Lipitor Ads Misleading

February 26, 2008

Pfizer to End Lipitor Ads by Jarvik

Under criticism that its ads are misleading, Pfizer said Monday that it would cancel a long-running advertising campaign using the artificial heart pioneer Robert Jarvik as a spokesman for its cholesterol drug Lipitor.

Pfizer has spent more than $258 million advertising Lipitor since January 2006, most of it on the Jarvik campaign, as the company sought to protect Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug, from competition by cheaper generics.

But the campaign had come under scrutiny from a Congressional committee that is examining consumer drug advertising and has asked whether the ads misrepresented Dr. Jarvik and his credentials. Although he has a medical degree, Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist and is not licensed to practice medicine.

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Product Alert – Baxter's Heparin

February 12, 2008

Here is what I do not understand. If the Heparin is a “medically necessary product” how come physicians are urged caution–read “do not prescribe”– in its use?

Baxter Halts Production of Multi-Use Heparin Vials

ROCKVILLE, Md., Feb. 11 — Reacting to a “spike” in adverse events — including four deaths — Baxter Healthcare has temporarily stopped making its multiple-dose vials of heparin sodium, the FDA said today.The move was not accompanied by a general recall of the products but physicians are being urged to use them with care, according to John Jenkins, M.D., of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Dr. Jenkins said recalling the multiple-dose vials would create an immediate shortage of a “medically necessary product,” because Baxter produces about half the heparin used in the U.S.

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10 Opinions – 10 Way

February 9, 2008

I like number 7 the best…

10 Ways to Fix Health Care: Opinions from 10 Experts

1. Mend the medical schools
Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thinks the country needs more medical schools an that doctors, nurses, vets need to learn together. Beginning their education at once, Gerberding says, can encourage healthcare professionals to cooperate and develop a shared mission.

2. Single-payer insurance
Dr. Michael Ozer, a San Antonio-based pediatrician and a member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), says that the country needs to expand health coverage and lower its costs at the same time. The only way to do this, he asserts, is through single-payer national health insurance, or NHI. The approach is similar to healthcare programs in Canada and Britain.

3. Individual, not company, plans
Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and co-author of the forthcoming 2nd edition of Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It, says market forces bear no consequence on rising healthcare costs. Doctors and insurance companies get away with charging high prices because government programs encourage employer-controlled insurance. More people could benefit if they kept the same insurance plan even if they didn’t keep the same job.

4. Divert the dollar to the doc
Orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Neil Thomas Katz, on the other hand, says that the dollar needs to go to the doctors, not the patients, the insurance companies or the government.

“The solution is simple. Doctors and hospitals need to be paid at least as much as it costs to take care of you. We should not be losing money,” Katz states.

5. Pay for the care of populations, not events
Donald Berwick, a Massachusetts pediatrician and the president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, touches upon several ways to transform healthcare. One area he focuses on involves making healthcare a pattern, not a response to a particular occurrence.

6. Cut costs for med students
Like CDC head Julie Gerberding, Robert B. Goldberg, who heads the Medical Society of the State of New York, also points to medical school as the place to start change. But his argument focuses on the costs to students, not the separation of education. Large amounts of debt, he says, forces many medical students to specialize in one area instead of becoming the more needed primary care physicians.

7. Eliminate insurance altogether
Tennessee emergency and internal medicine physician Dr. Robert Berry has taken a groundbreaking approach to giving individuals better access to healthcare — he eliminated insurance all-together at his clinic. His7,500-some-odd patients pay for their visits themselves, because Berry does not accept insurance or third-party payments like Medicare.

8. More health centers
New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith wants to see more affordable, community health centers around the country. Such facilities treat patients regardless of their ability to pay medical fees and aim to alleviate the pressure at hospital emergency rooms. They also tend to help underserved, low-income and minority populations who often can not afford or acquire health insurance.

9. Stimulating positive-sum competition
Harvard University professor Michael E. Porter says the healthcare system has it all wrong — it system favors price over value. To set the system toward the latter, healthcare providers, payers and employers purchasing health plans must all change their tact. Ways to stimulate this change include making information more accessible.

10. Keep it low-tech
Dr. Dean Ornish, the founder, president, and director of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, CA, said low-technology approaches to preventive healthcare can help cut healthcare costs. Though preventive programs incorporating diet, exercise and stress management might cost more money upfront, overall costs will drop by 30 percent and may save the patient from going for tests and getting treatment with expensive machinery.

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Texas' Tort Reform has Failed to Deliver

February 9, 2008

Proposition 12 mailer - Expecting? Make sure you get to the delivery on time...

Baby, I Lied

Choosing between greedy trial lawyers and cuddly babies was no contest for most Texas voters. Proposition 12 passed. Four years later, vast swaths of rural Texas are going begging for health care. Proposition 12, and the far-reaching changes in Texas civil law that it dragged behind it, was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. The number of doctors in the state was not falling, it was steadily rising, according to Texas Medical Board data. There was little statistical evidence showing that frivolous lawsuits were a significant force driving increases in malpractice premiums. Perhaps the most insidious sleight of hand employed by Proposition 12 backers was their repeated insistence that medical malpractice insurance rates were somehow responsible for doctor shortages in rural Texas. “Women in three out of five Texas counties do not have access to obstetricians. Imagine the hardship this creates for many pregnant women in our state,” Gov. Rick Perry told a New York audience in October 2003 at the pro-tort-reform Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The problem has not been a lack of compassion among our medical community, but a lack of protection from abusive lawsuits.” The campaign’s promise, that tort reform would cause doctors to begin returning to the state’s sparsely populated regions, has now been tested for four years. It has not proven to be true.

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The McKinsey Documents

February 9, 2008

Secretive Allstate File Could Show ‘Bad Faith’

Behind the fight between Florida’s insurance commissioner and Allstate Insurance Co. is a mystery that could have come from a John Grisham novel.Secret Allstate documents – known as the McKinsey documents – allegedly show how the insurance giant intentionally has made low-ball claims offers to its customers for years, netting Allstate billions of dollars in the process.

But the McKinsey documents have never seen the light of day.

Trial lawyers who have sued Allstate in recent years have eagerly sought them, and Allstate reluctantly has turned them over to lawyers under subpoena. However, each time a judge has prohibited lawyers from distributing them to the media and the public under a protective order.

Florida now is demanding the documents from Allstate and other insurers in a broad-based investigation of the companies’ business practices, including alleged collusion with other insurers and their claims handling procedures. The issue came to a head last week, when Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty suspended Allstate’s right to issue new insurance policies in Florida. A judge later lifted McCarty’s suspension.

Allstate spokesman Mike Siemienas said the company intends to turn over the documents, but Florida might not find them all that revealing. The McKinsey documents at issue concern auto insurance – not the hot-button issue of homeowners insurance. Some of the strategies laid out in the documents were just ideas and never became Allstate policy, Siemienas said.

Still, Whitney Buchanan, an Albuquerque, N.M., trial lawyer who has seen the elusive documents, said that if Florida’s insurance commissioner receives them, they could go a long way to showing that Allstate has not been playing fair.

“These documents are devastating to them in bad faith litigation,” Buchanan said.

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Helping Legal-Aid

February 5, 2008

Chicago Bar Foundation initiative to help legal-aid organizations

More than 20 local law firms have joined a new Chicago Bar Foundation initiative to support legal aid and pro bono efforts.”Law Firm Leadership Circle” membership requires firms to commit to several goals, including encouraging attorneys to annually complete at least 35 hours of pro bono work and donating at least $300 a year per attorney to legal-aid organizations.

The circle expands on the Chicago Bar Foundation’s efforts to ensure access to the justice system. There are fewer than 300 legal-aid attorneys who serve more than 1 million low-income residents in the Chicago area.

Last year, the foundation launched a fundraising campaign to supplement the incomes of legal-aid attorneys, collecting about $900,000 from law firms and corporations. This year’s campaign will be led by Dan Webb, chairman of Winston & Strawn.

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