Brace yourself for a bare-knuckled review of the health care outrages of 2012

Purchasing power

I learned a new texting acronym this year: SMH. It stands for “shaking my head.”

I did a lot of SMH in 2012.

This turned out to be a banner year for health care outrages. But there was one event that exceeded all expectations.

This past summer, GlaxoSmithKline executives weaseled out of a mountain of crushing legal woes. The Dept. of Justice let them write a check for $3 billion to avoid a variety of criminal and civil charges.

That’s what passes for justice — Big Pharma style.

DoJ officials tried to make it sound like real punishment. One official called the settlement “unprecedented in both size and scope.”

I guess that’s supposed to impress us. Here’s what it really is: A rigged system. Shameful to the core.

In the worst of their slime ball misdeeds, GSK executives hid risks of the type 2 diabetes drug Avandia. As a result, Avandia use may have played a role in thousands of deaths. GSK made billions. When the con was exposed, a fat check made all the problems go away.

Utterly despicable.

It doesn’t get any worse than that. But there were other shocking SMH moments we should note one more time before 2012 fades into the mist.

Worst of the worst

A whole lot of cornbread

Just as 2012 got underway, Paula Deen’s announcement that she had type 2 diabetes shocked almost nobody. After all, this was the celebrity cook who introduced the world to Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. But one detail WAS shocking. She had been diabetic for three full years. During that whole time, of course, she promoted her rich, carb-laden recipes. And then the outrage… Paula’s type 2 “coming out” coincided with her new endorsement of type 2 diabetes drug Victoza. What a scam!

In the mouths of babes

This year, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. As I’ve mentioned before, evidence shows that BPA may disrupt hormonal activity, while also promoting cancer, birth defects, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. For years, scientists have known that BPA is potentially dangerous. And yet, someone developed a type of tooth filling for children that contains BPA. So they’ve banished BPA from baby bottles, but they’re embedding it in kids’ teeth!

Absolutely treacherous

A lawsuit exposed significant dangers in Aricept 23. This unnecessary Alzheimer’s drug was developed when lower doses of Aricept were about to lose patent. In a clinical trial, the much higher dose (23 mg) barely performed better than lower doses. But the dangers spiked off the charts. Patients who took the drug suffered far greater agitation, confusion, and fatigue. They were also more than three times more likely to experience vomiting. In Alzheimer’s patients, that can prompt a cascade of agonizing events. The FDA’s primary medical reviewer said Aricept 23 should not be on the market. So — of course — the agency approved it.

Off to a BadStart

This is one of the worst health care scams I’ve ever seen. And it’s a stunning violation of your trust. When you fill a prescription at Walgreens, you may get a phone call from a GoodStart agent. He’ll explain how important it is to take your meds. But the agent isn’t a Walgreens employee. He actually works for a company called Pleio. GoodStart is a Pleio program. Walgreens contracts Pleio to act as a Walgreens agent. So they don’t sell your prescription information to Pleio. They give it to Pleio. Technically, this isn’t a privacy violation. But they are using your personal information to generate revenue. Drug companies pay Walgreens to participate in the program. And drug companies benefit because patients are more likely to keep taking their drugs after talking to the GoodStart agent. Everyone wins! Except patients.

City-approved mother’s milk

Last spring, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines when he banned super-sized sodas. A couple of months later, another “health initiative” slid in under the radar. Bloomberg launched a campaign to pressure new moms to breastfeed. Now, I agree that breastfeeding is the best way. Also, nearly all formula products contain soy, which shouldn’t be given to infants. And finally, the flood of free formula samples in maternity wards and NICU departments needs to stop. But this is not the way to do it! Government officials should not attempt to force good health on citizens. It never works. And it never will.

Hide your daughters

Gardasil — the HPV vaccine — is the outrage that keeps on giving. In 2012, we saw two ridiculous Gardasil studies. One supposedly showed that the vaccine doesn’t prompt promiscuity in girls. But most of the girls in the study were very young. Many of them weren’t even teens when the study began. Equally frustrating was another study that linked Gardasil with two safety concerns… 1) Fainting on the day the shot is given. 2) Skin infections. So they want us to believe that THOUSANDS of serious Gardasil reactions reported to VAERS are just coincidences. This includes nearly 9,700 ER visits. More than 2,400 hospitalizations. More than 790 girls disabled. And well over 100 deaths. And as usual, media outlets dropped the ball. They parroted the “good news” without giving either study a critical eye.

No guiding light

In early 2010, I told you about the first studies confirming a link between statin drugs and increased type 2 diabetes risk. Almost two years later, in December 2011, Pfizer’s patent for Lipitor ended. Lipitor, of course, is the original statin and the best selling drug ever. Then, about two months later, in early 2012, the FDA finally issued a requirement for statin drugs to list diabetes risk. Hmmm. Did the FDA do Pfizer a huge favor by holding off on the diabetes warning for two years? I’ll answer that one with a question… If we found out the FDA did exactly that, would we be surprised? Meanwhile, not one major health organization has come forward with guidelines for the thousands (millions?) of type 2 patients who use statins.

SMH. Simply outrageous.

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