bad drugs

Unapproved Drugs Prompt FDA Alert To 5 Connecticut Doctors

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.

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Insur Graphic

Report: Private Insurers Deny More Claims For Mental Health Care

The rate of denials by the state's largest managed care insurers of requests for mental health services rose nearly 70 percent between 2013 and 2014, with an average of about one in 12 requests for prescribed treatment initially rejected, a new state report shows. At the same time, the proportion of enrollees in the largest managed care companies who received outpatient or emergency department care for mental health doubled, from an average of 9.4 percent in 2013 to 20.8 percent in 2014, according to an analysis of the 2015 Consumer Report Card on Health Insurance Carriers in Connecticut, issued by the state Insurance Department. The percentage of members who received inpatient mental health care also doubled, although it remained low, with most companies providing inpatient services for less than .5 percent of all enrollees. The rise in rejections by the state’s 10 largest indemnity managed care companies – private health insurers, not including Medicare or Medicaid -- came as state officials focused on improving mental health outreach and treatment, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. The managed care organizations include companies such as Aetna Life Insurance Co., Anthem Health Plans, CIGNA Health and Life Insurance Co., and UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co.

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Three-year-old Angely Nunez watches as Lauren Frazer, a nurse at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, applies a topical anesthetic to her arm before a blood draw to check for lead levels.

Thousands Of Children Suffer From Lead Poisoning, Many Not Tested

Nearly 60,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported with lead exposure in 2013, and an additional 2,275 children had high enough levels of the toxin in their blood to be considered poisoned. While those numbers, the latest available from the state Department of Public Health, may seem high, health experts say they actually must be higher because of significant gaps in state-mandated testing. Even though Connecticut has some of the strictest lead-screening laws in the country – requiring every child to be tested twice, before age 3 – DPH figures show that only half were screened twice, as mandated. Unlike in Flint, Mich., whose residents were poisoned when a corrosive water source was directed through aging lead-lined pipes, the main culprit in Connecticut is lead paint. Though banned in 1978, lead-based paint is present in countless older apartment buildings and homes, especially in urban centers, such as Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.

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Baby sleeping

In Connecticut, Suffocation Deaths “Distinctive Injury”

A new report that identifies the most distinctive cause of injury death for each state, compared to national rates, has some findings that might be expected:

Seven states in Appalachia and the Southwest, for example, had unintentional firearms deaths roughly two to four times the national rate. Those states have high gun ownership rates and lack safe-storage laws. Three states – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska – had as their most distinctive injury motor vehicle crashes involving passengers. Four safety provisions – primary seatbelt laws, mandatory key ignition locks for drunk drivers, booster seats, and nighttime driving restrictions for teens – are absent in Montana, while South Dakota and Nebraska have only one each. Connecticut had as its most distinctive cause of injury death “unintentional suffocation” – the only state with that outlier cause.

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Studies report that the cost of insulin has risen by triple-digit percentages.

Low-Income Diabetics Paying High Price For Insulin

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.

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Emerson Cheney attends Tunxis Community College.

Cultural Hurdles Limit Medical Care For LGBTs

Emerson Cheney has survived drug addiction, an abusive relationship, years of cutting and burning himself, and multiple suicide attempts. Now a student at Tunxis Community College, Cheney, 22, recalls how he struggled as a teenager with rejection by friends, school administrators and even doctors, after he came out as transgender. Advocates for LGBT youth say that Cheney’s story is all too common—rejection often pushes young people to risky behaviors that result in health challenges. For LGBT youth, finding health care professionals who can fully address their medical and psychological needs at a critical time in their psychosocial development can be difficult. Several recent studies have highlighted discrimination and mistreatment of sexual and gender minority individuals seeking health care. In Connecticut, a 2008 study that surveyed pediatricians to examine health barriers among LGBT adolescents found that 31 percent of doctors expressed reservations about discussing sexual orientation or gender with patients.

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Death At Surgery Center Raises Questions About Emergency Care

In surgery, when something goes wrong, minutes become hours. Minutes are the focus of a lawsuit filed by the family of a 29-year-old Seymour nurse who died in February 2015 after undergoing minor elective sinus surgery at the North Haven Surgery Center. The suit alleges that the center waited as long as 29 minutes to call an ambulance after Katherine O’Donnell’s blood pressure and pulse fell to critical levels on the operating table – and that doctors continued to proceed with surgery, even as their efforts to resuscitate her failed. The case raises questions about how well equipped freestanding surgical centers are to handle emergencies, and what sanctions they face for alleged lapses in care. The lawsuit alleges that the center and Fairfield Anesthesia Associates, LLC, which handled anesthesia in the case, failed to properly respond by stopping the surgery immediately and calling a “Code Blue” emergency when O’Donnell’s blood pressure and oxygen levels plummeted.

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Alyson Hannan said she experienced back and pelvic pain and a rash and boils, after having Essure inserted in her fallopian tubes.

Essure Contraceptive Under FDA Review After Public Outcry

When Alyson Hannan, 44, decided she was done having children, she chose Essure, a non-surgical permanent birth control option approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The day the tiny metal coils were inserted into her fallopian tubes in her doctor’s office is one that she can’t forget, said Hannan, regional sales director for Met Life who underwent the procedure on Sept. 11, 2014. “I will never forget that date. None of us will.”

Hannan is among tens of thousands of women, now referred to as “E-Sisters,” who have banded together on Facebook to share their stories of adverse health problems, including allergic reactions, chronic pelvic pain, device migration, hair loss and headaches.

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CT BA Fatalities

Drunk-Driving Fatalities Decline, But State Ranks High In Impaired Drivers

Connecticut saw a decline in drunk-driving fatalities in 2014, but the state still ranks among the highest in the country in the percentage of traffic deaths involving alcohol-impaired drivers, new federal data show. Ninety-seven of the 248 traffic fatalities in Connecticut, or 39 percent, involved drivers with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, considered alcohol-impaired, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That rate is higher than the U.S. average of 31 percent, and is the fifth highest nationally -- behind Texas, North Dakota and Massachusetts, with rates of 41 percent, and Delaware, at 40 percent. Vermont had the lowest rate, at 20 percent. Total motor vehicle deaths in Connecticut declined from 276 in 2013 to 248, in line with a national trend.

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The common bed bug, cimex lectularius.

Bed Bugs: Our Creepy, Pervasive And Expensive Problem

A Norwalk-based exterminator was called to an apartment building in the New Haven area and, entering one unit, he found the walls “dripping with bed bugs.”

The same company, Bliss Pest Control of Connecticut, answered a call from a Greenwich resident who had recently returned from one of his frequent business trips. His family was regularly waking up with bites. The culprit? Bed bugs. “Bliss gets calls all the time for that very story,” Michael Lawrence, area district manager of Bliss, wrote in an email.

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