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October 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Drug Companies Interviewing Your Genes For Witnesses Against You

Category: Gaming The System

The light bulb has gone on at Big Pharma. This genetic stuff can save our asses, is the new mantra.

Locating blame for adverse drug reactions

Adverse drug reactions often appear idiosyncratic. Some drugs have powerful effects and everyone experiences the side effects (e.g., cancer chemotherapeutic agents). Others, however, seem to disagree with only a few people, although that disagreement can be major. Obviously drug companies would rather not have to contend with the fallout that occurs when their customers become collateral damage. Much of the controversy over drugs like Vioxx is how much the companies knew about that damage and what they did with that knowledge. Big Pharma would rather the blame the drug failure on the victim than the company. Maybe that's too cynical a view of a new initiative just started by five of the world's biggest drug companies. On the other hand, when it comes to drug companies, can any view be too cynical?

The companies started the International Serious Adverse Events Consortium to study genetic causes of bad drug reactions, according to a statement today by the nonprofit group. The first two projects, in partnership with university researchers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will examine why some people suffer liver damage or life-threatening skin reactions to drugs. (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile the major cause of liver failure in the US remains Tylenol ingestion. Maybe that's the fault of some (fairly common) genetic variation. But maybe it's also caused by the combination of Tylenol with other factors in the diet, environment or over the counter or prescription drugs taken simultaneously.

Or maybe it's even because most of the American public thinks Tylenol is a perfectly safe drug. I wonder where they got that idea. Maybe they were genetically predisposed to believe it.

From Effect Measure

I would be interested in a genetic study of the leaders of the drug industry. There must be a common gene among them. It causes them to deny, deflect and deceive at every opportunity. It explains why they are doing so well under the Bush Administration.

September 14, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Docs & Hospitals Need More Joint Venture Opportunities - Give Me A Break!

Category: Gaming The System

The United States needs more money-making joint ventures between doctors and hospitals. That is the message Dr. Richard L. Reece over at MEDINNOVATIONBLOG is pushing this week.

Medicare To Ban Doctor Referrals to Hospital-M.D. Joint Ventures

The public thinks hospitals and physicians ought to cooperate and collaborate for the common good of patients and the community.

Everybody, it seems, except Medicare officials, Office of the Inspector General, and Representative Pete Stark who are bent on preventing hospitals and doctors from innovating and "colluding" for mutual profitability.

At least, that's what a Sept. 12 WSJ piece "Medicare Moves to Cut 'Self-Referral' Practice: Proposed New Rules the Rise of Doctors Sending Patients to Centers They Own." Physicians, McKinsey data indicates, are profiting to the tune of $8 billion/year by sending patients to facilities doctors own, often because of increased efficiencies and excellent outcomes achieved by focusing on specialized procedures.

Not so, says Medicare, profit-mongering doctors are referring to themselves and doing unnecessary procedures because of their ownership stake and "creating incentives for over-utilization and corrupting medical diagnosis." That is the main reason why, Medicare says, the money expended on imaging(CT and MRI) increased from $9.6 billion in 2003 to $13.7 billion in 2006.

In any event, Medicare is taking dead aim to joint ventures between doctors and hospitals and the shared investments and profits that ensue from MRIs, CTs, endoscopies, and outpatient and diagnostic surgery units.

To Medicare officials and their legal advisors, "pursuing the perfect" is preferable to "preserving the good" that could be achieved by realistic collaborative joint ventures.

From MEDINNOVATIONBLOG

I recall being approached some years back about a realistic collaborative joint venture that would have allowed me, a greedy trial lawyer, to partner with some doctor-investors in an MRI facility. The idea was that I and the docs could assure a steady stream of patients for diagnostic testing which would make the facility extremely profitable. I was told that this was being done all over the country. I passed on the opportunity because it had the odor of an illegal or unethical scheme to milk the government or insurance companies.

I don't know how many profit-mongering doctors ignored the odor and joint-ventured MRI facilities. But, I would suspect those who did uncovered a greater need for MRI studies in their practices. Not many investors are willing to sit idly by as their enterprise slowly dips into the red. Especially when all God's children could use an MRI now and then anyway.

August 22, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Minnesota Doctor Maintains Impartiality Despite 350,000 Reasons To Favor Drug Companies

Category: Gaming The System

When the federal government is spending $28 Billion on drugs each year for Medicaid patients it only makes sense that drug companies would want to have really good friends on the state advisory panels who essentially select the drugs used. Slipping $350,000 here and $350,000 there into the pockets of select panel members for speaking engagements should do the trick, I would think. But, a Minnesota doc says the money don't buy any love. This will be disappointing to Big Pharma.

Minn. Law Sheds Light on Drug Companies

(AP) -- A groundbreaking Minnesota law is shining a rare light into the big money that drug companies spend on members of state advisory panels who help select which drugs are used in Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled.

Those panels, most comprised of physicians, hold great sway over the $28 billion spent on drugs each year for Medicaid patients nationwide. But aside from Minnesota, only Vermont and Maine require drug companies to report payments to doctors for lectures, consulting, research and other services.

An Associated Press review of records in Minnesota found that a doctor and a pharmacist on the eight-member state panel simultaneously got big checks - more than $350,000 to one - from pharmaceutical companies for speaking about their products.

The two members said the money did not influence their work on the panel, and the lack of recorded votes in meeting minutes makes it difficult to track any link between the payments and policy.

But ethical experts said the Minnesota data raise questions about the possibility of similar financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and advisers in other states.

August 16, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Hospital Sales Force - Admitting Doctors

Category: Gaming The System

When health care in America is viewed from the perspective of a particular hospital a purely capitalistic goal and driving purpose is revealed. Take a look at this just-released analysis of hospitals:

Hospital Check-Up Report 2007

Physician Perspectives on American Hospitals

The 2007 Hospital Check-Up Report--Physician Perspectives on American Hospitals examines the experiences of more than 21,000 physicians at 224 hospitals across the nation in 2006. The report provides physician perspectives on hospitals across the country. In addition to the key role physicians play in providing care and making treatment decisions, physician admission and referral patterns drive the financial health of the hospital, making physicians critical to business operations as well.

In order to increase the growth of the hospital, administrators must convince low-admitting and low-referring physicians to utilize the hospital more frequently.

Press Ganey Associates, Inc.

What we have here, in the center of the health care delivery system that is already by far the most costly in the civilized world, is one of the most costly engines of that system being told the growth of the hospital is of primary importance. Worse, that doctors need to be conscripted into greater utilization of hospital beds and services.

Memo to hospital administrators: Why not just institute a contest to see which doctors in each specialty can admit the most patients in a month? Or, who can pack the operating room? That should do the trick (if the prize is a free trip to Aspen). Even low-admitting and low-referring physicians have to ski somewhere.

August 03, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Thieves And Con-Artists Who Call Themselves Insurance Companies

Category: Gaming The System

Property insurers are a pretty despicable lot. That is the only conclusion to be drawn after reading the article at Bloomberg.com excerpted below. If you read the entire article the carriers just get even more despicable.

Home Insurers' Secret Tactics Cheat Fire Victims, Hike Profits

When there's a disaster, the companies homeowners count on to protect them from financial ruin routinely pay less than what policies promise.

Insurers often pay 30-60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a damaged home -- even when carriers assure homeowners they're fully covered, thousands of complaints with state insurance departments and civil court cases show.

Paying out less to victims of catastrophes has helped produce record profits. In the past 12 years, insurance company net income has soared -- even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

Property-casualty insurers, which cover damage to homes and cars, reported their highest-ever profit of $73 billion last year, up 49 percent from $49 billion in 2005, according to Highline Data LLC, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm that compiles insurance industry data.

The 60 million U.S. homeowners who pay more than $50 billion a year in insurance premiums are often disappointed when they discover insurers won't pay the full cost of rebuilding their damaged or destroyed homes.

Property insurers systematically deny and reduce their policyholders' claims, according to court records in California, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Tennessee.

The insurance companies routinely refuse to pay market prices for homes and replacement contents, they use computer programs to cut payouts, they change policy coverage with no clear explanation, they ignore or alter engineering reports, and they sometimes ask their adjusters to lie to customers, court records and interviews with former employees and state regulators show.

The industry's drive for profit has overwhelmed its obligation to policyholders, says California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, a Democrat. As California's insurance commissioner from 2002 to 2006, Garamendi imposed $18.4 million in fines against carriers for mistreating customers.

"There's a fundamental economic conflict between the customer and the company," he says. "That is, the company doesn't want to pay. The first commandment of insurance is, 'Thou shalt pay as little and as late as possible.'"

Insurance is intended to provide prompt and full compensation at the time of a covered loss. When insurance carriers decide it is in their best interests to cheat and delay, they cease to be insurance carriers and become, instead, thieves and con-artists.

July 25, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Some Authors Are Tone Deaf On Conflicts Of Interest

Category: Gaming The System

You be the judge. Did these authors of a medical study have an undisclosed conflict of interest?

Experts' silence revs conflict of interest debate

CHICAGO - A new study showing that padded hip protectors didn't prevent fractures in the elderly has renewed questions about hidden drug industry ties to medical research.

Three of the authors of the study on bone breaks didn't tell editors of an influential medical journal, which is publishing their research Wednesday, that they had consulted for or received research money from the makers of bone-strengthening drugs. That potential conflict was discovered by The Associated Press.

Editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association -- which has tough rules on financial disclosure -- had asked the authors about any conflicts and were told there were none. The researchers said later they didn't believe their industry connections were relevant because the study of hip fractures didn't involve bone drugs and didn't recommend them.

The non-disclosers might as well have taken out an ad in the New York Times declaring: (1) No matter what medical device you use to protect hips from fractures it ain't gonna work and (2) You better take bone-strengthening drugs.

July 20, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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It's Business At Usual At U.S. Supreme Court

Category: Gaming The System

Three cheers for the Roberts Court!!!

Small Business at the Court: A Review of the 2006-2007 Supreme Court Term

While the Rehnquist Court was generally receptive to business interests, the Roberts Court has been even better, if only because of its willingness to review a greater number of business-related cases. Experts estimate that at least half of the 2006-2007 docket included cases with a substantial business interest. The Court's pro-business approach will benefit businesses of all sizes, since the impact of many decisions...will be felt by small firms as well as corporate clients.

From NFIB, The Voice of Small Business

It is reassuring to know that we have a Supreme Court with a pro-business approach. I mean it nicely balances the pro-business approach of President Bush and the entire executive branch. Thank God, we can look forward to the Roberts Court for many years. I wouldn't want businesses to suffer from neglect.

July 16, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Drugs Oncologists Don't Administer Don't Get Prescribed

Category: Gaming The System

Some doctors hate competition and love money so much they don't even mention the possible use of the two most promising drugs in the treatment of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Market Forces Cited in Lymphoma Drugs' Disuse

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, with 60,000 new cases and almost 20,000 deaths a year. But fewer than 2,000 patients received Bexxar or Zevalin last year, only about 10 percent of those who are suitable candidates for the drugs.

"Both Zevalin and Bexxar are very good products," said Dr. Oliver W. Press, a professor at the University of Washington and chairman of the scientific advisory board of the Lymphoma Research Foundation. "It is astounding and disappointing" that they are used so little. The reasons that more patients don't get these drugs reflect the market-driven forces that can distort medical decisions, Dr. Press and other experts on lymphoma treatment say. A result can be high costs but not necessarily the best care.

The drugs have not been clinically proven to prolong survival, compared with other therapies. But patients are more likely to respond to them than standard treatments, and trials to test whether the drugs do have a survival benefit are nearly complete.

Other, more thoroughly tested lymphoma drugs are preferred as first-line treatments. But doctors often repeatedly prescribe such drugs even after they have lost their effectiveness -- and when Bexxar and Zevalin might work better.

One reason is that cancer doctors, or oncologists, have financial incentives to use drugs other than Bexxar and Zevalin, which they are not paid to administer. ["Because the drugs are radioactive, they must be administered in a hospital, not a doctor's office. Therefore, oncologists do not get paid for prescribing them, as they are when they give chemotherapy." From the Cancer Blog]

In addition, using either drug usually requires oncologists to coordinate treatment with academic hospitals, whom the doctors may view as competitors.

As a result, many doctors prescribe Bexxar and Zevalin only as a last resort, when they are unlikely to succeed because the cancer has advanced. "Oncologists use everything in their cupboard before they refer," Dr. Press said. "At least half the patients who get referred to me have had at least 10 courses of treatment." [I can only imagine the dollar bills vacuumed by the oncologist who can put a patient through 10 courses of chemotherapy.]

From the New York Times

Does the word unethical come to mind?

July 11, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Binding Arbitration, The Video

Category: Gaming The System

Wearing my movie/video critic hat I have to give five stars to the six minute sales pitch for arbitration in medical malpractice claims provided to patients of a Florida medical clinic. The on-screen spokeswoman very calmly explains why binding arbitration is an all-around good deal. (It saves time and money.....) I mean, this woman could sell ice to Eskimos.

Watch video, sign away your rights..

Medical malpractice insurers have come up with a devious new way of preventing injured patients from suing their doctors, by forcing people to sign binding arbitration agreements as a condition of receiving treatment from doctors they cover. The latest in this wave comes from a clinic in Florida that has helpfully made this video that patients can watch at home before they sign an agreement promising not to sue for future or past malpractice.

From the Tortellini

It may have been a tad more balanced if it had mentioned death could occur as a result of medical malpractice, and the surviving spouse was also restricted to binding arbitration. Or, if it had provided some statistics reflecting the average verdict range compared to the average arbitration award. Or, if it mentioned the arbitrators (at least one of them) would know the insurance coverage of the clinic was only $250,000 whereas a jury would not be informed of that prejudicial fact.

July 10, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Little Jury Music, Please

Category: Gaming The System

"Jury No. 3, are you tapping your feet?"

Murder juror 'listened to music under hijab'

A juror could face an unlimited jail sentence after she was arrested for allegedly listening to an MP3 player under her headscarf during a murder trial.

The judge at London's Blackfriars Crown Court thought he heard "tinny music" during the testimony of a man who brutally beat his disabled wife to death.

The Muslim woman in her early twenties, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had repeatedly tried to avoid jury service.

She was finally ordered to serve on the jury in the trial of pensioner Alan Wicks who was subsequently convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death after 50 years of marriage.

Problems started the next day with the first of a number of late arrivals at court, prompting Judge Roger Chapple to repeatedly ask her to change her ways.

The woman not only continued to be late, but left lawyers wondering whether she was "in a world of her own".

a member of the defence team thought she caught a glimpse of a wire under the woman's traditional Muslim hijab.

Finally, another woman juror sent the judge a note, which apparently confirmed his suspicions that the juror had been secretly listening to music instead of following the trial.

After further legal submissions, the Muslim juror was called into court on her own and informed of the allegation.

The judge warned that her behaviour, if proved, would not just give "cause for concern" but would amount to "contempt of court".

He also told her she would be arrested. A police officer then stepped forward and escorted her from court. Outside, she was searched and the MP3 player found and confiscated.

In the old days we only found booze and pornographic novels.

July 07, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Secrecy Has Its Rewards, But Can We Afford Them?

Category: Gaming The System

We all know the pen is mightier than the sword. But, who knew the Top Secret stamp is mightier than the entire U.S. legal system?

Court supports Bush in wiretap suit

Because plaintiffs can't prove they were targets of the secret program, they can't sue, according to the federal appellate ruling.

A federal appeals court on Friday handed the Bush administration a major victory, ruling that plaintiffs who had challenged its domestic spying program did not have legal standing to do so.

Judges Alice M. Batchelder and Julia Smith Gibbons of the 6th Circuit, both Republican appointees, said no single plaintiff could prove that he or she had been wiretapped and had therefore suffered harm -- the legal standing necessary to go to court.

Batchelder wrote: "The plaintiffs do not -- and because of the state secrets doctrine cannot -- produce any evidence that any of their communications have ever been intercepted by the NSA, under the TSP, without warrants." Rather, she said, the plaintiffs had asserted "a mere belief" that their overseas contacts were the types of people being targeted by the NSA.

The ruling presents "a Catch-22," said Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and one of the plaintiffs.

"If the court insists that a plaintiff must have certain knowledge that some of their messages were intercepted in order to have legal standing ... then no one can ever have standing because we can never know, since the program is secret," Diamond said.

From the LA Times

If the domestic spying program is as successful, comprehensive and extensive as the government claims, shouldn't we simply assume that these plaintiff's have standing. After all, some of these plaintiffs need to communicate with likely targets -

ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson had asserted that her clients suffered "concrete harm" by having to forgo conversations with individuals who they reasonably believed might be the targets of government surveillance.

Or, is the real secret the program's failure to generate any productive (actionable?) intelligence?

July 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Meat Lobby Chops Off Your Right To Know

Category: Gaming The System

You have an excellent chance of knowing where the fish you are about to eat spent its last night in the sea. But, where your hamburger or lettuce comes from - that is another story. According to the New York Times the federal food labeling law, passed in 2002, is not being followed.

Labels Lack Food's Origin Despite Law

In every American supermarket, labels tell shoppers where their seafood came from. But there are no such labels for meat, produce or nuts.

Behind the contradiction is a lesson in political power in Washington, where lobbyists and members of Congress have managed to hold off the enforcement of a five-year-old law that required country-of-origin labeling on meat and produce as well as fish.

Now, with Democrats in control of Congress and mounting questions about the safety of food imported from China, proponents of the labeling law say they believe that they finally have momentum on their side.

After all, they say, at a time when consumers are ever more concerned about where their food is coming from, why not just tell them on the package?

"No. 1, there's a basic consumer right to know," said Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, an advocacy group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine and supports the labeling law. "People are more and more concerned about the food they eat."

Should it take 5 years to type out the labels? Has Brownie been transferred from FEMA to the USDA?

...the labeling law has formidable foes, including the meat lobby, which so far has outmaneuvered its opponents on Capitol Hill. In the years since the labeling law was enacted as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, its opponents have successfully blocked all but seafood labeling from taking effect.

We need the meat lobby to take on Congressional earmarks. These guys know how to swing a cleaver.

June 29, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Why Drug Reps Never Need An Appointment At Your Doctor's Office

Category: Gaming The System

We now know why Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world. Drug companies have to funnel $19 Billion a year back to our doctors to keep the prescriptions flowing.

Kohl Examines Drug Industry Practice Of Providing Payments To Doctors, Influencing Prescribing Behaviors

Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) held a hearing to examine the pharmaceutical industry's costly practice of providing payments and gifts to doctors, and to consider what kind of influence this wields over some of our nation's physicians. It is estimated that drug companies spend 19 billion dollars annually on doctors in the form of lecture honoraria and conference registration fees, research grants, trips, meals, drug samples, and other freebies. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year reported that 94 percent of physicians have received such gifts and payments from drug companies.

"The financial ties between doctors and drug companies are only deepening," said Chairman Kohl. "These gifts and payments can compromise physicians' medical judgment by putting their financial interest ahead of the welfare of their patients."

The pharmaceutical industry remains one of the most profitable industries in the world, returning more than 15 percent on investments. At the same time, Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world, forcing some employers to drop health coverage for employees, squeezing the budgets of state and federal government, and ultimately harming senior citizens by putting drug costs out of their reach.

The solution to our national healthcare crisis might be as simple as allowing the drug companies to employ all the doctors. That would save the bribe money.

June 28, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is Your Doctor A Factory Owner?

Category: Gaming The System

Doctor to Patient: "We need to schedule you for an operation on Friday at my little specialty hospital down the road."

Patient to Doctor: "Could I just pay you the $$$$ and avoid the surgery entirely?"

Healthcare Economist has the aptly named article:

Focused Factories

The popularity of specialty medical facilities (SMF) has increased over the years. The number of Medicare-certified ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) has doubled to 3,371 during the past decade. A question remains: are these "Focused Factories" good for society?

According to the Community Tracking Study, most specialty hospitals are either "heart hospitals" or hospitals specializing in orthopedic surgery. They are generally joint ventures between physicians and national specialty firms or local hospitals, but a few are wholly owned by either physicians or by local hospitals.

Another issue is whether SMFs create incentives for excess medical care. This is related to the problem of integrating the diagnostician of a problem and the treater of a problem (see 10 April 2007 post). If physicians own the SMFs, there may be an even larger incentive for them to recommend that their patients have invasive medical procedures since the physicians themselves often will profit not only from the labor compensation they will receive from performing the procedure, but will receive additional income as return on capital from their investment in the SMF. Even physicians who do not treat patients and only diagnose them will have an incentive to recommend surgeries if they own a share of the SMF where the surgery would be preformed.

Think of speciality hospitals as factories whose owners control the demand for the product. Memo to physician-owners: We need four more operations on Friday to fill the available suites. See what you can drum up.

June 26, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Are They Shooting Heart Attack Patients At Seven U.S. Hospitals?

Category: Gaming The System

I remember the bell-shaped curves that were used to grade just about every test I ever took in my undergraduate work. According to some dictionaries a bell curve is supposed to be a symmetrical curve representing the normal distribution. All I can say is that I know one when I see it.

An editorial in today's New York Times describes a very special bell-shaped curve manufactured by Medicare to keep the public in the dark concerning hospital mortality rates for cardiac patients. Something is suspicious about a rating system that declares 98% of approximately 4,500 hospitals are average. This is not your average bell-shaped curve.

(Sort of) Rating Hospitals

The federal government deserves a modest pat on the back for identifying hospitals that have the very best -- and very worst -- mortality rates for cardiac patients. One can only hope that the information will goad underachieving hospitals into improving their performance. Unfortunately, the ratings are too broad to help most patients decide which institution they can entrust with their lives.

The new ratings -- based on how many Medicare patients die within 30 days of being admitted for a heart attack or heart failure -- were published by federal Medicare officials last week as part of a growing movement to provide more information to medical consumers and to hold hospitals accountable for the quality of care they deliver.

While the hospitals were told how they scored and were given data allowing them to compare their performance with other institutions, the public is being kept mostly in the dark. No mortality numbers for any institution were published. The hospitals instead were lumped into three broad categories -- "better than the national rate," "worse than the national rate" and "no different than the national rate" -- with more than 98 percent placed into the vast middle category.

Of nearly 4,500 hospitals evaluated for heart attack outcomes, 17 were rated better than the national rate, 7 were rated worse and 4,453 were placed in the middle category. Of some 4,800 hospitals evaluated for heart failure outcomes, 38 were better than the national average, 35 were worse and 4,734 were rated no different than the national average.

Think about the absurdity (and the dishonesty) in saying only 7 hospitals out of approximately 4,500 are below average. They must shoot the heart attack patients at these institutions.

June 22, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is "Incomplete" The Same As "False" Or "Dishonest"?

Category: Gaming The System

"Senators, before I begin my testimony today I would like to seek permission to revise and extend my remarks because I believe my testimony, in keeping with the Bush Administration's procedure, will be incomplete."

Deputy AG Says His Testimony Was 'Incomplete'

All Things Considered, June 21, 2007 · Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that he never intended to mislead Congress about the firings of several federal prosecutors last year. But he acknowledged that his earlier testimony to Congress was "incomplete."

The committee is investigating charges that, under the leadership of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department increasingly has been used to serve political ends.

June 20, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Locality Rule In Medical Malpractice Cases - Never Intended To Produce Justice

Category: Gaming The System

A commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association discusses the absurdity of the Locality Rule in determining the standard of care in medical malpractice cases. This is an absurdity which persists purely for the benefit of the medical profession and to the disadvantage of a victim of malpractice.

Standard of Care Remains a Moving Target in Medical Malpractice Cases

Courts in 21 states adhere to a local or community standard of care in medical malpractice cases, slowing implementation of evidence-based, resource-based, nationwide standards.

So said Michelle Huckaby Lewis, M.D., J.D., of Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University, and colleagues in a commentary in the June 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The locality rule was a 19th century concept intended to protect rural physicians from being held to the same standards as physicians working in urban areas or at academic institutions, the authors said.

But, they note, modern communication has removed barriers to standardization -- no place is more than a phone call or a mouse click away from the latest evidence-based findings.

As a result, a rule originally intended as a protection now "imposes additional duties and legal risk on physicians. Not only must they remain aware of advances in their own specialty, physicians must also be aware of the standard of care in their locality, whether or not that standard is considered substandard at the national level," the authors wrote.

Dr. Lewis and colleagues contend that the locality rule is also ethically suspect. In the communities that use it, "basic principles of justice may not be met for patients who have been harmed as the result of suboptimal local care standards," they wrote.

That's because patients may be unable to find expert witnesses who'll establish what the standard of care is in that locality -- either because there are too few physicians in the area in that specialty, or the local physicians will be unwilling to testify against one of their own. [BINGO!]

June 14, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Friends In High Places (a.k.a. Supreme Court Justices) Should Serve Scooter Well

Category: Gaming The System

Maybe the Scooter Libby case should have been tried before the Supreme Court in the first place. Based on the Bush v. Gore decision I think Scooter would have received a Medal of Honor.

Libby in Court to Try to Stall Sentence

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is headed back to court to try to forestall his 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, planned to ask a federal judge Thursday to put the sentence on hold while he appeals his perjury and obstruction conviction.

If they lose Thursday, Libby's lawyers have said they will ask an appeals court for an emergency order delaying the sentence. Because one of the issues in the appeal is whether Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had the authority to charge Libby, defense lawyers also could ask the Supreme Court to step in.

June 14, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Eli Lilly Survey Says Drug Product Litigation Is Bad For Patients

Category: Gaming The System

Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly has funded a survey of psychiatrists. Surprise! The survey shows that personal injury lawyers, via their advertisements and drug product litigation, may be putting patients at risk for relapse.

New Survey Shows Product Liability Litigation May Jeopardize Treatment Outcomes For People With Severe Mental Illnesses

Survey results released today shed light on a new barrier to treatment affecting people with severe mental illness. The findings show fears raised by product liability litigation involving antipsychotic drugs may be putting patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder at risk for relapse.

The survey, which was conducted among 402 psychiatrists who treat patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, showed that, even when patients were responding well to their prescribed antipsychotic treatment, many requested a medication change because these drugs are featured in law firm advertisements. Other patients stopped taking their medication, often without telling their psychiatrist, for the same reason.

Dr. Ralph Aquila, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons; director, residential community services, St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY: "This irresponsible advertising is hindering the progress of therapy for many of these patients and disrupting the important relationship between them and their healthcare providers. Plaintiffs attorneys need to consider the consequences that these advertisements may have on patients."

The findings from this survey, which was commissioned by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare and Eli Lilly and Company, are consistent with a Harris Interactive(R) poll of 250 physicians commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2003(i) that examined how pharmaceutical litigation impacts prescribing decisions across disease states.

More than half (55%) of surveyed psychiatrists indicated that they had changed their prescribing practices over the last five years due to product liability cases involving antipsychotic medications [have the remaining 45% of psychiatrists decided ignorance is bliss?]- and reported frustration and concern that this type of litigation sometimes interferes with patient treatment. Furthermore, many psychiatrists (62%) reported that they know of colleagues who have made similar changes in their prescribing practices.

This survey was conducted by independent market research company Ipsos- Insight and commissioned by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare and Lilly. The survey was funded by Lilly.

My self-funded survey of victims of defective drugs finds they believe the drugs hindered the progress of therapy (to borrow a phrase from Dr. Ralph Aquila above). Of course, my researchers were unable to speak with those who died as a result of taking defective drugs.

June 13, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"No Drug Left Behind" Is The Policy Of Physician CME

Category: Gaming The System

The chore of teaching doctors how to practice medicine has been handed to the pharmaceutical industry. As a result, dangerous side effects are rarely on the curriculum.

With these words from the Op-Ed page of the New York Times we better understand why No Drug Left Behind is the prevailing policy of the medical profession. Even stinko drugs that kill and injure thousands are praised and touted by docs to docs.

Here is how it works:

Diagnosis: Conflict of Interest

Most states require that doctors obtain a minimum number of credit hours of continuing medical education each year to maintain their medical licenses. Not so long ago, most of these courses were produced and paid for by universities and medical associations. But this has changed drastically over the past decade.

According to the most recent data available from the national organization in charge of accrediting the courses, drug-industry financing of continuing medical education has nearly quadrupled since 1998, from $302 million to $1.12 billion. Half of all continuing medical education courses in the United States are now paid for by drug companies, up from a third a decade ago. Because pharmaceutical companies now set much of the agenda for what doctors learn about drugs, crucial information about potential drug dangers is played down, to the detriment of patient care.

Education that doubles as advertising for drug companies occurs in all branches of medicine.

Drug companies don't directly pay doctors to teach courses. Instead, they pay someone else to cut the checks. Similarly, the drug companies don't explicitly tell doctors to say good things about their products. Instead, they hire a company to write good things about their products and to pay doctors to deliver the messages.

These shenanigans were recently spotlighted by Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, of the Senate Finance Committee. In April, their committee released a report, two years in the making, concluding that drug companies have used educational grants unethically as a way of marketing their products.

June 12, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Oncologists Keep Their Eye On Profits

Category: Gaming The System

Are oncologists uniquely focused on maximizing profits within the medical profession? Are they the only specialty which is willing to provide meaningless and expensive care to dying patients?

Chemotherapy: profits vs. questionable benefits to patients

A story in the NYTimes today reports that oncologists are still trying to find ways to profit from treating their patients with expensive drugs, even though Medicare has cracked down on such profits two years ago (by limiting the markups docs can charge to 6% above the cost of the drug).

Doctors can get around the limitations in reimbursement by simply offering drugs to more patients, whether or not they'll benefit from them.

The words of Emily DeVoto, Ph.D. at The Anidote: Counterspin for Health Care and Health News

The Times story has some shocking information and statements:

With the new limits on cancer drug profits, some cancer doctors are searching for new income -- like performing chemotherapy more often or installing multimillion-dollar imaging machines where they profit when their patients receive diagnostic scans.

They are also putting new pressure on cancer patients to make out-of-pocket drug co-payments, which can amount to hundreds of dollars a month. In some cases, they are requiring patients to get injections of certain drugs at the hospital instead of in their offices.

Ari Straus, the chief operating officer of Aurora Healthcare Consulting, which works with doctors to increase their profits, said Medicare's changes had squeezed oncologists. "Five years ago, many physicians were earning over $1 million per year on drug sales alone," Mr. Straus said.

As long as oncologists continue to be paid by the procedure instead of for spending time with patients, they will find ways to game the system, however much money they make or lose on prescribing drugs, [according to Dr. Robert Geller].

"People go where the money is, and you'd like to believe it's different in medicine, but it's really no different in medicine," Dr. Geller said. "When you start thinking of oncology as a business, then all these decisions make sense."

June 11, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Immigration Judgeships As Political Spoils

Category: Gaming The System

Until this article appeared today in the Washington Post I thought immigration judges were selected using the Brownie Rule, their experience in the International Arabian Horse Association. I mean, isn't this judging thing pretty much the same in every setting?

Immigration Judges Often Picked Based On GOP Ties

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The Post analysis is the first systematic examination of the people appointed to immigration courts, the relationships that led to their selection and the experience they brought to their position. The review, based on Justice records and research into the judges' backgrounds, encompassed the 37 current judges approved by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or his predecessor, John D. Ashcroft, starting in 2004.

That year is when the Justice Department began to jettison the civil service process that traditionally guided the selections in favor of political considerations, according to sworn congressional testimony by one senior department official and a statement by the lawyer for another official.

Those two officials, D. Kyle Sampson and Monica M. Goodling, have said they were told the practice was legal. But Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said that immigration judges are considered civil service employees who may not be chosen based on political factors, unlike judges in federal criminal courts.

June 09, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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One-Stop Shopping At Your Doctor's Office

Category: Gaming The System

Managed Care Matters has picked up on a trend in medical practice.

Physician dispensed meds

If you want to know why you are getting more physician bills with meds on them, it's simple - physician dispensing generates big profits.

There are currently at least 18 firms promoting their ability to help physicians maximize profits by dispensing medications.

The doctor's office of the future will look more like a convenience store if the docs discover the profits in health foods.

June 06, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Avandia Damage Control Falls Flat

Category: Gaming The System

GlaxoSmithKline had to do something. The safety of its drug, Avandia, had been called into question by a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine recently.

So, the drug manufacturer released the results of its own study. Judge for yourself how successful the damage control effort has been.

Newest Avandia study not reassuring

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer

The maker of the controversial diabetes pill Avandia pointed to early results of its own study Tuesday, saying they offered reassuring evidence the drug doesn't raise heart risks. However, outside experts called the results inconclusive at best and a sign of greater risk at worst.

The study compares Avandia with two other diabetes pills in nearly 4,500 people around the world. Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC released results of the first few years of a six-year study showing similar rates of heart-related deaths and hospitalizations among those on Avandia versus those on the other drugs.

But some doctors said the results showed slightly more heart problems with Avandia - a bad sign even though the difference was so small that it could have occurred by chance alone. They also contend there are problems with the way the study was done.

"This study, which was designed to show the benefit of rosiglitazone (Avandia), if anything shows the opposite," said Dr. David Nathan, chief of diabetes care at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"It's not a study to show that there's not risk" from Avandia, said Michael Kutner, biostatistics chief at Emory University, who had no role in the study.

"It's a leap of faith" for the company now to say that these results suggest the drug is safe, he said.

June 06, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Another Variation Of The Corporate "Shellgame Discovery" Technique

Category: Gaming The System

The business community labels plaintiffs' attorneys as greedy trial lawyers, many claims of the injured as frivolous lawsuits and certain jurisdictions as judicial hellholes. These terms must have tested well in focus groups.

I haven't had the chance to focus group test shellgame discovery, but that is the reality of the corporate approach to the discovery process in litigation.

One variation of the shellgame discovery technique in the defense of a lawsuit is reported below:

Best Buy attorney falsified e-mails

Timothy Block, an attorney representing Best Buy Co. Inc., has admitted falsifying e-mails and e-mail attachments submitted in a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit in Seattle.

Block is "being treated now for psychological conditions related to stress and depression," said his attorney, Richard Thomas, of St. Paul-based Burke and Thomas. Block has reported his actions to the Minnesota Board of Professional Responsibility, which is reviewing the case.

Block voluntarily admitted to his firm that he had "redacted and altered documents" that he later gave attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Washington state case, Thomas said.

For a more fully developed instance of shellgame discovery see a previous post on this blog, Hospital Risk Management Carried To Its Dishonest Extreme.

June 05, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Follow The Money In Drug Research Before You Believe The Results

Category: Gaming The System

Would anyone be surprised if a published survey funded by Coca Cola concluded that Americans prefer the taste of Coke over Pepsi?

Statins - Findings Depend On Who Has Funded The Research

Research on the effectiveness of a major class of drug - statins, used to reduce cholesterol - has come under the spotlight in a new article published in PLoS Medicine. There are several statins now on the market and many research trials have compared different brands of statin 'head-to-head'. The authors of the article looked at nearly 200 such trials, some were funded by governments, some by pharmaceutical companies, and in some cases the source of the funding had not been made clear. The authors found that trials of head-to-head comparisons were more likely to report results and conclusions favouring the sponsor's own product than the drug with which it was compared.

There are many possible reasons why this might be. It has been suggested that drug companies may deliberately choose lower dosages for the comparison drug when they carry out head-to-head trials. Others have suggested that trials which produce unfavourable results are not published, or that unfavourable outcomes are suppressed. Whatever the reasons, the conclusions of this article are important, and suggest that the evidence base relating to statins may be substantially biased. There may also be implications for research involving other types of drug.

Yes, I believe the implications are that the published self-funded research trials are likely to be self-serving. Maybe it's time for triple blind studies in which the sponsor of the study is concealed from researchers. But, that would likely mean the end of funding by drug manufacturers who know the true purpose of the sponsorship is not an impartial scientific conclusion.

May 30, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Employers Rejoice Over "The Alito Gambit"

Category: Gaming The System

The question now arises: have five Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court lost their marbles? They have just ruled that incremental wage discrimination based on sex over a period of 19 years (and continuing) is not a violation of the federal Civil Rights Law.

In order for ongoing wage discrimination based on sex to be a violation it must have lasted no more than 180 days even if the victim was unaware of the discrimination.

High Court Limits Right To Sue Employers

Supreme Court Restricts Workers' Ability To Sue Over Pay Discrimination

CBS News) WASHINGTON The Supreme Court on Tuesday limited workers' ability to sue employers for pay discrimination that results from decisions made years earlier.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that employers would otherwise find it difficult to defend against claims "arising from employment decisions that are long past."

The case concerned how to apply a 180-day deadline for complaining about discriminatory pay decisions under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., claiming that after 19 years at the company's Gadsden, Ala., plant, she was making $6,000 a year less than the lowest-paid man doing the same work.

Ledbetter claimed the disparity existed for years and was primarily a result of her gender. A jury agreed, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because she had waited too long to begin her lawsuit.

The deadline set in the law means nothing if employees can reach back years to claim discrimination, the company argued to the court. [How about the biweekly discrimination that occurs with each paycheck?]

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court, agreed that Ledbetter's claim was untimely.

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen said the decision is a clear victory for employers.

"By limiting the timeframe that employees can use the decision obviously helps employers, both in limiting the number of cases that will be brought under the federal law and reducing the amount of damages in play even if any of those cases are successful," Cohen said.

The decision broke along ideological lines, with the court's four liberal justices dissenting.

All over America employers are establishing a new procedure (The Alito Gambit) when hiring a female - start them off with a relatively small pay differential from the wage of the last male hire. Then, after 180 days, incrementally make the differential greater and greater. And, be sure to schedule a small celebration among managers if the new female employee goes past the first 180 days without filing a wage discrimination claim. Also, send a thank you note to the fab five Supreme Court Justices for their helpful assistance to the bottom line.

Are these Justices from another planet where newly hired women immediately investigate and determine the wages of their co-workers and predecessors and file wage discrimination claims if they even suspect they are not being treated fairly?

In a separate opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the four dissenters, countered that for many workers it takes years to figure out they are being shortchanged on salaries. The majority's approach, Ginsburg said, ignores "the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination." At least four of the nine Justices live in America.

May 15, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Fresh Look At Punitive Damages - Good News For Corporate Wrongdoers

Category: Gaming The System

Ford Motor Company, and other large corporations, have a friend in Washington. Actually, a friendly court. Unfortunately, for the rest of us the friendly court is the U.S. Supreme Court. We can now expect that virtually any award of punitive damages in any state or federal court, if appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is likely to be bounced back for a fresh look at the process by which the jury determined the amount of the punitive award.

Here is what the nonsensical wording of the Supreme Court's Philip Morris decision now allows:

Ford will get review of $55 million award

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered reconsideration of a $55 million punitive damage award assessed against Ford Motor Co. for an Explorer sport-utility vehicle rollover accident that left a California woman paralyzed.

The justices told a California appeals court to take a fresh look at the case in light of a Feb. 20 Supreme Court ruling that set aside an award to a smoker suing Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA unit. That decision said jurors can't punish for injuries to people who aren't involved in the case.

The jury's $368 million award to Benetta Buell-Wilson and her husband was the largest ever assessed against Ford. Courts have since cut that figure to $82.6 million, including the punitive award and $27.6 million in compensatory damages, plus interest.

Ford told the Supreme Court that the couple "from start to finish, devoted much of their case to urging the jury to punish for allegedly killing or injuring third parties not before the court who were driving a different vehicle, the Bronco II."

Buell-Wilson argued that evidence about the Bronco II was used for the permissible purpose of showing that Ford was aware of instability problems in its SUVs when it put the Explorer on the market.

Every punitive damage award in America is now a matter of federal law and subject to endless fresh looks until Washington accepts the determination. When will those injured by reckless or malicious conduct by corporations have a friend in Washington?

January 29, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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No Shuffleboard For This Retiree

Category: Gaming The System

Some have been known to lie about their age to be served alcohol. Others have added a few years to join the military. Then, there are the retirees who just want to have a baby.

A 67-year-old woman who is believed to be the world's oldest new mother told a British Sunday newspaper she lied to a U.S. fertility clinic -- saying she was 55 -- to get treatment.

World's oldest new mom lied to clinic

Carmela Bousada said in her first interview since she gave birth to twin boys on Dec. 29 that she sold her house in Spain to raise $59,000 to pay for in vitro fertilization at a California clinic, The News of the World reported.

"I think everyone should become a mother at the right time for them," Bousada said in a video of the interview provided to Associated Press Television News.

"Often circumstances put you between a rock and a hard place and maybe things shouldn't have been done in the way they were done but that was the only way to achieve the thing I had always dreamed of and I did it," she said.

Bousada turned 67 this month but said she told the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles she was 55 -- the clinic's cut off for treating single women, the report said. She said the clinic did not ask her for identification.

Dr. Vicken Sahakian, the clinic's medical director, confirmed late Saturday that he treated Bousada, but said clinic procedures would have required her to provide her passport.

"I did not know that she was 66," Sahakian told The Associated Press, declining to comment on her case further. "We do check identity."

Bousada now hopes to find a younger husband to help raise her two sons, Pau and Christian, the newspaper said.

What Carmela needs is a 20-something man who has always wanted a great grandmother.

January 19, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Drug Companies Pay Competition To Stay Out Of Market

Category: Gaming The System

Should Burger King be able to pay Wendy's to stop selling hamburgers for a couple of years? Or, Ford be permitted to compensate GMC for not selling pickup trucks until 2010? If your answer is no, why are the big drug companies legally able to pay generic drug companies huge sums to delay marketing the cheaper versions of brand name drugs?

Big Pharma and the "pay for delay" scam

The Federal Trade Commission says court-approved deals between drug manufacturers and companies that make cheaper generics are costing consumers billions of dollars.

A report by the agency coincides with congressional hearings and shows the settlements are becoming more common.

In a tactic upheld by appeals courts, brand-name drug companies pay off generic competitors, which then agree to delay introduction of less-costly non-brand-name versions.

Consumers Union says in a typical settlement, the generic drug company makes more money than it would from selling its cheaper version of the drug.

FTC Commissioner John Leibowitz decries what he calls "pernicious pay-for-delay settlements."

From AP and Pharmagossip

December 16, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Seeding Trials By Drug Industry Cause Situational Blindness

Category: Gaming The System

A clever but dishonest marketing strategy used by the drug industry, called seeding trials, was under discussion at Gooznews.com this week.

Why Does Medicare Subsidize Industry Seeding Trials?

One of the worst-kept secrets in medical research is that much of what passes for cutting edge knowledge is actually thinly-veiled advertising by the drug industry for drugs that have already been FDA-approved. Example: A company has an anti-inflammatory pain pill that has been approved for arthritis pain; they now want to test it on dental patients with tooth aches. Such studies add almost nothing to medical science, yet they routinely appear in the medical literature, especially in the less prestigious journals that cater to specialists.

These trials are sometimes referred to as seeding trials because their real aim is to encourage the physicians who enroll patients in the trial (at a nice fee per patient, of course) to continue prescribing it for them and other patients once the trial is over. Another major benefit for the drug firm is that after the study appears in a specialty journal, the sponsor can buy thousands of reprints for its salesmen to distribute to the offices of physicians in that specialty, even though it hasn't been approved for the condition they're actually treating. While the law prohibits drug industry salesmen from promoting the off-label use of drugs, they are allowed to drop off published literature that accomplishes the same thing.

It now appears that industry has gotten Medicare involved in the game. Yesterday, I attended an all-day hearing at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) where an advisory committee debated whether Medicare should continue reimbursing the routine costs of caring for seniors who are enrolled in clinical trials. At the end of the day, they said yes with a few limitations that may not stop the abuses.

Do you think greedy trial lawyers could conduct "studies" of the benefits of legal representation for injured victims and then drop the results off at hospital bedsides? Probably not - the true purpose would be too transparent. How blind must the medical profession be to allow the absurdity of seeding trials to continue! The answer lies in the fees paid by Big Pharma. Payoffs have been known to cause situational blindness, a common malady among doctors.

December 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is It Negotiation Or Trial Strategy?

Category: Gaming The System

The negotiations are continuing in a priest sex abuse case while the jury is deliberating. Or, are they?

Gag order issued in priest sex abuse case

A judge presiding over a civil trial in which a former altar boy has accused a Fresno priest of sexual abuse has issued a gag order to prevent lawyers from swaying jury deliberations.

Judge Donald Black issued his order after Juan Rocha's lawyer, Larry Drivon, said his client had offered to settle the lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court for $1 -- provided Father Eric Swearingen leaves the priesthood.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno immediately rejected the offer, made Thursday, on the first day of jury deliberations.

"Maybe [Drivon] wants people to know his client isn't greedy," Fresno lawyer Nicholas "Butch" Wagner said.

Or, maybe, the offer was made with the expectation it would be rejected and then could be used to influence the deliberations via the news media.

December 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Chairman Of US Chamber Of Commerce Does The Insider Thing

Category: Gaming The System

Will the Chairman of the US Chamber of Commerce continue to be the spokesman and lobbyist for its effort to unshackle the bonds that prevent American businesses from effectively competing in the global economy? [Yes, my son, that is the altruistic goal of the Chamber.] It looks to me like he has already removed his personal shackles and decided to make some bucks the old fashioned way, by insider trading.

From MyDD:

US Chamber of Commerce Chairman Caught Ripping Off Investors

Gretchen Morgenson, a good business reporter for the New York Times, has an important story about Thomas J. Donohue, Chairman of the US Chamber of Commerce, being caught in a very shady insider trading scandal. The scandal involves Sunrise Senior Living, an assisted living provider for the elderly, and insider sales of stock prior to public revelations of accounting problems which crushed the stock price.

Mr. Donohue's sales are of particular interest, given his day job. He has been a force behind the Chamber of Commerce's efforts to defang Sarbanes-Oxley, the Enron-era law designed to clean up corporate accounting and governance. The chamber also has the S.E.C.'s enforcement division in its sights; one chamber priority is to ''curtail the S.E.C.'s overly broad authority to launch investigations,'' according to its Web site.

It's not surprising that Thomas Donahue is an unethical guy who sold out the investors he's supposed to be looking out for. He's the head of the Chamber of Commerce, the paradigmatic example of corrupted lobbying practices.

In fact, the United States Chamber of Commerce, which, while it purports to work for a business-friendly environment that helps its members, is actually one of the most wingnutty groups around.

The Chamber wants to weaken or eliminate the Family and Medical Leave Act, the minimum wage, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. They want to cut every possible tax despite massive deficits, privatize Social Security, and just generally pursue the right-wing agenda down the line.

November 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Greedy Health Care Providers Are In Control

Category: Gaming The System

John Abramson, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and the author of "Overdosed America," has some pretty strong things to say about the health of the U.S. health-care system. He believes it has a bad case of the profit motive. Far be it from me to criticize greed, but the system needs an audit before we have no money for food.

In deadly denial over the crisis facing U.S. health care

Truth be told, the U.S. medical system is headed for multiple organ failure.

The spiraling cost of health care is well known: $7,100 per person this year, projected to increase to $12,000 in 2015 and compounding at more than double the rate of inflation. Already, medical care gobbles up one-sixth of the GDP. Even so, Americans ask ourselves, how better to spend money than on the best health care in the world?

Not so fast. The facts show that these enormous expenditures may be buying the United States the best amenities in medical care -- but not the best health.

In fact, although Americans spend twice as much per person on health care as the other 21 wealthiest countries, data from the World Health Organization show that Americans live the shortest amount of time in good health -- 2 1/2 years less than the average in the other countries (69.3 versus 71.8 years).

The problem is, the U.S. health-care system is exquisitely well designed to maximize profits but exquisitely poorly designed to provide the best health care most efficiently. And even nonprofit medical institutions shape the care they offer based on their own bottom lines instead of the health needs of the communities they serve.

In Washington, the Food and Drug Administration is much better at protecting the interests of the drug and medical-device industries than those of patients.

October 30, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Time Heals All Wounds (And Keeps Bad Drugs On The Market)

Category: Gaming The System

The drug industry has developed an antidote for negative clinical trial results. Delay, delay, delay publication of the studies.

Is Big Pharma burying bad data?

There is growing criticism of Big Pharma for failing to disclose results of clinical studies; especially studies that provide information about the safety or effectiveness of medicines being taken by consumers.

The charges became especially heated during the recent debate about the safety of antidepressants and the withdrawal of the once-popular painkiller Vioxx, which spurred accusations that, in some cases, side-effect data were suppressed.

Take the case of GSK and two trials of Valtrex vs Famvir, in genital herpes.

The trials finished in 1998, but the were only published last month.

The lead researcher for the studies complained she was never given a satisfactory explanation, and noted the drugmaker responsible for the delay also owns the medicine that fared poorly.

"I was given all sorts of reasons," said Anna Wald, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, whose work comparing the two drugs was recently published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

"It took years to receive any material," she said. "They should have moved faster."

October 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Manipulation Of Treatment Guidelines Makes Costly Drug Look Superior

Category: Gaming The System

In the world of prescription drugs, you don't always get what you pay for. Xigris, a drug which costs about $8,000 for a four-day course of treatment, may have been tested and marketed through manipulation.

3 Doctors Assail Lilly Study of Sepsis Drug

Three doctors at the National Institutes of Health have sharply criticized Eli Lilly for its efforts to promote the use of Xigris, an expensive treatment for patients with sepsis, an often deadly blood infection.

In an article published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors wrote that Lilly -- the nation's sixth-largest drug maker -- had manipulated treatment guidelines for sepsis patients to promote Xigris at the expense of older, cheaper and equally effective treatments.

October 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Are We At The Dawn Of A New Inquisition?

Category: Gaming The System

It's open season on judges out west. The L.A. Times describes an amendment on the ballot in South Dakota which, if passed, would likely lead to the mass resignation of the entire judiciary.

Call of the West: Rein In the Judges

Judges across several Western states could soon face new limits on their authority and threats to their independence, as conservatives campaign for ballot measures that aim to rein in what they describe as "runaway courts."

South Dakota's Amendment E would have the most sweeping effect; it has drawn opposition from conservatives and liberals -- including, in a rare show of unanimity, every member of the state Legislature.

Under the amendment judges in the state could lose their jobs or assets if citizens disliked how they sentenced a criminal, resolved a business dispute or settled a divorce. "We want to give power back to the people," said Jake Hanes, a spokesman for the measure.

A special grand jury would evaluate citizen complaints against judges -- and judges would not be presumed innocent. Amendment E explicitly instructs jurors to "liberally" tilt in favor of any citizen with a grievance, and "not to be swayed by artful presentation by the judge."

This deep suspicion of judges is reflected not only on the fall ballot, but also in the rallying cries of the right, especially Christian conservatives. A summit for "values voters" last spring included a session called "The Judiciary: Overruling God." Mock ballots, circulated online, urge Christians to vote for the judge they'd most like to impeach.

Based on historical facts I would rather be in the courtroom of an activist judge than called before a church tribunal during the Inquisition.

October 08, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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One Reason Never To Contribute To A Politician

Category: Gaming The System

It turns out Rep. Mark Foley (the ex-Congressman who is rehabilitating his drinking and email habits) probably will have the best legal defense his campaign treasury can buy. I think a better use of the funds would be to finance the investigation of Foley and the others in Congress who aided and abetted his illegal habits.

Foley May Be Able to Spend Campaign Contributions on Legal Defense

Mark Foley faces an ongoing FBI investigation into whether he committed crimes by sending sexually explicit Internet messages to minors, but the disgraced former congressman may not have to worry about where he'll get the money to defend himself.

Federal law allows Foley to use his $2.7 million campaign war chest to pay any legal fees he incurs that are related to his status as a member of Congress.

Under the law, Foley might even be able to tap that pot of money to hire public relations experts to respond to the press.

Foley abruptly quit Congress and abandoned his reelection campaign on Sept. 29, after being confronted by ABC News with graphic electronic messages he'd sent to teenage congressional pages. But his principal campaign committee, Lake Worth, Fla.-based Friends of Mark Foley, remains active and brimming with cash.

Whether Foley will be able to spend his contributors' donations on defense lawyers and publicists will ultimately depend on how the Federal Election Commission interprets U.S. election law. But in a half-dozen legal opinions since 1995, commissioners have interpreted broadly the ability of candidates to use campaign funds to pay legal fees.

Today, Foley can't legally raise funds because he's no longer a candidate.

But his campaign account continues to swell.

Since the start of the year, Friends of Mark Foley has earned nearly $100,000 in interest, according to the most recent report filed by campaign treasurer Donna Winterson, who is also Foley's sister.

The campaign also stands to collect thousands of dollars via a special joint fundraising committee that was formed by Foley and a dozen other Republican members of Congress less than two weeks before the scandal broke.

The committee, Physicians to Retain Our Majority, or PROM, aimed to raise money from doctors, and its registered participants from Florida, besides Foley, were Rep. Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale, Rep. Ric Keller of Orlando and Rep. Cliff Stearns of Silver Springs.

Physicians to Retain Our Majority will have to find some other white knight to carry its banner in Washington. Or, have to rename itself. I suggest Physicians to Practice Better Medicine.

September 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is A Not-For-Profit Hospital Doing Good Or Doing Well?

Category: Gaming The System

You say Not-For-Profit; I say Not-So-Fast. Truth-In-Labeling laws should be applied to America's hospitals. Claiming to be Not-For-Profit provides significant tax-exempt status for hospitals and other entities. Are some of these hospitals achieving a tax savings they do not deserve? Stay tuned for the hearings before the Senate Finance Committee.

Many Non-Profit Hospitals Overcharge, Deny Care To Low-Income Patients, Senate Finance Committee Investigation Finds

Some not-for-profit hospitals routinely overcharge or deny care to low-income, uninsured patients, according to a Senate Finance Committee investigation commissioned by committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Washington Post reports. For the report, investigators during a 15-month period reviewed the charitable activities and billing practices of 10 not-for-profit hospitals across the nation (Day, Washington Post, 9/13).

The report finds that some hospitals have been taking advantage of IRS laws regarding tax-exempt status by offering some no-cost services but often providing little aid to the lowest-income residents in their communities. In some cases, not-for-profits fail to inform patients that such aid is available. In addition, some high-ranking hospital officials receive perks such as paid country club memberships and stays at expensive hotels, according to the investigation. The report also finds some for-profit hospitals provide "as much if not more charity care" than some not-for-profit hospitals, Grassley said.

September 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Big Tobacco Has Big Nuts

Category: Gaming The System

Let's help the tobacco companies! This is the headline at the California Medicine Man.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has published the results of a study they commissioned suggesting that the level of nicotine has increased in American cigarettes by ten percent over the six year period between 1998 and 2004.

...the largest tobacco manufacturers, Philip Morris and Reynolds American "declined to comment". Perhaps they never suspected that their actions would ever be discovered or suspected and they never imagined that they'd have to answer to them. I have no doubt that their public relations departments are now scrambling to come up with some palatable responses.

In the interest of helping these much-beleaguered tobacco company lackeys, I propose that we assist them in coming up with excuses for their inevitable press releases. I suggest the following:

There's no proof that increased nicotine content leads to increased tobacco consumption.

This was totally unintentional.

We are very concerned and will be looking into this immediately.

We forgot!

I'm sure there are others that more imaginative and fanciful readers can come up with!

I anticipate the actual response of Big Tobacco will be more along these lines:

Stay the course!

Who cares!

Tough luck!

Go To Hell!

July 22, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Why Watchdog Agencies Nap

Category: Gaming The System

Watchdogs in name only. Over and over we learn that agencies charged with protecting us from particular hazards fail to do their jobs. How can that be? Read the following post at TortsProf Blog and see if you can spot the clues.

Watchdogs Take a Nap

It's amazing, in retrospect, that W.R. Grace was able to keep secret the asbestos contamination of their vermiculite mine in Libby as long as they did. A whole alphabet soup's worth of state and federal agencies saw pieces of the puzzle: The federal Bureau of Mines, Mine Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Montana Department of Health, all knew there was asbestos in Grace's vermiculite. All either assumed the danger was controlled, or found themselves constricted by narrow mandates.

Even the Environmental Protection Agency had clues...

Make no mistake: only W.R. Grace saw the big picture. But in retrospect, the tragedy was born of abdication. No one with the power or knowledge or authority to remedy the situation took responsibility for doing so; they simply left the least powerful to fend for themselves. This is how the watchdogs took a nap. watchdogs.doc

To highlight the most revealing portion of the article I have separated it out below.

Even the Environmental Protection Agency had clues: the agency was nearly forced to take action when one of Grace's corporate customers in Ohio came down with a rash of pulmonary diseases among its workforce. In response, the EPA planned a sweeping survey of the nation's vermiculite industry, including a close look at the Libby mine, and was preparing to get down to business when Ronald Reagan was elected president. One of Reagan's early acts was to appoint his friend, J. Peter Grace, to head the Grace Commission, ferreting out waste in government. The vermiculite study was, for all practical purposes, scrapped.

In the mind of the Ronald Reagan and corporate America there was no conflict of interest in appointing J. Peter Grace to investigate government waste. Today, Grace would probably have been appointed to head the EPA itself.

July 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Defensive Medicine - Is It Medical Malpractice?

Category: Gaming The System

Just imagine for a minute that it was suspected that accountants were practicing defensive accounting - accounting practice based on fear of legal liability rather than on their clients' best interests. Then, actual studies confirmed this suspicion. Would the solution to this state of affairs be to propose four (or more) avenues for reform of the traditional tort compensation system?

Why does the entire English-speaking world have to revise its traditional tort compensation system because doctors refuse to practice good medicine? If a doctor wants to claim that he is practicing defensive medicine should he not be disciplined for failing to practice within the standard of care? Or, has the medical standard of care degenerated to the point where it embraces defensive medicine?

From Lancet, 2006 Jul 15;368(9531):240-6:

Effects of the medical liability system in Australia, the UK, and the USA

Although the direct costs of the medical liability system account for a small fraction of total health spending, the system's indirect effects on cost and quality of care can be much more important. Here, we summarize findings of existing research on the effects of the medical liability systems of Australia, the UK, and the USA. We find systematic evidence of defensive medicine--medical practice based on fear of legal liability rather than on patients' best interests. We conclude with discussion of four avenues for reform of traditional tort compensation for medical injury and several suggestions for future research.

June 29, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Trigger Lock Civics Lessons In Congress

Category: Gaming The System

Today's civics lessons come from Washington. Lesson #1 - It ain't over until it's over in Congress. Lesson #2 - If you want to repeal a popular law, attach it as an amendment to a spending bill. Lesson #3 - The gun lobby never sleeps.

House votes to overturn mandatory gun locks

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to overturn a recently enacted law requiring safety trigger locks on all hand guns sold in the United States.

The Republican-controlled House handed a victory to opponents of gun control by a vote of 230-191.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican, argued that the added cost of the trigger locks is passed on to gun owners and that they "do not stop accidental shootings."

Last fall, President George W. Bush signed legislation giving gun makers broad protections from civil lawsuits, but that law contained the mandatory trigger lock provision.

The amendment overturning the requirement for trigger locks was attached to a larger law enforcement spending bill for next year that has not yet been considered by the Senate.

Note that the immunity from civil lawsuits was coupled with the mandatory trigger lock provision. Some might think that was a fair trade-off. Now we are left with the immunity and no trigger locks. Some might think this is a neat trick. Somewhere Charlton Heston is laughing.

June 21, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Thank You, Congress, For Doubling The Prices Of Drugs

Category: Gaming The System

The New York Times is running a story today that reminds us who is really running our government. Remember when Congress included in the new Medicare Drug Program a prohibition against government negotiation with drug companies over the price of drugs? Well, the New York Times reports this restriction now means Medicare drug plans pay twice what the Department of Veterans Affairs (with its ability to negotiate prices) pays for the same prescription drugs.

Drug Prices Up Sharply This Year

Prices of the most widely used prescription drugs rose sharply in this year's first quarter, just as the new Medicare drug coverage program was going into effect, according to separate studies issued yesterday by two large consumer advocacy groups.

...prices charged by drug makers for brand-name pharmaceuticals jumped 3.9 percent, four times the general inflation rate during the first three months of this year and the largest quarterly price increase in six years.

Price increases for some of the most popular brand-name drugs were much steeper; the sleeping pill Ambien was up 13.3 percent, and the best-selling cholesterol drug, Lipitor, was up 4.7 to 6.5 percent, depending on dosage.

Some health care economists said the price increases, if they continued, could have a devastating effect on the new Medicare drug program.

Ron Pollock, the executive director of Families USA, offered another way to gauge the federal impact. The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs, which is able to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical makers, is paying 46 percent less for the most popular brand-name drugs than the average prices posted by the Medicare plans for the same drugs, Mr. Pollock said.

June 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Special Medical Malpractice Courts Not A Part Of Search For Justice

Category: Gaming The System

Why do trial lawyers bristle at the idea of special Medical Malpractice Courts that would theoretically assure greater, supposedly impartial, expertise in medical care issues? Why should ordinary juries and ordinary judges continue performing their roles in lawsuits alleging breaches of the medical standard of care?

I cannot provide a better answer than the one contained in this letter to a Pennsylvania newspaper.

Med/mal court has drawback

Jonathan B. Tocks, M.D., solicited "a statement from the trial bar in Pennsylvania on proposals to remove the med/mal issue to specialized courts" (Letters, May 28). I offer the following in my capacity as last year's president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

Some years ago I tried a medical malpractice case in Chester County arising out of the death of a 12-year-old girl who was sent home from a well-endowed local hospital after falling off her bike and exhibiting the classic signs of a fractured skull, without first a CT scan of her head.

Six days later she was found dead in bed. An autopsy revealed a fracture of the base of the skull.

The defense retained the services of a prominent neurosurgeon -- let's call him "Dr. X" -- who filed a report in which he gave his opinion that the little girl must have suffered a blow to the skull after she had been discharged from the hospital, because never in his many years of practice had he ever heard of a person dying of a fractured skull as long as six days after the initial injury.

Fortunately, I had done a search of the medical literature and found an article published by the self-same Dr. X in a prominent medical journal 16 years before, in which Dr. X documented case studies of the seven patients who experienced delayed-onset brain bleeds days after -- in one case weeks after -- an initial blow to the skull caused a fracture. Indeed, in his article, Dr. X explained the mechanics of the human anatomy that caused such a delayed onset.

The specialized courts proposed by Dr. Tocks would be made up of doctors like Dr. X. Can we honestly say that such courts would improve the search for justice?

My answer is no. Special courts are intended to improve the profitability of medical malpractice insurance carriers. Any improvement in the search for justice would be totally accidental.

June 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Big Profits Mean Big Bonuses For Medical Malpractice Insurance Company

Category: Gaming The System

A 224% increase in profits is spectacular in any industry. In the field of medical malpractice insurance it is mind-blowing. I assume doctors in North Carolina are celebrating the good news that their increased premiums are providing what are called hefty bonuses for the top executives of their malpractice carrier. You have to feel good when someone is profiting from your pain.

Profits, executive pay up at malpractice insurer

RALEIGH - Medical Mutual Insurance Co. of North Carolina, the state's largest medical malpractice insurer, saw profits climb 224 percent in fiscal 2005 - a year in which top executives were granted hefty bonuses.

Medical Mutual's profit from premiums rose from about $2.1 million in 2004 to more than $6.7 million in 2005, delivering a margin of 8 percent, according to filings with the North Carolina Department of Insurance. Net income from investments rose by about 8 percent, for a total net income of $13 million - a 91 percent increase over 2004's $6.8 million.

Like many insurers, Medical Mutual has become a lightning rod in the battle over tort reform in North Carolina.

June 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Hostile Takeover Of Our Court System

Category: Gaming The System

David Sirota reminds us why the little guy is losing, losing, losing in our court system. Excerpts from his latest article in the Huffington Post:

Why We Should Worry About the Hostile Takeover of America's Court System

It's easy to forget what Supreme Court nomination fights really mean once they are over.

What gets buried in this cycle, of course, is the fact that the Supreme Court exerts itself most forcefully on the key financial and corporate power issues - the issues that engineer who are winners and who are losers in America's economy.

That's why Big Business took such an interest in Supreme Court nominations, directly coordinating with the White House to vet potential nominees. That's why Corporate America salivated when Bush nominated Roberts - Big Money's "go-to lawyer," according to his associates. That's why wealthy executives cheered when Bush later nominated Sam Alito, the guy Businessweek noted "consistently has come down on the side of limiting corporate liability, limiting employee rights, and limiting federal regulation." And sadly, that's why the confirmation hearings carefully avoided serious discussion about the economic issues. It's all because Big Business and their bought-off politicians understand the advantage they get by infiltrating the inside of the court with their vermin. They understand, in short, the private profit potential of performing a hostile takeover of America's court system.

The result is that the Court is becoming even more complicit in helping Big Money interests transform the legal system into the sharp, poisoned-tipped arrowhead of Big Business's profit spear - rather than a shield protecting America's citizens. This has come into especially stark relief over the last few weeks.

May 30, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Hypertension - Drug Companies Know It When They See It

Category: Gaming The System

The easiest way to increase the need for a drug product is to increase the number of people who are sick. Nobody could be so heartless to do that. But, somebody could be devious enough to convince more people they are sick.

You may soon have high blood pressure because the drug industry is funding steps to change its definition. The New York Times reports on this latest drug company effort.

Editorial: Industry's Role in Hypertension

If the American Society for Hypertension hoped to devise an expanded definition of the condition that would be scientifically and ethically defensible, it sure picked the wrong way to do it. Virtually every key step in its efforts to redefine hypertension from mere high blood pressure to a broader syndrome has been financed by pharmaceutical companies that would gain by selling drugs to more people.

As described by Stephanie Saul in The Times on May 20, Merck, Novartis and Sankyo gave the small medical society $75,000 in unrestricted grants that were used to develop a new definition, and $700,000 more in unrestricted grants that financed dinner lectures to promote the new definition. The drug companies have too much self-interest to be allowed even a peripheral role in defining illness.

Hypertension, which is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, is currently defined as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 and above. Some 65 million Americans have high blood pressure by that definition. But 59 million more are considered pre-hypertensive, which means they have blood pressure readings of at least 120/80. The new concept being debated within the society would move about half of these into the hypertension category based on other risk factors.

May 20, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Big Tent Of Tort Reform

Category: Gaming The System

Waiving the banner of tort reform car dealers are attempting to limit their liability to consumers. Pretty soon drunk drivers will be the only wrongdoers with any legal liability for anything.

Car Dealers Try for Immunization

Automobile dealers are trying to craft state consumer fraud laws to immunize themselves from suits in several states by what critics claim is a coordinated effort to limit the ability of private lawyers and attorneys general to hold them accountable.

Proposed law changes in Virginia, Florida and Ohio would, among other things, limit damages that consumers can seek against dealers and require presuit notice that makes it tougher to litigate.

Ira Rheingold, general counsel of the National Association of Consumer Advocates in Washington, claimed that industry lobbyists disguise legislation as consumer protection laws and then sell it to state legislators as tort and class action reform. They also put arbitration clauses in consumer contracts and lobby for federal legislation that pre-empts state statutes, Rheingold said.

Excerpted from The National Law Journal.

May 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Medical Expert Regulation Game, Mississippi Version

Category: Gaming The System

Mississippi is busy protecting its citizens. Not from hurricanes. From the dishonorable and unethical conduct of Mississippi-licensed doctors. Not in treating patients. But, in providing expert testimony.

Are these guys serious?

Expert-testimony rules OK'd

The State Board of Medical Licensure on Thursday adopted for the first time regulations governing physicians testifying as medical experts, a move some plaintiffs' attorneys say could have a chilling effect on the willingness of doctors to testify in malpractice cases.

"You can't find a doctor in Mississippi now who will testify against another doctor," said lawyer George Yoder, who was at the board meeting. Attorneys have to go outside the state to find medical experts to testify in malpractice cases, he said.

The board gave no indication of what specifically prompted its decision but said in written comments, "There is a problem in Mississippi with the lack of regulation of medical expert activities by physicians."

"This lack of regulation causes the performance of medical experts' activities to be vulnerable to fraud, abuse, dishonesty, deception, incompetence and other forms of unprofessional, dishonorable and unethical conduct by physician experts, all of which are harmful to the public," the board said.

Wow! I had no idea that regulation would correct all of this despicable behavior by medical experts. Since the State Board has been regulating treating doctors for years I don't see how any malpractice can occur in the state. Why do they allow anybody to testify on behalf of an injured patient?

May 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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U.S. Chamber Of Commerce President - His Name Rhymes With Hypocrite

Category: Gaming The System

Let's spend a few minutes discussing Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is determined to see a national cap on medical malpractice verdicts. Is he the man who should be lecturing us on the evils wrought by greedy trial lawyers? Only if we should listen to a man whose companies have perverted the American judicial system.

Business groups vow to keep pressing for malpractice caps

Legislation limiting non-economic damages fails to pass Senate

Legislation to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate, but business groups promised to keep fighting for the bill.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce contends high malpractice insurance premiums contribute to the health care affordability crisis. Plus, doctors are "fleeing plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions," said Tom Donohue, the chamber's president and CEO. Donohue said the chamber will "redouble its efforts" for reform. The bill has passed the House several times.

Opponents contend that high medical malpractice rates are due more to insurance companies recouping investment losses than excessive malpractice verdicts. They say the damage caps are unfair to patients who suffer life-changing injuries due to malpractice and homemakers who don't qualify for economic damages.

Public Citizen gives us a glimpse of Tom Donohue's credentials to speak on these issues:

As president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue leads a national campaign to limit plaintiffs' rights in civil lawsuits, seeks to defeat judicial and attorney general candidates whom he deems as insufficiently pro-business, and opposes regulatory oversight of businesses and other measures that would lead to increased accountability for American companies.

Donohue's message has a constant drumbeat: Businesses are the victims of greedy trial lawyers and overzealous regulators. Donohue claimed the Chamber was forced to abandon its traditional political neutrality in the 2004 presidential campaign solely because Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards was a former trial lawyer and, therefore, a threat to business. He said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was guilty of the "most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time." Meanwhile, he has praised American business as "the one thing that works in this country."

Donohue acknowledges the responsibility of board members to make sure companies hold up their end of the bargain. "The due diligence issues of board membership suggest that you damn well better do your homework, you better understand the issues, you better be in communication between meetings, because you need to give your best advice," Donohue told Directors & Boards magazine in 2000.

"Boards have to support the chief executive, but they also have to cajole, they have to prod, they have to help the CEO be successful. Save me from a bunch of people on a board who are going to tell me what I want to hear." But Donohue himself sits on the boards of two publicly traded companies - Qwest Communications International Inc. and Union Pacific Corp. - that have committed numerous egregious acts since Donohue's arrival. Between them, the two companies have engaged in a monumental deception of investors, violated federal and state regulations on a massive scale, jeopardized public safety, and perverted the American judicial system through alteration and destruction of evidence.

In other words, Donohue is a steward of two companies that serve as vivid examples for why we need a strong civil justice system and vigorous regulatory oversight.

May 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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1.6 Billion Reasons To Go To A Single Payer Health Care System

Category: Gaming The System

Even the Wall Street Journal is having trouble swallowing the $1.6 Billion that is basically waiting to be plucked by the CEO of UnitedHealth Group Inc. while the squeeze is on both insured and uninsured Americans for health care.

If I exercised every stock option in my portfolio I would lose money. And, I am a greedy trial lawyer - go figure!

As Patients, Doctors Feel Pinch, Insurer's CEO Makes a Billion

When William McGuire switched careers in 1986, he was so restless that a pay cut of more than 30% didn't faze him. Health maintenance organizations were booming, and Dr. McGuire wanted to help run one. So he jettisoned a six-figure income as a pulmonologist in favor of an HMO management job that paid about $70,000 a year.

Savvy move. Today, the 58-year-old Dr. McGuire is chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group Inc., one of the nation's largest health-care companies. He draws $8 million a year in salary plus bonus, enjoying perks such as personal use of the company jet. He also has amassed one of the largest stock-options fortunes of all time.

Unrealized gains on Dr. McGuire's options totaled $1.6 billion, according to UnitedHealth's proxy statement released this month. Even celebrated CEOs such as General Electric Co.'s Jack Welch or International Business Machines Corp.'s Louis Gerstner never were granted so much during their time at the top.

Dr. McGuire's story shows how an elite group of companies is getting rich from the nation's fraying health-care system. Many of them aren't discovering drugs or treating patients. They're middlemen who process the paperwork, fill the pill bottles and otherwise connect the pieces of a $2 trillion industry.

The middlemen credit themselves with keeping the health system humming and restraining costs. They're bringing in robust profits -- and their executives are among the country's most richly paid -- as doctors, patients, hospitals and even drug makers are feeling a financial squeeze. Some 46 million Americans lack health insurance.

Is it past time for a single payer health care system? Read more about this option that would at least save $1.6 Billion in one executive's compensation.

Our pluralistic health care system is giving way to a system run by corporate oligopolies. A single payer reform provides the only realistic alternative.

April 25, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Wyeth, The Do-Gooder

Category: Gaming The System

"I'm from a drug company and I just want to protect women from their pharmacists."

Drug company wants FDA to regulate hormones

There's a fight brewing between a big drug company and women who use custom-compounded hormones to fend off menopause symptoms. The company, Wyeth, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on pharmacies that sell these products, which are called bio-identical hormones. Wyeth says they pose a safety risk. Ever since the company made its request, more than 27,000 women have submitted letters or e-mails asking the FDA to leave the pharmacies alone.

According to an Associated Press article written by Andrew Bridges, the pharmacies custom mix the hormones for each patient. Wyeth, which sells its own hormone pills for menopause, says the practice is potentially risky.

The thinking about hormone replacement therapy has changed drastically since a 2002 government study found that hormone pills are linked to an increased rate of heart attacks, blood clots and other risks. In the aftermath, many women turned to compounding hormones in the belief that they are safer. However, no studies have been done to explore the issue.

Even so, some suspect that Wyeth's motive has less to do with safety than with getting rid of the competition from the bio-identical industry.

"It seems to be an attempt to use the FDA to inappropriately to eliminate competition," said L.D. King, executive director of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, told the Associated Press.

From the Orlando Sentinel Blog.

April 23, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Drug Company Shills Write Medical Manual

Category: Gaming The System

There are drug company moles who write the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association's diagnosis manual, which is used as the basis for insurance payments for psychiatric treatments, including drugs. USA Today reports on this cozy arrangement.

A majority of the medical experts who created the "bible" for diagnosing mental illness have undisclosed financial links to drugmakers, says a study out Thursday.

And some panels overseeing disorders that require treatment with prescription drugs, such as schizophrenia and "mood disorders," were 100% filled with experts financially tied to the pharmaceutical industry, says the study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

These moles don't even have to "play a doctor on T.V." in order to get the cash register to ring for their drug companies. They are doctors who shill with a printing press.

April 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Judges Who Sympathize With Doctors - Who Needs Tort Reform?

Category: Gaming The System

The indoctrination of judges continues. For years, special interests have helpfully provided judges with what are termed educational opportunities. The obvious, but ignored, agenda of the sponsoring entity is to develop a judicial mindset in favor of a particular industry or group. The latest effort to prejudice the judiciary is reported at DB's Medical Rants. Judge Reform is now a part of Tort Reform.

On behalf of my clients, the injured victims of medical malpractice, I invite all judges to spend a few days at the bedside of a dying man whose cancer was overlooked for five years.

Here are just some of DB's excited utterances about the benefits of poisoning the objectivity of judges:

Judges go to school

This innovative program may improve judging of malpractice cases. I wish everyone could read this entry, but I will excerpt some key paragraphs. Judges hit classroom to learn about medicine

"The objective in this was to give judges a feel for the span of judgment that physicians and other health care providers have to exercise when detecting, diagnosing, treating and to some extent predicting the outcome of cancer," said Franklin Zweig, PhD, president of the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center, which recruited the judges who attended the program. The ongoing ASTAR/EINSHAC project is free to invited judges.

"The March school was the anchor for a program participating judges have committed to attending periodically in the next two years. Future classes will branch into areas such as genetics and clinical trials. In the fall, ASTAR will invite another 125 participants.

"Dr. Calvo said the goal is to show judges that most of human biology and medicine is not black and white.

"And judges at the first round of classes said they learned exactly that. In addition to acquiring a scientific knowledge base, judges said they learned that understanding physician-patient communication is key to interpreting complex medical cases.

"Ohio trial Judge Lee Sinclair said he was particularly enlightened by a mock exercise in which a newly diagnosed cancer patient evaluated treatment options with several doctors, including a surgeon and an oncologist.

"When the judges got together to discuss the conversation, "what you realized was everyone in the room heard things in a different way," Sinclair said. "Often what you hear in medical malpractice cases is the physician saying he explained it to the patient and the patient saying it never happened."

"The insights are especially valuable in helping judges eliminate potentially frivolous lawsuits or find alternate ways to resolve legal disputes without going to trial, said Marvin J. Garvis, a Maryland federal judge.

Whoever had this idea is brilliant. Physicians constantly are bewildered that patients and juries expect a theoretical perfection in medical care. We understand that medicine is fraught with uncertainty. We understand that our words are often either not heard or not understood. We should become better at communicating, but the problem may not be our words, but rather the mental state that the diagnosis induces in the patient.

This program should help. It is a step in the right direction.

April 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Our Government Is Stealing Our Rights

Category: Gaming The System

While our attention is drawn to tort reform efforts in each state legislature, our federal government (a.k.a. George Bush & Business Cronies) is surreptitiously accomplishing an even more sweeping theft of our rights by using federal regulatory procedures.

Is it time for the Impeach George Bush billboards?

The Cleveland Law Library Weblog reports on the serious concerns of state legislators:

More on "Silent Tort Reform"

At the recent meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the state legislators expressed concern over federal regulatory bodies creating lenient standards for manufacturers that prevent the states from imposing stricter standards. "'Federal regulatory preemption is nothing more than a backdoor, underhanded means by which unelected federal bureaucrats impose their will on the states,' New York state Sen. Michael Balboni (R), chair of NCSL's standing committees, said at a news conference". Legislators Sound Warning on Federal Rules by Kavan Peterson, Stateline.org, April 6, 2006. The NCSL has issued a Preemption Monitor, which highlights pending and recently finalized federal preemption proposals. See our prior post Are Federal Regulators Thwarting Personal Injury Claims?

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April 02, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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How The Drug Industry Gets Everything It Wants

Category: Gaming The System

Sometimes you just have to stand back and let someone else's words express your outrage.

Moondancer posts about the drug industry's skill in protecting its wallet at the expense of the consumer.

Carefully weigh drug firms' claims

Pharmaceutical companies spend millions to advertise their good works: their unsurpassed concern for patients and their tireless efforts to innovate. But these ads neglect to mention the most important innovations during the past few years -- such as the pharmaceutical industry's purchase of the highest ranking members of the Senate, their near-total subversion of the Food and Drug Administration, and a creative end-run around state regulations on prescription drugs.

Continue reading "How The Drug Industry Gets Everything It Wants"

March 12, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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How Not To Increase Physician Income

Category: Gaming The System

Is your cancer doctor profiteering by choosing the high priced drug?

Payment System For Oncologists Influences Choice Of Treatment, Study Says

The current reimbursement system for chemotherapy medications administered to cancer patients might affect the treatments that oncologists use, according to a study published in the current issue of Health Affairs, the New York Times reports. Medicare and private health insurers reimburse oncologists for the full cost of the chemotherapy medications administered intravenously in their offices, although oncologists can obtain discounts of as much as 86% on the price of the treatments. As a result, oncologists "can profit from the sale of chemotherapy drugs," the Times reports.

Source

February 12, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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An Endangered Species - Plaintiff Medical Expert Witnesses

Category: Gaming The System

What the world needs now, apparently, is a restriction of expert testimony in medical malpractice cases to a pretty cozy group, the buddies of the defendant medical providers. A news story in the Tallahassee Democrat details the retribution that medical societies visited upon the plaintiff experts who dared to testify against Florida doctors ten years ago. Then, the story explains why it would even be better if no out-of-state doctor/expert were permitted to even show up in a Florida trial. I think the Florida Medical Association is not going far enough. Why not restrict the experts to only the immediate relatives or partners of the defendant providers?

Witnesses for hire: Faux experts foul the courts

Now the Florida Medical Association is pursuing legislative relief, saying that current law, which doesn't require expert medical witnesses to be licensed in Florida, invites experts to be brought in to testify, earn large fees for so doing, and yet not be held accountable.

Senate President Tom Lee is reportedly supporting some limitations. "You can find just about anybody to say anything within the bounds of reason on any given day if you're willing to pay them to come to Florida and testify," Lee told Florida Medical Business.

The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers has weighed in, too, with a spokesman calling the proposal, "cockamamie . . . another diabolical attempt by the FMA to cut down on medical malpractice cases."

Tallahassee attorney Scott Mitchell, who defends physicians in malpractice cases and participated in this one, said he couldn't be certain the law is needed.

"It's my job to show witnesses for what they are, and to try to get better experts who have good qualifications and to tell them we want honest opinions," he said. "Then it's the jury's job to discern whether witnesses are telling the truth."

February 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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New Corporation Defense: Those Regulators Are To Blame

Category: Gaming The System

The newest bizarre twist in civil litigation comes not from the feverish minds of greedy trial lawyers but from the disingenuous maneuvering of coal industry defendants to avoid legal responsibility for the deaths of three miners in a 2003 mine explosion. The Washington Monthly story raises the possibility that this new ploy could result in these scenarios: Merck sues FDA for letting it sell Vioxx! Ford sues the transportation department for not demanding roll-over tests for SUVs! DuPont sues EPA for failing to notice when it dumped toxic chemicals into people's drinking water! And if the companies win, the federal government can pay all those big jury verdicts. It's amazing they didn't think of this sooner....

Continue reading "New Corporation Defense: Those Regulators Are To Blame"

January 27, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Big Pharma's Best Friend Lives At The White House

Category: Gaming The System

Does anyone doubt that the Drug Industry owns the Bush Administration? Now the regulatory process which is intended to protect the public has been reconstituted as Big Pharma's Best Friend. Bob Kraft posts about the methods and motives of the current Congress and Administration to protect the pharmaceutical industry from liability for negligence resulting in injury or death.

January 23, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Plundering The Federal Health Insurance Program

Category: Gaming The System

It isn't the little guy who is cheating the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Doctors and other modern pirates are the bad actors.

"Medical insurance companies erroneously overcharged the federal health insurance program by $35 million during a six-month period, while companies and doctors bilked the plan out of more than $55 million during the same timeframe, a newly released audit report shows." The Federal Times

January 20, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Insurance Companies Abuse The Tort System

Category: Gaming The System

A strong indictment of insurance companies as the architects of the problems in our civil justice system is posted by Trusty Getto. Trusty has the goods on the real evildoers in our tort system.

What's wrong with our tort system these days?

No, it's not runaway juries. Nope, it's not ambulance chasing personal injury attorneys. Nope, it's not crazy, activist judges.

It's insurance companies.

Instead of making good on the policies they write, they refuse to pay on legitimate claims, and they nickel and dime everyone. They nickel and dime victims, they nickel and dime expert witnesses, and they nickel and dime their own attorneys. The reason insurance rates are so high, in my view, isn't because of huge payouts or frivolous lawsuits. It's because insurance companies drive up the costs of litigation defending indefensible cases and refusing to pay reasonable compensation to seriously injured victims. By doing this, many, many cases end up costing policy holders hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend, and they result in policy payouts anyhow after too much money is spent "learning" that the claim can't be reasonably defended. They are essentially flushing good money down the toilet by pursuing this pervasive strategy.

January 17, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Do We Have A Unitary Executive Or A Unitary Banana?

Category: Gaming The System

President Bush (exercising his authority as our Unitary Banana?) will essentially grant drug companies immunity from state court lawsuits with a simple announcement. In the latest chapter in Government By Decree the FDA will say the mystical words. Maybe someone should announce an Impeachment.

Drug Injury Watch posts on the next purification of our society coming from the temple of the Dali Bush:

According to a January 14, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the FDA "is preparing to declare that federally approved medication labels pre-empt state law". Essentially, these legal claim preemption provisions would serve to protect pharmaceutical companies from personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits involving their prescription drugs. As pointed out by WSJ staff reporter Anna Wilde Mathews, this new new policy barring state liability claims "would mesh with the White House's focus on tort reform."

January 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Say You're Sorry And Save A Bundle

Category: Gaming The System

Honesty is the best policy. We all heard that from someone before we turned 10. Now, we hear that there is so much dishonesty and concealment in the medical communities that we should provide financial incentives for providers to fess up and apologize to the victims of their malpractice. Next, we will hold Absolution Ceremonies for providers who confess the most sincerely. I can see Jim and Tammy Faye Baker as the emcees.

You can read about the dawning new age of professional candor at This Makes Me Sick!

January 12, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Interesting" Court Decision Hides Misconduct Of Dialysis Center

Category: Gaming The System

"A post at the Health Care Law Blog shows how disconnected our brains can get when dealing with the rights of an injured person not related to us. What really happened in this case is that the wrongdoer got to conceal information that probably would have resulted in legal liability for misconduct. But, the commentator views it as an interesting decison. One person's interesting is sometimes someone else's devastating.

Interesting [emphasis added] HIPAA preemption appellate decision out of Ohio finding that the Ohio physician-patient privilege statute preempts HIPAA since it provides greater protection to patient privacy.

The decision in Grove v. Northeast Ohio Nephrology Associates (Ohio Ct. App., Nos. 22594, 22585, 12/26/2005), involved a malpractice claim for damages where the plaintiff was injured in a car accident by a patient who had just had dialysis treatment at the facility. The claim asserted that the dialysis provider was negligent in letting the patient drive following treatment and sought the non-party medical records of the patient. The dialysis provider objected to producing the records relying on Ohio's patient-physician privilege statute.


January 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Peek Inside Byzantine World Of American Health Care

Category: Gaming The System

Should we be surprised that health care providers often prefer to earn the big bucks by developing and promoting costly surgeries and other treatments for acute problems and ignore cheap preventive care? The New York Times reports on the "byzantine world of American health care, in which the real profit is made not by controlling chronic diseases like diabetes but by treating their many complications."

Insurers, for example, will often refuse to pay $150 for a diabetic to see a podiatrist, who can help prevent foot ailments associated with the disease. Nearly all of them, though, cover amputations, which typically cost more than $30,000.

Patients have trouble securing a reimbursement for a $75 visit to the nutritionist who counsels them on controlling their diabetes. Insurers do not balk, however, at paying $315 for a single session of dialysis, which treats one of the disease's serious complications.

Dr. Diana K. Berger, who directs the diabetes prevention program for the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the bias against effective care for chronic illnesses could be seen in the new popularity of another high-profit quick fix: bariatric surgery, which shrinks stomach size and has been shown to be effective at helping to control diabetes.

"If a hospital charges, and can get reimbursed by insurance, $50,000 for a bariatric surgery that takes just 40 minutes," she said, "or it can get reimbursed $20 for the same amount of time spent with a nutritionist, where do you think priorities will be?"

January 08, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Do Hospitals Make Billing Mistakes?

Category: Gaming The System

Reading the post of Philip L. Franckel, Esq., at My Medical Lawyers, makes you wonder whether any hospital bill can be trusted.

An excerpt:

Hospitals may invent confusing language to cheat patients. They use medical sounding names for everyday items and charge you an astronomical price. For example, an "oral administration fee" is really a charge for the nurse handing you pills. You do not have to pay for that because it is part of the room and board. Other items that have been reported as appearing on hospital bills are: "disposable mucous recovery systems" (a box of Kleenex tissues); "Thermal therapy" (a plastic bag filled with ice); "Gauze collection bag" (a trash bag); and finally, a patient who was given a teddy bear by the hospital and charged for a "cough support device." Not only is this fraud, but if it wasn't requested, the teddy bear was a gift.

Lower Your Medical Bills By Finding Medical & Hospital Bill Errors by Philip L. Franckel, Esq.

December 22, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bill Frist Busy Again

Category: Gaming The System

Bill Frist must get up every morning looking for another opportunity to immunize the drug and vaccine industry. A Register-Guard Editorial alerts us to his latest effort to slip protections for his buddies into unrelated legislation. It was a defense spending bill this time.

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December 18, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Trent Lott, Greedy Republican Senator

Category: Gaming The System

I welcome Greedy Republicn Senator Trent Lott to the American Court System. I will let skippy the bush kangaroo tell us about yet another frivolous lawsuit.

but...wait...i thought rethugs were for tort reform...oh, sorry. only for poor people.

u.s. sen. trent lott is suing his insurance company over his beachfront pascagoula home, which was leveled by hurricane katrina.

the law office of lott's brother-in-law, high-profile plaintiff's richard "dickie" scruggs, filed the federal lawsuit thursday on behalf of lott and his wife against state farm. - ap

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December 13, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Silicosis Scams Require Criminal Prosecutions

Category: Gaming The System

Accuracy In Media posts on One of the Biggest Legal Scandals in History. It claims that lawyers on behalf of supposed victims, defendant corporations and others have engaged in conspiracy and fraud of gigantic proportions within silicosis claims. I have no personal awareness of the processing of silicosis claims which would permit me to judge their merits or the legality of the submissions. However, I do know that being greedy does not permit any lawyer to be dishonest. If any silicosis claims are fraudulent, those who have participated in the fraud deserve criminal prosecution.

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December 12, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Accounting Firms Create Immunity For Themselves

Category: Gaming The System

Buried in the wordy provisions of contracts between accounting firms and corporations may be an immunity from liability lawsuits for poor auditing work. This trend is noted by Bloomberg.com in an article that explains why this probably should concern all of us. Just how conscientious will auditors be if they skate free for any shabby or overly cozy conduct?

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December 10, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Merck Concealed Vioxx Data From New England Journal of Medicine

Category: Gaming The System

Bulletin from the New York Times: Medical Journal Says Merck Concealed Vioxx Data. Surprise, surprise. Merck misrepresented the results of a crucial clinical trial of Vioxx to play down the drug's heart risks according to The New England Journal of Medicine. The Journal is not happy.

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December 08, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Man Neglects Mother To Death, Then Objects To Use Of Her Medical Records Against Him

Category: Gaming The System

A Wisconsin man, charged with neglecting his mother and causing great bodily harm (her death, for instance), is objecting to the introduction of his mother's medical records on the grounds that it would invade her privacy. Just how much privacy does the mother require now that she is deceased? And, how much privacy should be given to records that show when the mother arrived at the hospital, she was suffering from "severe dehydration, kidney failure, a fractured left humeral, right rib fracture, multiple areas of skin breakdown and severe dementia?"

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December 05, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Legal Bait And Switch Award To Former Justice Of Florida Supreme Court?

Category: Gaming The System

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen Grimes performed an embarrassing but enthusiastic two-step before the present justices of the Florida Supreme Court last week. He may be entitled to the Legal Bait and Switch Award for 2005. He argued that Amendment 3 to the Florida Constitution which provides a constitutional right to caps on the fees of plaintiff attorneys in medical malpractice cases really was not exactly what it was sold by its proponents to the public to be.

Mr. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Grimes, speaking for a group of lawyers with ties to doctors, insurers, and health care providers, argued there was a greater public purpose behind Amendment 3 than simply giving malpractice plaintiffs the right to pocket a larger share of lawsuit damages. He said the amendment was designed (secretly?) to help discourage "frivolous" lawsuits against doctors and to bring down the cost of medicine. (Read that to mean discourage Florida attorneys from even meeting with potential medical malpractice clients.) Current Florida Chief Justice Barbara J. Pariente said that the Grimes argument contradicted previous arguments by proponents of Amendment 3 -- as well as the plain language of the amendment -- that its main purpose was to ensure that injured patients receive a larger share of damage awards. Maybe Mr. Former Supreme Court Justice Grimes thinks it is OK to fool the public in the interests of his clients.

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November 17, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Scapegoating The Nurses Caught By Arkansas Supreme Court

Category: Gaming The System

Nice try, Dr.Costa. The legal sleight of hand of your defense attorneys was pretty good. You almost skated free by convincing a jury that if nurses committed malpractice your own conduct, no matter how negligent, should not create any liability on your part for the cerebral palsy of a newborn. The Arkansas Supreme Court, according to the Hope Star News, has caught this miscarriage of justice and sent you back to a jury trial over your conduct or misconduct. You see, sometimes there is more than one bad actor contributing to a serious injury. Nurses are certainly involved in pre-delivery care, but they do not have a big red Scapegoat printed on their foreheads.

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November 12, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Trial Lawyers Mud Wrestle In Oklahoma

Category: Gaming The System

What could be more entertaining than a mud wrestling match between two greedy trial lawyers? (This is not a riddle.) How about a lawsuit in which the one who runs commercials featuring William Shatner is suing the one who is allegedly soliciting accident victims too soon after accidents? The news of this lawsuit comes from Oklahoma where they apparently take the "rules of the game" seriously. The problem, as I see it, is that finding a competent personal injury lawyer should not be a game.

Being a greedy trial lawyer does not require direct solicitation of accident victims nor celebrity spokespersons. The large majority of us earn our reputations the old fashioned way, one client at a time. We may inform the public of our experience through marketing or advertising, but we do not need to call on Captain Kirk or to steal accident reports from police agencies. Our ability to communicate with jurors is diminished each time one of us offends the public with improper and overly aggessive solicitations for clients.

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November 04, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Federal Secrecy Rules Protect Corporations

Category: Gaming The System

The reason workplace injuries and accidents are reported to the government is to provide reliable information that could lead to greater worker safety - a worthwhile goal. The reason corporations contribute large sums of money to the continuation of the present Administration in Washington may be to frustrate that goal. The Administration stamps Secret on everything reported.

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November 03, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Warren Buffett Award Goes To....Donald Rumsfeld

Category: Gaming The System

OK, the title has leaked the name of this year's recipient of the Warren Buffett Award for timely stock purchases. (Scooter and I were chatting by phone and.....) It was the headline, Donald Rumsfeld to Profit Millions from Bush Spending on Avian Bird Flu Pandemic, that caught the committee's eye. Read more of the article from About. com and learn how you, too, can turn a potential disaster into a tidy fortune.

Sounds like we need a lawsuit in the public interest. Convicted murderers are divested of their profits on books and movies, and wayward CEO's are vacuumed clean of illegal gains, why not a tort action for the administration officials who forget who they work for?

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November 02, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Take This Little Purple Pill

Category: Gaming The System

Here's the plan. Our patent on Prilosec is about to expire. We can formulate a nearly identical drug that we will call Nexium and launch it as the purple pill in a huge advertising campaign on television. We should be able to charge more for the new drug and to generate enormous profits. If the regulators or public accuse us of using misleading tactics we can take the lead in advocating industry-wide standards for drug marketing. The scheme is foolproof.

Continue reading "Take This Little Purple Pill"