Infuriating! Recapping the top health care outrages of 2008

Rage On

To paraphrase the Buddy Holly song… “Rage on, it’s a crazy feelin’ and / I know it’s got me reelin’…”

This year had me reelin’ at times with a seemingly endless supply of outrageous developments in the world of health care. Some were amusing, some were irritating, and some were actually criminal.

gardasil_vidSo if you think your heart can stand it, let’s take a look back on a year of infamy.

Something for the kids

The most deeply annoying outrage of the year was brought to us by The American Academy of Pediatrics. In July, AAP officials recommended cholesterol screening for kids as young as two. Naturally, some kids would then be candidates for a lifetime of statin drug use, also recommended by the AAP. You can read one AAP official’s laughably lame defense of this recommendation in a special e-Alert: “Generation Lipitor” (7/7/08).

A close runner-up for most annoying outrage goes to Merck, the drug company that makes Gardasil. This year, Merck ramped up an all-out drive to convince parents to have their daughters vaccinated with this HPV vaccine, which is widely touted as a cervical cancer vaccine – which it absolutely is not. What it absolutely is is dangerous. And if you’re one of those parents of a young daughter, you must read about the dangers and the limited efficacy of this vaccine in the e-Alert “Hide Your Daughters” (8/21/08).

Meanwhile, the FDA kept everyone laughing this year – laughing to keep from crying, that is. Here are just a few of the agency’s misadventures in 2008:

  • Along with Gardasil, we can put Rotarix on the list of dangerous vaccines. In “Gonna Raise a Holler” (5/20/08), I told you about the FDA’s approval of this rotavirus vaccine for children, along with a warning of “increased rates of convulsion and pneumonia-related deaths.” Lovely.
  • FDA officials have set up a system to track Medicare claims to evaluate the dangerous side effects of drugs the agency has already approved. So instead of requiring rigorous new safety standards to reveal a drug’s potential dangers BEFORE approval, the FDA will sit back and watch for havoc the drug may cause among Medicare patients. You can read about the three obvious ways this system is already broken in “All Along the Watchtower” (6/11/08).
  • If you’re concerned about tainted products from China, you’ll be glad to know that FDA officials are concerned too. And here’s how concerned they are: More than 560 Chinese facilities produce drugs that are eventually sold in the U.S., but the FDA inspected less than 3 percent of those facilities last year. Enjoy a good scare? Check out “No Fooling” (3/31/08).

Hall of shame

If your blood isn’t quite boiling yet, just sample this choice selection of outrages…

“Influence by the Numbers” (6/24/08)
One doctor has single-handedly transformed the way kids are diagnosed as bipolar, fueling an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children.

“Out On a Limb” (7/30/08)
Here’s how one doctor found out the hard way that certain osteoporosis drugs actually INCREASE risk of broken bones.

“New Era” (11/25/08)
It was only a matter of time: Now they’re testing cholesterol-lowering statin drugs on people with low cholesterol. No, that’s not a typo.

“Light Bulb Moment” (2/27/08)
If you’re already using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in your home, you probably know they last quite a bit longer than incandescent light bulbs. But did you know they’re dangerous when broken? And they don’t always work in cold weather? And they may interfere with televisions, radios, and wireless devices? And they sometimes smoke and smolder? And here’s the real kicker: As of 2014, it will be illegal to manufacture or sell incandescent light bulbs. Like it or not, we’re saddled with this dangerous and annoying technology.

“Taking the Cake” (3/6/08)
I’ve covered many cases of drug company greed and corruption over the years, but this one completely takes the cake. It really would be very hard to go lower than this.

“Easy Eight” (7/15/08)
Here’s a quick look at eight drugs to avoid…and why.

In tomorrow’s e-Alert I’ll recap the year again with a look at the top health tips of 2008. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll share today’s e-Alert with friends and family and help me spread the word about the biggest healthcare threats and failures of 2008.

And if this is your first time reading the e-Alert, you can use this link to start receiving my daily reports about health care outrages and important advances in alternative medicine.