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October 2015 Archives

How Large Pharmaceutical Companies Can Put the Public at Risk

9731238_s-300x200.jpgPhoto Credit: The medications a doctor prescribes may not always safe. In fact, lax drug safety standards and questionable marketing practices by drug companies have opened the door to liability and class action lawsuits. So how can a person know if the medications they are taking are safe? And if a drug is found to be unsafe, what recourse does a person have against the maker of the unsafe drug? In many cases, consumers of unsafe drugs can pursue civil class action litigation against the drug manufacturer, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. For instance, in one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve allegations that the company committed off-label marketing practices in connection its prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega, and Natrecor. Unfortunately, however, in some cases, these damages are insufficient to prevent companies from continuing to make unsafe products. While the purpose of punitive damages is to punish a defendant and deter future wrongdoing, many pharmaceutical companies have become so big that punitive damages barely make a dent in their bottom line, much less make it financially detrimental to make shoddy products. As explained in an article in Hufftington Post,

Will Congress Pass the DRIVE Act?

 10645091_s-300x199.jpgPhoto Credit: 123RF Stock Photo[/caption] Because the nation's Highway Trust Fund - which provides funding for state, local, and national transit programs across the country - relies on fuel taxes, the Fund is constantly on the verge of running out of money. Currently federal infrastructure funding is scheduled to expire on October 29, 2015, which puts Congress, once again, in the difficult position of deciding whether to authorize a long-term solution to the lack of infrastructure funding or to rely on short-term fixes. One such alternative that has been offered is the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act), which has been passed by the Senate. The House currently disagrees on funding specifics and has not yet passed the bill. Nonetheless, the trucking industry supports DRIVE Act, saying that the "six-year federal funding commitment to prioritize and invest in our aging infrastructure and safety needs is essential to ... keep pace with growing demands." Unfortunately, the DRIVE Act doesn't necessarily invest in infrastructure nor does it promote safety. In fact, according to an article on The Pop Tort, "in many ways, it's the exact opposite of that. With all the talk about money and politics, few are paying attention to what the trucking industry (for one) has been up to these past few months - slipping into this bill so many anti-safety trucking provisions that it frankly would be better if no long-term bill passed at all." Some of the problems with the DRIVE Act include:

A Rash of Legionnaire's Disease Hits Illinois

 9731238_s-300x200.jpgImage credit: 123RF[/caption] On September 23, 2015, three schools in Illinois' U-46 school district - which covers 11 communities in Cook, DuPage, and Kane counties - were closed after test results showed "higher than normal levels of Legionella bacteria." Specific readings were not provided, other than an indication that readings were above the 1,000 colony-forming units per millimeter recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last month, on September 1, 2015, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that 39 residents of the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy contracted Legionnaires' disease, seven of whom died. Legionnaires' is a form of pneumonia that primarily affects the lungs, but it can also cause serious infections in wounds or the heart. Those at highest risk of infection are smokers, anyone over the age of 50, those with chronic lung diseases, or anyone with a weakened immune system. Legionnaires' disease can be fatal or lead to life-threatening complications such as septic shock, respiratory failure, and kidney failure. According to the IDPH, most cases of Legionnaires' disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella bacteria growth, such as hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.  In order to be infected with the bacteria, a person must inhale contaminated water vapor and Legionnaires' disease cannot be transmitted person-to-person.  The disease typically develops two to ten days after exposure to the Legionella bacteriawith symptoms like fever, muscle pain, and chills appearing first, followed by mental changes, chest pain, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal problems. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates between 8,000 and 18,000 people each year in the United States are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease, and IDPH says that there are about 200 cases of the disease in Illinois each year. Other recent outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease include:

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