Sunday, May 24, 2009

Waiting for Health Care Reform

Waiting for Health Care Reform

"We're waiting for the day when getting sick doesn't mean going broke. We're waiting for emergency rooms that aren't overcrowded. We're waiting for our policymakers to take action and fix the problem. We're waiting for the nation to have the best health care system. We are waiting for health care reform!"

On May 11th, representatives from the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the hospital industry, the medical device manufacturer’s industry, doctors and the medical establishment (AMA) met with President Obama and agreed to slow growth in health care by 1.5%, thus shaving $2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years.
Three days later, they rescinded that promise.
Everything about this scenario highlights the principle flaws and failures of all attempts at so-called health care reform, to date.
I recently read that:
Public policy is like sausage: you do not want to see how it is made, and the end product is not good for your health.”
All of the parties who met with the White House are representatives of the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industrial complex. There was nobody there representing us, the people/consumers. It is clear that we, the people, do not have a seat at the table, let alone a voice, and that enormous profound decisions will be made relative to our health, health care and related expenses without our input.
That is dangerous and does not bode well for us. The reason: what you and I call health care expenses, they call profit.
The medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industrial complex is, above all else, a commercial, for-profit industry. As long as the business incentives of profit and growth dominate, the costs of care will continue to spiral higher. That is the essence and nature of business.
This point could not have been driven home more poignantly when the parties reneged on their promise. After all, their promise had nothing to do with killing profits, just with slowing growth by 1.5%; more precisely, slowing the annual rate of growth from the current 6.2%, to a rate of 4.7%. This, according to them, would be 2 trillion dollars less profit over 10 years ($200 billion dollars per year). That sounds like a lot, but this is an industry that generated $2.4 trillion in 2006, with anticipated revenues of $4.3 trillion by 2017.
Ultimately, they couldn’t even agree to curtailing profits by about 8%!
From our perspective as consumers, the system has failed us. The for-profit system continues to drive up costs, stressing the viability of businesses, government and individuals, excluding more and more people, at the same time providing inefficient and inconsistent quality of care. Yet, this for-profit health system refuses to reform. And, with each passing year, as their power and influence grows, the reform we need becomes more difficult to achieve.
The entire system needs drastic overhaul and reform, way beyond the mere creation of a unified payer, which has virtually nothing to do with controlling costs. Piecemeal attempts at reform evoke false hopes, much like CPR, which fails almost 100% of the time “because of the largely overlooked fact that it is being performed on the already dead.”
Ultimately, as David Mechanic says in his book The Truth About Health Care:
At some point we as a nation will have to decide whether we wish to design our health system primarily to satisfy those who profit from it, or to protect the health and welfare of all Americans.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The FDA Takes On Cheerios !

The FDA Takes On Cheerios!

                                                                           May 5, 2009
Ken Powell 
Chairman of the Board and CEO 
General Mills  
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the label and labeling of your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal. FDA's review found serious violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) ...
Based on claims made on your product's label, we have determined that your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. 
Specifically, your Cheerios® product bears the following claims on its label:
"you can Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks" " 
• "Did you know that in just 6 weeks Cheerios can reduce bad cholesterol by an average of 4 percent? Cheerios is ... clinically proven to lower cholesterol. A clinical study showed that eating two 1 1/2 cup servings daily of Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.”
The FDA, purportedly, is a consumer protection agency. It is part of the Agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It inspects, tests, approves, and sets safety standards for foods and food additives, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, chemicals, cosmetics, and household and medical devices and labeling of such.
Not a bad mission. However, in this case absurd and revealing.
According to the FDA:
The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of these claims; they are not pre-approved by FDA but must be truthful and not misleading. If a (food) / dietary supplement label includes such a claim, it must state in a "disclaimer" that FDA has not evaluated the claim. The disclaimer must also state that the (food) / dietary supplement product is not intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease," because only a drug can legally make such a claim.
Talk about false claims!
This circular thinking and FDA ‘Act’ is an incredible boon to the medical/pharmaceutical industry and a blow that undermines and threatens the natural foods/health and wellness industry.
If only a drug can “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease” then:
    1. The reality of achieving true health through personal responsibility and lifestyle change is minimized, secondary to taking drugs, at best. This further promotes our perverted definition of health; as being on some medication to control some condition (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, anxiety, etc).
    2. As this FDA warning letter proves, any/all, natural food or supplement that can prevent, treat or cure diseases can be labeled as a drug to be prescribed only by a medical doctor.
If this sounds like far-fetched science fiction, then you need to read about The Codex Alimentarius. (to be discussed in a future blog entry)
Since PDUFA (Prescription Drug User Fee Act) passed in 1992, most of the FDA's funding comes directly from the Pharmaceutical Industry. This is a conflict of interests that favors the drug industry and has seriously compromised the consumer protection role of the FDA.
Following the enactment of PDUFA, the time period for new drugs to be approved has dropped significantly while the number of new drugs approved has soared. This has had the predicable consequence of increased adverse-events; including, all too frequently, death; the ultimate adverse-event.
While a single FDA approved drug, Vioxx caused an estimated 140,000 people to have heart attacks and more than 55,000 deaths, no-one has ever been reported to suffer a single adverse-event from eating Whole Grain Oat Cheerios, even if they over-dosed.
The FDA, with its limited resources, should be targeting pharmaceutical companies with warning letters, not cereal manufacturers’ claims that “Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.”
This epitomizes an industry-subservient, through the looking glass, bureaucracy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009