New Studies Highlight the Dreadful Reality of Concussions in College Football

The nation is obsessed with NFL concussions and wants to know why they happen, what long-term effects they have on athletes and how the game of football should be changed to protect players. Yet our collective concern for college football athletes leaves something to be desired.

 

A new study may change that attitude and shift the national conversation about concussions. Researcher Christine Baugh, working in collaboration with Harvard University and Boston University's CTE Center, conducted a survey of 730 college football championship players to get a handle on the prevalence of concussions in college football and gain insight into what can be done about these events. Baugh’s research found that concussions in college likely go vastly under reported. For every instance of a medically-diagnosed concussion, she found 21 other instances of “bell ringers” that never got reported. Not all head injuries lead to concussions or injuries, obviously. However, it’s highly likely that medical practitioners only see the tip of the concussion iceberg, so to speak.

 

College athletes are, by their nature, competitive. They want to stay in the game and keep playing, even if it hurts. Likewise, coaches want to win, and they have strong incentives to keep hurt players on the field.

 

Baugh also conducted a study of FCS coaches and surveyed the attitudes of players towards their coaches. This research revealed that freshman feel relatively comfortable telling coaches about possible concussions, often agreeing with the statement “If I report what I think might be a concussion, my coach will think I think I did the right thing.” However, upperclassman did NOT agree with that statement nearly as much. This suggests that recent educational campaigns about concussions might be working. Younger players, who've received more intense education about head injuries than their older classmates, are more cognizant of the dangers. Clearly, however, we have a long way to go to understand and grapple with head injuries in college sports.

 

If you or someone you love suffered a head injury or other serious injury during a college sports match, call the Washington DC brain injury attorneys here at Regan, Zambri & Long for a free and confidential consultation.

 

President Obama's White House says it wants to curb concussions, but is Washington doing enough? White House Summit on Sport Concussions

 

 

Posted In Men's Health Issues , Patient Safety
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What Patients Need to Know about Electronic Medical Records

The proliferation of electronic medical records has, in many ways, benefited the health care industry. In theory, these sophisticated systems provide a centralized location for medical professionals to access and update patient information, instantaneously making data available to all of the patient’s providers. These systems can lower costs and reduce opportunities for error.

But are these systems safe?

Truth be told, the advent of new records systems has challenged many health care facilities and led to devastating complications, such as:

•    Decreased efficiency. As professionals attempt to learn complex new medical records programs, they can lose valuable time with their patients. Red tape can slow down critical patient care processes.

•    Medication errors. Typos and other similar discrepancies can cause deadly mistakes in the types and amounts of medications dispensed to patients.

•    Incompatibilities. Facilities that use different types of electronic medical records can have compatibility issues when sending patient information back and forth with partner hospitals and doctors officers.

•    Fraudulent billing. Computers generate an increasing number of medical bills; providers can more easily add confusing line items on purpose that increase insurance payments.

•    Downtime. When electronic records systems crash, health care facilities must scramble to use alternate databases – or paper records – until they come back online. The time spent reconciling these two methods can be considerable.

Clearly, electronic medical records systems can benefit patients, doctors and hospitals. But we cannot ignore the possible adverse effects of these systems. Health care facilities and providers must work together to improve their functionality, reliability, and compatibility to keep patients safe.

Have You Suffered As a Result of Medical Records Error?

When medical offices fail to coordinate patients’ medical records, the quality and continuity of care can suffer dramatically. If a medical records error harmed you or a loved one, call a DC medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options.

How do you find and track such errors? Read "DECODING MEDICAL RECORDS IN MALPRACTICE CASES" to learn more.

Posted In Patient Safety
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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What Are Some Promising Advances?

Frustratingly, breast cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of death among women, despite 40+ years of research into its etiology and billions of dollars spent to develop treatments for the disease and related cancers. However, some glimmers of hope may be emerging in the desperate fight to eradicate this disease and to help women survivors and their families cope.

 

In the world of treatment… a relatively new and exciting procedure known as Seed Localization has made it easier for surgeons to operate on women. This process is used for non-palpable tumors (i.e. you can’t feel them), and it’s an alternative to the standard care, which involves placing a wire in the breast on the day of the surgery. In Seed Localization, a surgeon implants a small radioactive seed in the breast at the site of the tumor five days prior to surgery. On the day of the surgery, the surgeon uses a special probe, called a gamma probe, to sweep over the patient’s breast while she sleeps to identify the seed. This process allows him or her to extract the seed and the cancer with it in a very precise way, leading to less disfigurement and more accuracy. The process is very safe, even though it involves a radioactive implant.

 

On a more global front, powerful new research suggests that certain dietary strategies might be useful not only for preventing breast cancer but also for treating it or at least restraining it. One globally renowned cancer specialist, Thomas Seyfried, has been building a case that cancer is a metabolic disease. Seyfried and other likeminded cancer specialists point out that cancer rates closely correlate with rates of obesity and metabolic diseases. Also, many indigenous cultures throughout history and throughout the world have effectively been cancer free. The lack of cancer in these diverse cultures cannot be explained by genetics alone; something (or some things) in their diets and lifestyles clearly protect against cancer.

 

One increasingly popular theory is that the low carbohydrate loads of traditional diets may help explain these populations' resistance to breast cancer and other cancers. Along those lines, many prominent researchers are now testing so-called "ketogenic" diets (low carb, high fat diets) to treat various cancers. The basic theory is that low carbohydrate diets are low in glucose (which cancer cells need to live), and they also minimize the secretion of insulin and insulin-like growth factor, both of which have been implicated in cancer development.

 

These developments are encouraging, and we hope that scientists will soon turn the tide and win this important fight. Contact the team here at Regan, Zambri & Long if you need help with a personal injury or D.C. medical malpractice case.

 

Cancer is a mysterious disease. Could radiation from our cell phones also play a role in its etiology? Experts Say Cell Phones Are "Possibly Carcinogenic"

 

 

Posted In Women's Health Issues
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6 Dangers of Pharmacy Compounding: What Patients Need to Know

For millions of Americans, prescription drugs provide the help they need to live healthy, independent, pain-free lives. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully examines each new drug before allowing pharmaceutical companies to release them onto the market.

However, patients sometimes have special needs that standard prescription medications cannot meet. Compounding pharmacies present solutions to these anomalies, creating customized formulations or delivery methods for patients with allergies or other special considerations. Since a licensed pharmacist must change the ingredients of a medication to meet individual needs, the practice comes with heavy inspections and heightened accountability. Unfortunately, many compounding pharmacies fail to protect public health adequately.

Compound drugs can and do save lives. However, when pharmaceutical companies engage in unapproved compounding practices, the ramifications for patients can include:

•    Contamination. Individual or small batches of medication are more vulnerable to harmful fungi or other particles.

•    Incorrect potency. While FDA-approved formulations have been shown to produce consistent results, custom mixtures may be too weak or strong for patients.

•    Diminished quality. Drugs mixed at independent compounding facilities often lack the quality control of major pharmaceutical manufacturers.

•    Impurities. Outside agents in compound drugs often reduce their efficacy.

•    Exacerbated illness. Patients with serious health issues often receive compound formulations. These can fail to adequately treat conditions, and their side effects can in turn severely impact an individual’s wellbeing.

•    Higher costs. An unfortunate number of compounding pharmacies take advantage of insurance billing policies by loading compound drugs with expensive ingredients. Prescription plans often pass these costs to customers or refuse to cover medications.

When patients receive compound medications from pharmacies, they expect these drugs to perform as indicated without causing unexpected side effects or illnesses. If a compound medication has harmed you or a loved one, a Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorney can help you hold the pharmacy accountable and obtain the compensation you deserve.

Curious about the diverse dangers of the compound pharmacy industry? Read Pharmaceutical Compounds: Investigating and Regulating Their Use (Part 2)

Posted In Medications
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Former Compounding Center Supervisor Arrested Over Meningitis Outbreak

On September 4, authorities detained Glenn Chin at the Logan International Airport in Boston, as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong with his family. His arrest can be traced back to a 2012 meningitis outbreak caused by tainted drugs from the New England Compounding Center. Chin served as a supervising pharmacist of the now defunct company.

The outbreak, one of the deadliest in recent history, occurred when a batch of the company’s painkilling, injectable drugs was contaminated. Before its recall and the subsequent closure of the plant, the drug devastated families across the U.S. The corruption-created outbreak caused diverse problems, including:

  •  750 cases of meningitis
  •  64 deaths
  •  20 states impacted by contamination-related illness

Of these meningitis cases, “217 infections and 15 deaths” allegedly had been a direct result of Chin’s signing off on a batch of drugs. After an inspection of the New England Compounding facilities, federal and state health investigators reported considerable faults with sterility and maintenance – both areas of Chin’s responsibility as supervisor.

Several pending lawsuits name Chin as a defendant in Boston federal court. The criminal investigation is still in progress, which is why law enforcement officials detained Chin as he attempted to leave the country. Although Chin was not the only individual allegedly responsible for the outbreak, authorities have placed a high priority on holding all former staffers and supervisors from the New England Compounding Center accountable for their actions.

In both traditional pharmacies and compounding facilities, pharmacists assume legal responsibility to keep the medicines they distribute untainted. The recent meningitis outbreak serves as a tragic example of the devastating consequences that can happen when medical professionals fail in their duties.

If you or a loved one became ill due to a pharmaceutical error, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages. Contact a Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorney today to discuss your legal options.

Explore more info about these pharmacies (and their dangers) by checking out Pharmaceutical Compounds: What They Are and How They Cost Consumers (Part 1)

Posted In Medications , Patient Safety , Public Health
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Pharmaceutical Compounds: Investigating and Regulating Their Use (Part 2)

In our last post, we discussed how pharmaceutical companies have begun to profit from the proliferation of compound drugs, as reported by the New York Times. Today, we will examine the measures various entities have taken to investigate and regulate these products.

Catamaran, a pharmacy benefits manager, discovered their spending on compounded drugs had increased fourfold over the past two years. The company is now making a concerted effort to examine such claims to determine their validity. Similar companies – including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim, and state workers’ compensation plans – are now doing the same.

Express Scripts, meanwhile, recently decided to stop payments for over 1,000 of the ingredients compounders commonly use. This 95 percent reduction in spending has saved money for consumers, health plans, and employers alike, while cutting into the profit margins of compounding pharmacies.

According to Dr. Sumit Dutta, Catamaran’s chief medical officer, such measures remove the “profit motive” driving these companies to produce more complex and expensive medications.

In Southern California in June, 15 individuals -- including financial brokers, doctors, chiropractors, and pharmacists -- were indicted for participating in a “kickback scheme” targeting workers’ compensation plans. Kareen Ahmed of Landmark Medical Management allegedly helped to purchase accounts receivable from health providers awaiting payment for workers’ compensation related services.

Some states have responded to the compounding pharmacy problem by imposing payment limits (Ohio) and limits on the number of ingredients payable per prescription (Georgia).

However, the compounding industry refuses to go down without a fight. The new Patients and Physicians for Rx Access, founded in June, advocates for compounding pharmacies, claiming that patients need compound drugs -- that standard medications often do not meet their health needs.

Have you or a loved one experienced negative effects as a result of a contaminated or incorrectly formulated compounded drug? Call a D.C. medical malpractice attorney today to discuss your legal options.
 

Want to learn more? Check out: Compounding Pharmacy Report Reveals Limited Regulation

Posted In Medications
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Pharmaceutical Compounds: What They Are and How They Cost Consumers (Part 1)

The rising costs of health care in the United States are no secret to doctors, patients, or pharmacists. Lifesaving drugs, procedures, and equipment continue to place a high cost burden on consumers and their insurers.

Among the fastest-growing and most expensive treatments patients received as of late are compounded drugs, according to a recent article by the New York Times. These formulations consist of custom ingredients to meet the unique needs of patients, from diaper rash to pain and scarring.

Created by compounding pharmacies, these drugs present alternative treatments for individuals unable to take mass-produced drugs due to ingredient intolerances, an inability to take oral doses, or other complications. Pharmaceutical compounds frequently cost exponentially more than their standard counterparts, reaching into hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Compounding companies claim the prices of their products have increased due to rising oversight of their international chemical suppliers. However, a change in 2012 to how pharmacists bill insurers for compound medications likely points to a more compelling reason.

Whereas pharmacists used to submit claims based on the price of the main ingredient in a compound, they now bill based on each ingredient in a compound. Incidentally, the number of ingredients in each compound has begun to increase.

Not only are insurance companies and patients bearing the brunt of these excessive costs – the safety of pharmaceutical compounds has also recently been called into question. A recent high-profile example was a steroid injection that sickened 750 and killed 64 after being tainted with a fungus at the New England Compounding Center.

This troubling news comes as pharmacy benefit managers note compounded drugs often yield no more benefits to patients than their mass-marketed equivalents. In addition, compounds require no FDA approval, putting their safety and efficacy further into question.

In Part 2, we will discuss how the medical and legal communities have reacted to the high costs of compound drugs.

If you or a loved one have experienced injury or illness due to faulty pharmaceuticals, contact a D.C. medical malpractice attorney today.
 

Want to read more? Check out this article: Senate Drafts Bill to Regulate Compounding Pharmacies



Posted In Medications , Patient Safety
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New Research Casts Doubts on Benefits of Niacin for Heart Health

Although many physicians have prescribed niacin, or vitamin B3, to treat high cholesterol levels, a recent study shows the compound may cause more problems than it prevents.

In its July 17 issue, the New England Journal of Medicine details a major clinical trial scientists conducted to explore the benefits of niacin in patients with hardened arteries. Researchers found it did slightly raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol in subjects but presented no apparent cardiovascular benefits.

In the study, researchers at Oxford gave half of the 26,000 study participants a pill composed of niacin and laropiprant, while providing the other half with a placebo.

According to Jane Armitage, senior author of the study and professor of clinical trials and epidemiology at Oxford, niacin intake also heightened the risk of dangerous side effects, such as increased blood sugar in diabetics, higher numbers of new diabetes diagnoses, and a proliferation of skin problems, gout, infections, diarrhea, excess bleeding and liver problems. These side effects led to several hospitalizations.

More notably, 9 percent more patients died when taking niacin compared to the control group. Although researchers note this percentage is not statistically significant, it represents a “deal breaker” to Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, who penned the editorial accompanying the study.

Researchers concluded niacin use is unlikely to create the effects for which doctors have prescribed it, such as increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing stroke and heart attack. They recommend any individuals currently taking niacin contact their physicians to discuss switching to statins, which have proven safer and more effective.

Constant discoveries in the medical field often uncover complications and dangers presented by commonly-prescribed medications. Although medical professionals do their best to provide the best care based on the information available to them, they must be held accountable when their recommendations lead to negative effects in their patients.

If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of an inappropriately prescribed medication, contact a DC medical malpractice attorney today to discuss legal options.

Have you talked with your doctor regarding the safety of your medications?


 

Posted In Medications
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What Does the FDA Say about Sunscreen Labels?

Spending time in the sun represents one of the most enjoyable parts of summer, but the risk of sunburn, early aging and skin cancer do not. To mitigate these risks while keeping individuals more comfortable all season long, numerous sunscreens exist.

In the past, these products have made claims on their packaging that have failed to bear out in regular use. Those believing they were providing themselves with superior sun protection often put stock in misleading claims, leading users to purchase products less effective than advertised and use them less liberally than intended.

To combat widespread misunderstanding about the nature and efficacy regarding sunscreen, the FDA recently released new labeling guidelines to reduce the ambiguity of packaging claims. These new restrictions include:

1.    Cancer risk statements.
On products providing SPF below 15, the FDA now requires companies to provide a disclaimer stating they do not provide sufficient protection from early skin aging or cancer.

2.    Water resistance clarifications.
To reflect the inability of any sun protection product to provide “all day protection” or “sweat-proof” or “waterproof” qualities, sunscreens may now designate themselves only as “Water Resistant (40 Minutes)” or “Water Resistant (80 Minutes).”

3.    Limits on SPF levels. Although sunscreens once designated themselves as high as SPF 100, few products offer more than SPF 50 protection, which blocks close to 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Most highly-rated sunscreens will now advertise as “SPF 50+.”

4.    Tighter restrictions on broad-spectrum.
The term “broad-spectrum” refers to products providing protection from UVA as well as UVB rays. Companies must now pass a wavelength test to ascertain their protection from UVA rays.

5.    Elimination of “sunblock.” This previously used term misled many consumers into believing a product provided full protection from UV rays, leading the FDA to designate all sun protection products as sunscreen.

The FDA’s new regulations have provided additional oversight in an industry prone to ambiguous claims.

When manufacturers use dishonest advertising to sell products, significant injuries and illnesses may result. DC product liability attorneys help those affected by such claims hold companies accountable for their actions.

Are the products you use living up to the claims they make?

Do you need to go to the hospital for a skin condition or sunburn? Read these 10 tips to stay safe.

Posted In Product Liability , U.S. Food and Drug Administration Warnings
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CDC Admits to Improper Handling of Pathogens

Recent revelations out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may raise doubts among citizens regarding the organization’s ability to keep the public safe from harmful pathogens.

According to the Washington Post, several Alabama laboratories run by the federal government failed to follow protocol five times in the past decade when they sent anthrax, bird flu, and botulism bacteria to partner laboratories.

In response to these incidents, the CDC halted operations at labs specializing in influenza and rapid bioterrorism responses. They also temporarily suspended other CDC labs from sending out any biological materials until they complete a full investigation.

Although up to 84 employees faced potential anthrax exposure during the incident, no illnesses or infections have resulted to date. In addition, the organization has disposed of the organisms in question.

How These Lapses Could Affect the Public


It seems as though the CDC is currently working to manage the situation and prevent similar mistakes from occurring in the future. However, individuals across the country ought to be aware of the potential risks associated with past or future errors in handling these dangerous pathogens.

In the wrong hands, only one package of transmittable organisms could result in widespread infection and disease. With more of the population embarking travel across the country and the world, one infected individual could begin a global chain reaction difficult to control or reverse.

Legislators and public interest groups alike will certainly continue to monitor conditions at the CDC in the expectation they will more thoroughly and strictly enforce safety procedures in the future.

Organizations such as the CDC assume a major responsibility in ensuring the health and safety of the public. When these entities experience security breaches and failures, the potential for devastating effects on citizens is far-reaching.

If you or a loved one has experienced illness or infection due to the failure of an organization charged with public health, contact a Washington, D.C. public health attorney to obtain help fighting for the justice you deserve.
 

Posted In Public Health
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