The Community Health Center Inc. set up shop inside the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Waterbury on a Friday in mid-July. Armed with 24 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the team of six staff and volunteers sat ready for patients from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Not one person showed up. The turnout was not surprising, according to the vaccination site leader and nurses at the mobile clinic. Last month, new vaccinations across Connecticut fell to the lowest numbers since January, a predictable outcome when nearly 65% of the total state population has received at least one vaccine dose. But in Waterbury, only 46% of residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
On a recent Friday evening, 30 men and women of color in and around New Haven converged on Zoom to share their thoughts about the flu vaccine. Most were apprehensive. Participants said they worried about contracting the flu from the vaccine, that the danger from the flu vaccine is far greater than catching the flu, and that people of color are again being experimented upon by the medical community. “Our trust levels are really low,” one woman at the online event said. “We think it’s just another way of getting to harm us even further.”
During the 2019-20 flu season in New Haven, more people of color than whites were hospitalized due to the flu: 35% of Black and 31% of Hispanic residents compared to 22% of white people, according to data from the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE).
Thousands of consumers statewide are experiencing sticker shock at the pharmacy this year after increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for employer-sponsored insurance, forcing some to choose between their health and their finances. Since 2003, drug costs in Connecticut have increased faster than prices across the nation, reports the nonprofit Connecticut Health Policy Project. The advocacy group also found that Connecticut residents spend more per person on prescriptions than residents in all states except Delaware and that rate is rising much faster than in other states. According to the State Comptroller’s Office, the total net costs of prescription drugs in the state employee health plan rose 29 percent, from $257.6 million in 2014 to $332.3 million in 2017, with diabetes drugs the most expensive therapeutic class. Some of the companies to hike prices on dozens of medications by more than 9 percent this year include Allergan Plc, Insys Therapeutics Inc., Horizon Pharma Ltd., and Teva Ltd, according to Jefferies LLC, a New York-based investment advisory firm.
Edith Baker of Plainville faced a devastating reality that patients with advanced cancer inevitably confront. She had stopped responding to conventional treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy could no longer contain her stage 4 bladder cancer. But there was a ray of hope. Baker’s oncologist at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center referred her to a clinical trial at UConn Health involving two immunotherapy drugs: the FDA-approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab) from Merck & Co., credited with successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma; and Epacadostat (IDO1 inhibitor), an experimental drug from Incyte Corp.
Dozens of Connecticut doctors accepted six-figure payments from drug and medical device manufacturers in 2015 for consulting, speaking, meals and travel, with six of the 10 highest-paid physicians affiliated with academic institutions, new federal data show. The top 10 doctors – less than 0.1 percent of the 11,000 who received payments – took in $3.6 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total $24.9 million paid out. Among them is the dean of the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Alpern, who received $445,398 in 2015 from two companies – Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie – in consulting fees, meals and travel expenses for serving on the boards of both companies. In 2014, he received $458,194 from the two companies. The Yale medical school began a research partnership with AbbVie in 2013, after the pharmaceutical company spun off from Abbott Laboratories.
Yale researchers are exploring whether certain medications, including one sold to help smokers kick the habit, can help heavy drinkers reduce the amount of alcohol they consume. Yale School of Medicine is conducting a clinical trial to see whether those who frequently drink heavily and also smoke cigarettes find it easier to cut back on their drinking while taking varenicline. The drug, sold under the brand name Chantix, is marketed to help smokers quit but could also potentially help heavy drinkers drink less, according to lead researcher Stephanie O’Malley, a psychiatry professor at Yale. For many, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol “kind of go together, hand in hand,” she said. “Many people, when they drink they want to smoke.”
Previous studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have found that Chantix does help reduce drinking for those who want to cut back, she said.
In 2010, as state health officials were investigating allegations that Dr. Gerson Sternstein of Berlin was overmedicating patients, three pharmaceutical companies were showering thousands of dollars on the psychiatrist for meals and speaking engagements. Some of the payments continued even after his license was suspended in August 2010.