Category Archives: Health

GlaxoSmithKline: From Pharmaceutical Powerhouse to Sophisticated Criminal Enterprise

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Health, Legal Affairs, Science, Technology Date:

News outlets across the country dutifully reported a week ago that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline had struck a deal with federal prosecutors, agreeing to pay $3 billion to settle criminal and civil charges related to its illegal promotion of various drugs.

Such deals have become sufficiently commonplace – Big Pharma has paid nearly $10 billion in the last 3 1/2 years to make federal authorities go away – that there may be a bit of fraud fatigue in reading such stories. But lawbreaking by pharmaceutical companies kills people and puts countless others at risk, so it’s worth revisiting the depth to which GlaxoSmithKline fell on its journey from respected pharmaceutical powerhouse to sophisticated criminal enterprise. And it’s equally worth noting that its crimes could not have been committed without the aiding and abetting of physicians and university scientists.

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Connecticut Pols Take to Twitter to Praise, Trash Supreme Court Ruling

by Categorized: Health, Politics Date:

Many of Connecticut’s elected officials — and would-be elected officials – took to Twitter this morning to give a brief thumbs-up or -down on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the contentious Affordable Care Act. View their Tweets below.

For Tweets that referenced web pages, clicking on the Tweets will load those pages. If you’re viewing this on The Scoop’s home page, click “Continue reading” to see all Tweets.






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Connecticut Beaches Get Crummy Marks for 2011 Water Quality

by Categorized: Data, Environment, Health, Science Date:

As my colleague Josh Kovner reports, the Natural Resources Defense Council has ranked Connecticut the 26th worst state for water quality out of 30 states tested in 2011. The culprit: heavy rain and wind from Tropical Storm Irene, which churned up contaminants and led to a four-fold increase in beach-closing days.

Below is a database of the council’s main findings for each of the 73 beaches that line Connecticut’s Long Island Sound coastline. Click the arrows to sort a column or to filter for a particular name.

Click the map below the database to access the council’s page with more information on Connecticut beaches.

Senate Investigates Drugmakers’ Ties to Advocacy Groups that Push Drugs

by Categorized: Health, Politics Date:

The Senate Finance Committee is taking yet another foray into the murky connection between drugmakers and drug pushers, launching an investigation into the tactics used to promote pain medications.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, who for years has championed aggressive scrutiny of conflicts of interest in the pharmaceutical industry, sent letters Tuesday to drug companies, advocacy groups and academic researchers, seeking details on their financial ties. Days earlier, the American Pain Foundation, an advocacy group largely funded by drugmakers, voted to go out of existence.  It’s unclear if that decision was related to either the Senate’s impending investigation or a ProPublica report several months ago detailing the group’s close ties to drug companies. The foundation received 90 percent of its funding from drugmakers, ProPublica reported, and its recommendations fit neatly with the agenda of its corporate sponsors.

More than 40 people die every day from overdoses of prescription painkillers, including OxyContin and Vicodin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That figure has tripled in the last decade.

“Overdoses on narcotic painkillers have become epidemic and it’s becoming clear that patients aren’t getting a full and clear picture of the risks posed by their medications,” Baucus said in a statement.

Health advocates have long been concerned with conflicts of interest in medicine. A dozen years ago, the Courant explored the financial links between drugmakers and academic researchers, finding that industry cash had changed the culture of scientific inquiry at top universities, with some researchers skewing studies to assure favorable outcomes and taking money to promote the drugs they were studying.

Despite Advances, AIDS Stills Kills Another Connecticut Victim Every Other Day

by Categorized: Data, Health Date:

Today is AIDS Awareness Day at the State Capitol, and it’s telling that such an event even exists. Those around in the 1980s might find it odd that the scourge of AIDS and HIV would need a day of awareness, but activists say those at risk – and those who hold the purse strings for prevention and research – have grown lax as medical advances have chipped away at the epidemic.

But as the chart below from the state Department of Public Health shows, even as the rate of new diagnoses has slowed, more people than ever in Connecticut — more than 10,000 — are known to be living with HIV (and the actual number infected is likely far higher). And AIDS in 2010 killed another 182 citizens.

“Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS has doubled, yet funding has never kept pace,” says Shawn M. Lang, director of public policy with the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition coalition. “We are painfully aware of the realities of the budget but have lost 34 percent of our funding over the past five years.”

According to the coalition, HIV finds a new victim every 9½ minutes nationally and it’s estimated that 25 percent of those with the virus don’t know it. Click here for a fact sheet with additional information on HIV and AIDS in Connecticut.

Hey Bridgeport Employees: Stop Bothering the Mayor with Your Complaints!

by Categorized: Employment, Health, Politics Date:

Bridgeport’s assistant chief administrative officer gave local Health Department employees a little lesson in bureaucracy a few weeks ago, chiding them for reaching out to Mayor Bill Finch with complaints rather than climbing the assorted rungs of the Health Department’s  management ladder.

“Within any organization, a well defined hierarchy of authority, communication, and responsibility is essential to effective management. This is commonly referred to as a chain of command,” Alanna Kabel lectured in a March 31 memo to Health Department workers. And that means taking complaints to a supervisor, and then the deputy director (but only after notifying the supervisor), and then the director (but only after notifying the deputy director). The director’s decision, Kabel wrote, is final.

“Employees are not to skip the chain of command and contact the Mayor’s Office directly under any circumstances,” Kabel warned. “Failure to follow the chain of command policy will be considered insubordinate behavior and may result in disciplinary action.”

Click the image above for the full memo.

Claim Check: “Drinking Beer Makes You Smarter”

by Categorized: Claim Check, Education, Health, Media, Science Date:

“Beer makes men smarter: study” – NY Daily News

Here’s a near-guarantee: Do serious research on the intersection of drunkenness and cognitive abilities, and our soundbite society will mangle your findings to fit into irresistible headlines.

That, anyway, is the fate of three researchers at the University of Illinois, who set out to explore the link between inebriation and creativity – a link widely assumed since at least the days when Beethoven was throwing back bottles of wine with every meal.

The result: An interesting preliminary suggestion that intoxication may weaken “working memory control,” and that the resulting loss of focus and attention can permit the right hemisphere of the brain to elbow its way in with more diffuse and remote associations, which in turn can improve creative, but not analytical, problem solving.

The media’s take on that finding: “Beer makes you smarter.”

No matter that the study didn’t even involve beer. Continue reading

Tweeting Health Care

by Categorized: Data, Health, Legal Affairs, Politics Date:

From the Tweet counters at Twitter comes this graph showing growing interest in the health care debate (or at least a growing number of Tweets about it), from President Obama’s inauguration through last week’s Supreme Court arguments on the Affordable Care Act.

The two spikes: the March 2010 passage of the Act, and last Tuesday’s court arguments on the constitutionality of requiring individuals to obtain health insurance .

Click the graph for a larger view.

72 Years Later, Census Offers Unprecedented Window on Pre-War America

by Categorized: Data, Education, Finance, Health Date:

In the early months of 1940, long before super-computers and the Internet, more than 100,000 Census counters went door-to-door in all 48 states, scribbling down intimate details about every American’s home and work and family history.

Monday morning, with a big assist from the technological advances of successive decades, the government pulled back the curtain on the 1940 Census, releasing individual records from the decennial count, and for the first time providing online access to the survey answers provided by many of our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Confidentiality laws keep individual Census records under wraps for 72 years. That timeclock ran out over the weekend for the 1940 Census, so the National Archives and Records Administration planned a flashy tech-savvy release of the information, with infographics and vintage videos and even a game in which you can replace Uncle Sam’s face in the poster above with a face of your choosing.

But the real draw is the individual records, which in the past have been released only on endless shelves of microfilm. This time, committed genealogists and the merely curious can use the Internet to track down information on relatives (or possibly themselves; the Census Bureau estimates about 21 million people covered by the 1940 Census are still alive).

The process is not as simple as searching a name or address, however. Survey results are grouped by “enumeration districts,” the often small areas delineated by the Census Bureau to divvy up the work. With a street address, researchers can identify the correct enumeration district, and from there, scan digitized images from that district, in what the government describes as a “scavenger hunt” for the pages listing our pre-war relatives. Get tips on the hunt here.

The Census Bureau is also using the release of the records to reflect on societal changes in the six-dozen years since the count was done. In 1940, American men actually slightly outnumbered women, which is no longer the case. The median age in the nation in 1940 was 29, a figure that has grown to more than 37 due largely to medical advances. There have also been leaps in education, with high school graduation rates jumping from  slightly less than a quarter of the adult population to more than 85 percent.

In Connecticut, a typical rent ran about $8 a week in 1940 – a  welcome bargain, since most workers made less than $20 for a week’s work.

That same year, Connecticut had 21,163 farms, occupying 48 percent of the state’s land. That left room for 1.7 million people – less than half the current population. And, at least as counted by the Census, the state had only the slightest diversity. According to the counters, 98 percent of the state was white. Today, whites make up about 78 percent of the state population.

To access the details of the 1940 Census, start here:

Retired Forensic Specialist: I’ve Seen Cases Like Brouillard’s

by Categorized: Health, Legal Affairs, Public Safety Date:

The Courant’s Josh Kovner reports:

A retired forensic specialist at the Whiting Forensic Division with more than 20 years’ experience has commented  on our Sunday article about Bryan Brouillard, who was acquitted by reason of insanity of a 20-year felony. Brouillard has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Connecticut Valley Hospital, saying his confinement there for six years was illegal because he was never insane.

Brouillard’s lawyer was adamant that his client was not exploiting the system, but the specialist, Don Donati of Clinton, wondered what else you would call it.

“I saw a few cases at Whiting like Mr. Brouillard’s. The parents have money and some influence … (T)hey cannot bear to see their child go to prison and look for a way out. This is where ‘mental issues’ arise. With money, a good lawyer can be hired who in turn can always find a psychiatrist who will provide supporting testimony. A little power is exercised, agreements are reached. ‘You won’t have to go to prison, get some treatment, behave yourself and you’ll be out soon.’ But when the (Psychiatric Security) Review Board takes over, sometimes people end up ‘doing more time’ than if they went to prison. Brouillard didn’t get his way soon enough … so he tried to escape. Now HE wants to sue. Unbelievable.

    “The solution would seem to be a verdict something like ‘guilty but not mentally responsible’ so someone would get a sentence to be served at Whiting. BUT if they regain their mental health, the remainder of the sentence would be served in prison.

    “The Review Board has an awful responsibility. For instance, in the David Messenger case, is a violent loss of control mental illness or a bad temper? When he calms down is he no longer mentally ill? Does he then have to be legally released? Who can predict if he will do it again? These are disturbing questions that are hard to answer because human behavior can never really be predicted.”