A fatal outbreak of E. coli contamination that recently hospitalized at least 26 people in the U.S. and Canada—including two in Connecticut—shows that the federal government is failing to adequately protect people from consuming recalled foods, lawmakers and consumer advocates say. The outbreak that sickened the two Connecticut residents and 16 others nationally, including 1 person in California who died, was probably caused by eating “leafy greens,” but a specific leafy green couldn’t be identified, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. The Canadian government’s Public Health Agency announced on Dec. 11 that the outbreak was linked to romaine lettuce. Maura Downes, the communications director for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, confirmed that two state residents were sickened by the E. coli outbreak.
As the federal government renews tests to determine how much glyphosate is in America’s foods, Connecticut environmental groups, organic farmers and a U.S. senator say it’s time to limit the use of, or ban, the popular herbicide. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s top-selling weed killer, Roundup, is a suspected carcinogen that’s used in agriculture, on golf courses, ballfields and other public venues, and for lawn care, experts said. It can be found in more than 750 products sold in the U.S., reports the National Pesticide Information Center. Health concerns have been raised about Roundup for decades, concerns consistently disputed by its manufacturer, Monsanto. Earlier this year, a group of environmental health scientists called for the federal government to reassess whether glyphosate is a cancer risk.
Nearly half of the 60 companies that are allowed to discharge wastewater directly into Connecticut’s rivers, brooks and other bodies of water exceeded the amounts of toxic metals or other pollutants that their permits allowed over the last three years, a C-HIT analysis of federal data shows. Despite the violations, the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) fined only two of the 29 companies found to be in noncompliance with their permits—a record that state environmental advocates called alarming, but that the agency said is justified. The 29 companies discharged excessive amounts of pollutants during at least one three-month period from October 2013 to September 2016. At least 19 companies exceeded by more than 100 percent the amounts they were allowed to discharge, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. The data also show that 23 of the 60 companies were found in noncompliance with terms of their permits for at least half of the three years—for reasons ranging from excessive discharges to submitting late discharge reports.
When Clinton resident Austin Haughwout uploaded YouTube videos of his pistol and flamethrower-equipped drones last year, he triggered a national debate over the use of weaponized drones that is expected to result in new state legislation. Eight states, including Vermont and Maine, now have laws prohibiting or limiting the weaponization of drones, and Connecticut is expected to take up a similar ban in the next legislative session. A proposal in Connecticut to make it a felony to carry a weapon or an explosive in a drone was approved by the House during the 2016 legislative session, but the Senate failed to take action. “Hopefully, next year, we will get the legislation across the finish line,” said Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. Nationally, there were 632,068 drones registered as of December, according to Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
A Superior Court judge is expected to decide by year’s end whether to limit the allegations in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a newborn, Calvin Jimmy Lee-White, who died after being given a dietary supplement at Yale New Haven Hospital in 2014. The infant’s grandfather, Rickie Hanes of North Haven, on behalf of the baby’s estate, is suing the hospital and the supplement manufacturer, Solgar, and its parent company NBTY. Yale New Haven, Solgar and NBTY argued in court in August that various claims against them—including reckless disregard for safety and fraudulent misrepresentation of a product’s safety—should be eliminated. Angelo Ziotas, an attorney representing the Lee-White estate, says a written ruling by New Haven Superior Court Judge Steven Ecker will likely come by the end of December, and the judge has set June 2017 as the date to complete discovery and fall 2018 as the trial date. Lee-White, the son of Samantha Pineapple Lee and Aaron White, was born prematurely by C-section on Oct.
Five Connecticut physicians have received letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alleging that they may have purchased unapproved drugs that put patients at risk of adverse health consequences, documents obtained by C-HIT show. The FDA documents show the five doctors were alerted as part of a wide-reaching federal probe involving Gallant Pharma International Inc., which sold more than $12.4 million in unapproved chemotherapy and injectable cosmetic drugs in the United States before the government shut down the operation in 2013. The letters to the doctors, dated April 1, 2015, say that “In addition to putting patients at risk, receiving misbranded or adulterated drugs and devices in interstate commerce and delivering or offering to deliver those drugs and devices to (or use on) others violates federal law.”
None of the doctors has been charged with wrongdoing, and only one acknowledged receiving the letter from the FDA. The case comes to light as drug companies and pharmacies are urging Congress and law enforcement officials to crack down on an increasing number of dangerous unapproved and counterfeit drugs being sold to doctors and consumers nationwide. Sales of counterfeit drugs and drugs not approved by FDA have soared into a multi-billion dollar industry with the growth of the Internet, and drug companies say efforts by governments to tackle illegal online drug sales are not sufficient.
The high cost of insulin, which has risen by triple-digit percentages in the last five years, is endangering the lives of many diabetics who can’t afford the price tag, say Connecticut physicians who treat diabetics. The doctors say that the out-of-pocket costs for insulin, ranging from $25 to upwards of $600 a month, depending on insurance coverage, are forcing many of their low-income patients to choose between treatment and paying their bills. “Some of my patients have to make the choice between rent or insulin,” said Dr. Bismruta Misra, an endocrinologist with the Stamford Health Medical Group. “So they spread out taking insulin [injecting it less frequently than a doctor has prescribed] or don’t take it.”
Experts and recent studies point to drug companies’ long-standing patents and the lack of generic or “biosimilar” insulin as key reasons why the drug is so expensive. A study by Philip Clarke, a professor of health economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia, reported that the price of insulin has tripled from 2002-2013.
The number of syphilis and chlamydia cases increased statewide last year as the number of gonorrhea cases dropped slightly, according to newly released figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationally, the number of cases involving all three common sexually transmitted diseases increased for the first time since 2006, the CDC reports. The 2014 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, which was released in November, shows that, nationally, the number of reported cases of syphilis increased 15 percent over the number reported in 2013. The number of gonorrhea cases rose 5 percent last year, and reported chlamydia cases increased by 3 percent. Statistics for the state show a slightly different picture.
Every week for the past 7½ years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has identified an average of two dietary supplements being sold to consumers that were “tainted” and “potentially hazardous,” a C-HIT analysis of data reveals. The supplements contained prescription drug ingredients, controlled substances or untested pharmaceutical ingredients, which is prohibited by federal law and “can pose considerable dangers to consumers,” including stroke, liver damage, kidney failure and death, according to the FDA. C-HIT’s analysis of FDA data reveals 615 dietary supplements that were identified as tainted since Jan. 1, 2008. In the first half of this year alone, 59 tainted dietary supplements were posted on the FDA’s site.
As the federal government advocates increased use of generic drugs, concerns are mounting about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight and the quality or effectiveness of some generics. In the last eight months, the FDA has acknowledged that two generic versions of the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drug Concerta it approved may not work as effectively as the brand-name product. The agency told the drugs’ manufacturers to confirm their effectiveness or withdraw them from the market. The FDA also is looking into findings by a researcher at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital that generic versions of Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor manufactured outside of the U.S. contains impurities that inhibit the drug’s therapeutic effect. The FDA said that, as a number of popular drugs come off patent through 2015, it lacks the resources to independently police generics.