antiviral medication purchases and expedited vaccine development. Unless things suddenly take an unexpected turn for the worse, all of that activity is probably out of proportion to the actual threat, he writes.

Even Elmo has something to say about swine flu these days, as the federal government launched a new partnership with Sesame Workshop to encourage children to maintain healthy habits:

Elmo FLU

                                               (Image from Washington Post)

"Come on! Wash your hands with Elmo! Wash, wash, wash!" the Muppet from Sesame Street sings in a public service announcement released Tuesday by the Obama administration. "Sneeze into your arm with Elmo," the character adds. "Ah-choo!"

The program has been criticized for taking the risk of H1N1 too lightly while many Americans wait on the new H1N1 vaccination, which will not be released until approximately November.

September 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Tobacco Sues

Has Congress gone too far? Filed in Bowling Green, Ky, Big Tobacco is suing the FDA over a newly enacted law, which restricts tobacco manufacturers' rights to advertise. WSJ reports:

The companies object to such provisions as a requirement that cigarette makers expand the size of warning labels so that they cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs, and include graphic images such as diseased lungs. This change, they say, would leave manufacturers with only a small and often-obscured portion of a cigarette pack to print their own messages.

The companies also challenged a rule that restricts their ability to publicize the relative health risks of certain products such as smokeless tobacco.

September 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tort Reform and Medical Costs

NYT's freelance writer, Anne Underwood, interviews Tom Baker, professor of law and health sciences at U. Penn School of Law, about tort reform and its potential impact on lowering health care costs. This issue has raised interest from scholars and politicians alike:

Medical tort reform is moving to the fore of the health care debate. On Sunday in The New York Times, former Senator Bill Bradley, Democrat of New Jersey, argued that one way to gain support of both Democrats and Republicans might be to combine universal coverage with tort reform. Mr. Bradley also suggested that medical courts with special judges could be established, similar to bankruptcy or admiralty courts.

On “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Senators Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, and John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, seemed to agree that medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up health care costs and should be limited in some way. “We’ve got to find some way of getting rid of the frivolous cases, and most of them are,” Mr. Hatch said. “And that’s doable, most definitely,” Mr. Kerry replied.

Read the interview here.

August 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY's Campaign to Temper Obesity: "Are You Pouring on the Pounds?"

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene just launched a new public awareness campaign to address over-consumption of junk foods and sodas and resulting obesity. The city launched a similar campaign to address tobacco use and feels that this effort, which will include 1,500 Subway posters, will be successful. Surveys will be conducted in the upcoming weeks to gauge New Yorkers' response to the ads. Read more from LA Times here.


Are you Pouring
(Image from LA Times)

August 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hospital Executives' Anxieties about Reform

Washington Post examines the concerns of one hospital executive in light of health care reform.

Anxiety is running high among hospital executives as they ponder the ever-changing proposals on Capitol Hill. Wary of changes to payment formulas and fiercely protective of their franchise, industry groups are spending millions to lobby Congress. They also pledged $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings in a deal with the White House in hopes of avoiding a deeper restructuring that could cost them more.

August 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Medical Bills and the Middle Class

Nicolas Kristof of the NYT highlights one woman's story of how cracks in the health care system tore apart her family when her husband was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Because her husband required long-term care, hospital workers suggested the two divorce in order to prevent the family from losing everything.

A study reported in The American Journal of Medicine this month found that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. These medical bankruptcies had increased nearly 50 percent in just six years. Astonishingly, 78 percent of these people actually had health insurance, but the gaps and inadequacies left them unprotected when they were hit by devastating bills.

August 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)