Do The Drugs You Take Really Work? And Are They Safe?

A picture of a variety of loose pillsWhen one visits the doctor and drugs are prescribed – one rightfully assumes those drugs are both effective and safe.

After all – we trust the physicians in our lives to make good choices for us.

Did you know that in 1997, Congress passed a law creating a website called clinicaltrials.gov overseen by the National Institutes of Health? The website was established to provide physicians and consumers easy access to information on public and private clinical trials.

In 2007, Congress also passed legislation that required medical researchers to release study findings to this website within one year of a study’s completion.

Soon thereafter, editors at many of the most prestigious medical journals decided to publish only study results that appeared on that website.

Well, in 2008, an FDA medical officer by the name of Turner led a research review looking to determine which research studies on antidepressants actually got published in medical journals.

To his surprise, Turner found that of all studies published on the topic, 94% of the time they reported positive results.

So that’s what all the research must have revealed – correct?

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New Diabetes Drug Warning…

A picture of a bottle of pillsDiabetes is a problem affecting almost 30 million Americans each year – with Type II diabetes being the most common form of the disease.

The most common forms of treatment – exercise, improving one’s diet, and medication.

Invokana, made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals for Johnson & Johnson, is a popular drug used to treat Type II diabetes. J&J claims the drug works by encouraging the kidneys to dump excess circulating sugar from the body through the process of urination.

Researchers have been monitoring adverse side effects of the drug since it was first introduced. Known side effects include:

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Is Your Surgeon Double-Timing You During Surgery?

Doctors performing surgery in an operating roomAnyone needing either elective surgery or one on an emergency basis should rightfully expect the surgeon on hand to be singularly focused on them…

Right?

After all, surgery is serious stuff – and often life threatening if done poorly.

Did you know there’s been a practice for decades in so-called “teaching hospitals” of surgeons working on two patients in separate operating rooms “simultaneously?”

The practice is called “running two rooms” or double booking and involves a senior surgeon working with a team of trainees. The surgeon delegates aspects of the two surgeries between his trainees, moving from room to room to perform different aspects of the surgeries in question. Incredibly – sometimes these senior surgeons even walk away to visit other patients in other parts of the hospital entirely.

Alarmed yet?

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Florida Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Consumers In Med Mal Battle

A man sitting in the hospital with a broken legShould a person who’s suffered a grievous injury due to the mistake of a medical professional or hospital have the right to sue for the disfigurement, pain, and suffering (called non-economic damages) of that mistake?

That’s a question that has roiled the nation for years and led some states to consider capping damage awards.

Where does the concept of capping originate?

Doctors and hospitals have long advanced the idea. They claim such awards add immense costs to healthcare.

The State of Florida enacted such a cap in 2003, one intended to limit damage awards for just these kinds of losses.

Was that law appropriate, fair or constitutional?

The Florida Supreme Court has just issued a decision in this matter in a case involving a woman who had her esophagus mistakenly perforated during a surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Why the Choice of Hospitals Matters…

Connecticut Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you are ever in an accident or require surgery – the hospital you choose matters more than most realize.

A study by Boston Consulting Group has just found that patients treated at the worst American hospitals were three times more likely to die and 13 times more likely to have medical complications than those that visited one of the nation’s best hospitals.

Three times more likely to die… that is not a typo.

The study’s authors looked at 22 million hospital admissions across the U.S. and adjusted for factors like age, sex, severity of illness and more.

Unfortunately, no hospitals were specifically identified in the study. The study authors agreed not to reveal institutional names in order to gain access to the data.

When asked to explain such a wide disparity of results, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Barry Rosenberg said that much of the difference in outcomes can be explained by the skill of the medical staffs and the culture of each hospital.

Can patients determine in advance which hospitals to entrust their care?

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Might Financial Penalties Reduce Preventable Medical Errors?

Portrait

Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. – ranking just behind heart disease and cancer.

In 2007, in an attempt to reduce the harm done by these errors, the state of California tried something new.  The state instituted a system of fines of up to $125,000 for a specific list of errors that can cause “serious injury or death of a patient” whether or not those medical mistakes were promptly reported.

Interestingly, Medicare also punishes care providers by refusing to pay hospitals found guilty of medical errors and there are Affordable Care Act penalties that apply to some medical errors as well.

And while a few states do fine hospitals for failing to report adverse events, California is the only state in the U.S. that both publicizes and fines for these mistakes.

Since the law’s passage, $17 million in fines have been handed out – bringing adverse publicity and presumably shame to 192 hospitals in California.

The result?

Sadly, there has been no significant reduction in medical errors in California overall since the program was deployed nine years ago.  And the total number of errors is higher today than it was when the program started.

Has there been any improvement?

Oddly, California data is a bit hard to parse on that question.  However, the number of hospital acquired infections and severe bedsores has dropped nationally, while mistakes, such as leaving surgical tools inside of patients, have increased.

Interestingly – no federal law requires that hospitals report their errors – and only 27 states (including Connecticut) require it.

Does that reporting system work?

According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, only 12% of preventable errors are ever reported – even in those states requiring those reports.

What does that mean for Connecticut?

Looking at the latest data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health (2015), 471 adverse events were reported to state officials.  If one assumes the U.S. Inspector General is correct about the number of preventable errors that go unreported, there were more likely close to 4,000 medical errors in Connecticut in 2015 – of which 3,500 went unreported.

Among the leading preventable errors in Connecticut hospitals were bedsores, falls, organ perforations, and retention of foreign objects – including surgical tools.

Can our physicians and hospitals do better?  Of course they can.  And they must.  These mistakes take and tragically alter too many lives.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer.  A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.    Please contact us if we can help you.  The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

 

Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

Death from Medicine Back in the News…

Death from Medicine is way too common.For decades, medical researchers have been publishing data showing that conventional medicine is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. A paper recently published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) reconfirms this fact.

There are a number of very curious things about this issue.   First – why was this latest article not published in a prominent U.S. medical journal? Well – the author approached the NEJM (the New England Journal of Medicine) and was told “the study was not relevant to practicing physicians”. JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) also said no thanks.

Really?

No interest???

What’s more – how is it possible the medical community has made so little progress addressing these issues, particularly given that researchers have been reporting this data since the middle of the 20th century – over 50 years.

How can it be that the richest nation on earth, a nation that spends more on healthcare than any other major industrial nation, is now witnessing a dramatic increase in chronic disease and a drop in life expectancy compared to other industrialized nations?

Is it possible that business interests are trumping consumer interests?

Robert Kennedy Jr. (the son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy) recently had this to say about medicine in America…

“The pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. It is a trillion dollar industry. It is the number-one lobbyist in Washington D.C., and at state capitals around America. It gives $2.6 billion – twice what oil and gas give – to our elected officials. The pharmaceutical industry gives four-times to our politicians what defense and aeronautical contractors do. This is an industry that has complete control of our politicians on Capitol Hill.”

Our question is why would an industry so confident about the benefits of their system of therapy feel the need to buy state and federal legislative bodies? It’s a curious question isn’t it?

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When Are Hospitals Responsible For Medical Negligence?

Hospitals and medical negligenceJane suddenly suffers severe lower extremity trauma during a soccer tournament. Ben awakes with unrelenting chest pain and pressure. Mary, driving home from work, is hit head-on suffering multiple fractures and wounds. Jake develops flu symptoms one early evening. Many different situations can lead to a hospital or medical facility visit.   Often, the patient may choose the particular hospital or clinic. Rarely, however, do they have any choice in the doctor rendering care.

This is because patients usually have no prior relationship with hospital or clinic medical professionals. In such situations, patients often never see or meet the medical professionals making decisions regarding their care. Due to this, patients often believe that they are being treated by the facility’s employees and that the facility will be responsible for the care they receive.

However, by carefully drafting service contracts, medical facilities have tried to benefit from staffing highly trained medical professionals without being responsible for the quality of their care. This left patients with potentially inadequate resources to make them whole when injured by medical negligence. The question of whether medical facilities should be held responsible for medical professionals who act as part of their medical team began being raised in Connecticut’s trial courts.

For years, most trial courts answered this question “yes.” Those facilities had held certain professionals out as their own were liable for the actions of their “apparent agents” regardless of phantom agreements that stated otherwise. However, some courts took the hospital’s side, and people injured by medical negligence were forced to accept inadequate results.

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What If Computer Hackers Could Attack Operating Room Equipment?

 

Computers are a true marvel of the modern world. Capable of performing billions of calculations per second – these machines continue to transform the world as we know it.

Marvels, however, can sometimes come with risks.   It’s something we’ve written a great deal about. In particular, we’ve written a lot about the potential dangers associated with computer guided cars in recent months.

Did you know that medical experts are now growing increasingly concerned about the potential for medical equipment to be hacked? This concern particularly applies to equipment that can “talk” to other machines within a health or hospital system and centers on the potential for “inappropriate access to devices.” There is also the problem that one device might be transmitting data in metric units only to be misinterpreted by another machine set to accept data in pounds and inches. Miscues like these could prove fatal to any patients involved.

But hacking into medical devices – really?

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Would Your Hospital Admit A Medical Mistake?

Hopsitals' admission to medical mistakesIt’s estimated that medical errors cost the United States $19.5 billion a year – most of it in added medical costs. And that estimate is considered by many experts to be low.

It is also estimated that physicians in this country make 12 million serious diagnostic medical errors a year… and knowingly prescribe powerful and often toxic drugs that are ineffective 80% of the time.

The truth is that medical mistakes and malpractice are the third leading cause of death in this country[1].

Can anything be done to improve this situation?

Well what if your hospital had a strict policy of admitting when errors and medical malpractice occurred?

Actually – there are a few that do that voluntarily.

MedStar Health – a company operating 10 hospitals in the Baltimore, Washington D.C. area has a stated policy that “if the [need for further] care was preventable, we’re waiving bills…”

Sounds remarkable – right?

Sadly few hospital systems in the U.S. operate in such a transparent fashion. Sadder still is the cost to patients.   What happens to those people?

The fact is that of the many tens of thousands injured by medical mistakes each year – only a tiny percentage file a lawsuit to recover their losses.   For the vast majority – the cost of medical and rehab costs for the mistakes of their physicians and hospitals falls to them, the injured – often with catastrophic financial consequences.

“You would expect if [health-care providers] make the mistake, they would make you whole,” said Leah Binder, president of the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that grades hospitals on their record of preventing errors, injuries, accidents and infections. “But that is not what happens. In health care, you pay and you pay and you pay.”

Well there is a tiny glimmer of hope… some insurers are requiring that hospitals handle mistakes by providing all follow-up care for free. The industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans is one such group pushing for this reform.

Interestingly – research indicates that when healthcare providers are transparent about mistakes – patients are much less likely to sue… and that’s good for everyone.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer. A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.   Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

 

[1] MEDICAL MALPRACTICE – BY THE NUMBERS, CENTER FOR JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY. 2015