Illegal Online Pharmacies Shut Down

Faced with mounting medical bills, American consumers have flocked to the internet in search of “Canadian Pharmacies” selling bargain-priced prescription drugs. What they may not know is that the drugs may actually come from overseas and many of the websites are illegal, selling dangerous unapproved medications.

The FDA released a statement yesterday stating that it has shut down 1,677 websites and seized $41 million of illegal drugs in a massive international sting operation.  Dubbed “Operation Pangea VI,” the global task force encompassed agencies from 99 different countries, the largest internet-based action of its kind. The effort targeted nearly 10,000 websites and sought to “identify the makers and distributors of illegal drug products and medical devices and remove these products from the supply chain.”

Many of the websites displayed fake credentials, including counterfeit licenses and certifications. Consumers were duped into purchasing drugs that were neither brand name nor FDA approved. “Illegal online pharmacies put American consumers’ health at risk by selling potentially dangerous products, said John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

CNN reports, “Several sites had sleek interfaces and names that could easily be confused with legitimate pharmacy retailers. For example, the FDA shuttered Walgreens-Store.com; the well-known drugstore chain’s website is actually Walgreens.com.”

Learn to Protect Yourself

The FDA warns consumers to be leery of online pharmacies that do not require a prescription, send spam or other unsolicited emails, or offer prices that seem too good to be true. In order to alert the public, the FDA’s “Office of Criminal Investigations Cybercrime Investigations Unit” banner has been placed on seized websites.

For more information, visit www.fda.gov/BeSafeRx‎ — part of a national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of buying prescription medicines from fake online pharmacies.

 

Source: “FDA shuts down 1,677 online pharmacies” By Caleb Hellerman, CNN, June 27, 2013.

BP Fighting Payments to Spill Victims

In what appears to be an effort to intimidate oil-spill victims, BP is sending out hundreds of letters, warning settlement recipients they may have to return part of the money. BP is currently appealing the settlement process, alleging administration errors that resulted in overpayments and “fictitious awards.”

According the Houston Chronicle, “One of the letters says if the appeals court reverses a claimant’s award, BP reserves its right to recover money the client received as well as the cut that went to the claimant’s lawyers.” A hearing for the case is scheduled for July 8 in the Fifth Circuit court of appeals in New Orleans.

The oil company agreed to a settlement last year for its part in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 people and released 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Recipients include local businesses and individuals that sustained economic losses, ranging from property damage to medical bills.

The letters are just part of the BP’s full-out media blitz. The London-based company also took out full page ads in main U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal accusing “trial lawyers and some politicians” of encouraging businesses to submit thousands of claims for inflated or non-existent losses. Lawyers for the plaintiffs contend that “it’s “BP’s problem” if the corporation underestimated the total amount of the settlement. Payments were clearly spelled out in the agreement and that BP “shouldn’t be allowed to push the rewind button now.”

Stand up to bullies

It is important to know that businesses will use every measure available to them in order to protect their bottom line. BP’s carefully worded letter announces that it “reserves any rights it may have to recover funds…”  However, it does not say that BP actually has any rights to recover settlements it already paid.

Intimidation tactics are just one of the ways a corporation may try to discourage injured parties from pursuing legal action. If you have been injured and a corporation or insurance company is denying your claims, call 800-ELK-OHIO or contact us online for a free consultation.

 

Source: “BP warns some oil spill claimants” By Harry R. Weber, Houston Chronicle, June 27, 2013.

Heart attacks and strokes linked to PTSD

New research reveals that patients who suffer from a traumatic medical event may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Typically associated with events such as battlefield combat or sexual assaults, PTSD can have debilitating effects.

Studies conducted by Dr. Donald Edmondson and his colleagues found that nearly 25 percent of stroke patients and 12 percent of  heart attack patients develop PTSD within one year of the event. Even more alarming, heart attack patients who did develop the disorder were two times as likely to have another heart attack or die within three years.

The sample group was small, and Edmondson acknowledges more research is needed. However, CNN reports in a separate study, “Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found 20% of people who underwent low-back fusion surgery suffered from the disorder.” Most doctors are unaware that these traumatic medical events can cause PTSD, so patients are seldom warned or given information about the disorder.

Edmondson attributes part of the problem is the focus patients are required to give to their ailments. “For someone who has a heart attack or stroke, we actually prescribe that they pay attention to the very reminders of their heart attack or stroke – increased heart rate, blood pressure,” he said. “They’re constantly having to think about it.” Patients suffering from PTSD may actually neglect their own care because they don’t want to think about the traumatic event. Edmondson found some heart attack survivors even stopped taking their medication.

If you think you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD following a traumatic medical event, seek professional help. The anxiety, loss of sleep, irritability, and depression the disorder can cause may affect recovery and long-term health.

For more information about PTSD, contact your health care provider or download the CDC’s fact sheet, “Coping with a Traumatic Event.”

 

Source:Patients suffer from PTSD after heart attack, stroke” By Jacque Wilson, CNN, June 21, 2013

Hepatitis C testing for all Baby Boomers

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has announced that people born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested to see if they are infected with Hepatitis C. While symptoms may take years to develop, Hepatitis C may cause severe damage to the liver; including scarring, liver failure, and liver cancer.

According to The New York Times, the group had previously stated that Hepatitis C tests would only provide baby boomers “a small benefit,” in contrast with recommendations by the Center of Disease Control (CDC). The Task Force said that new studies, public comments and improved treatments influenced its decision to change its position.

What is Hepatitis C?

The word “Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common type of viral hepatitis is Hepatitis C. Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C can take up to 30 years to develop. When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms of Hepatitis C can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain and/or jaundice.

More than 3 million U.S. citizens are infected with Hepatitis C, and of those, about 75% are baby boomers. The CDC reports, “The reason that baby boomers have high rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood.” Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants but many of those infected are unaware of their condition because they have no symptoms. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Those who received blood transfusions before 1992 or used intravenous drugs are at the highest risk.

For more information about Hepatitis C testing, talk to your doctor and check out the CDC’s printable fact sheet available on their website.

 

Source:Hepatitis C Test for Baby Boomers Urged by Health Panel” by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, June 24, 2013.

Workers’ Comp may not pay for PTSD

The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that an injured truck driver suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may only receive workers’ compensation benefits for his physical injuries since the cause of his psychiatric condition was the horrific nature of the accident, not the injuries themselves.

The case stemmed from a 2009 motor vehicle accident. While driving a dump truck for the John Jurgenson Company, Shaun Armstrong saw another vehicle rapidly approaching from behind. Fearing the worst, he braced for impact. After the accident, he peered into his mirror only to see fluid spilling out of the vehicles. Afraid they may catch fire; he got out of his truck and called 9-1-1. Then he saw the other driver — bloodied and motionless — Armstrong feared he was dead. At the ER, Armstrong was treated for multiple injuries. He also found out, much to his dismay, the other driver had perished in the accident.

Armstrong applied for, and was granted, workers’ comp benefits for his physical injuries. Then, when he was diagnosed with PTSD, he filed an additional claim. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation approved his claim, which was then challenged by his employer. While no one disputes Armstrong has PTSD, the parties offered differing expert testimony as to the cause of it. Unfortunately for Armstrong, the jury decided that his injuries did not cause his PTSD.

The court came to its decision after parsing a simple phrase, “arisen from injury.” According to Ohio law, the BWC will only pay a claim for a psychiatric condition when it has “arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant.” Writing for the majority, Justice French opined that the injured worker “must establish that his PTSD was causally related to his compensable physical injuries and not simply to his involvement in the accident.” Simply put, the court decided that the injuries themselves must be the cause of the PTSD for it to be covered under workers’ compensation, not just because they both stemmed from the same incident.

Workers’ compensation and other injury claims can be complicated. Our accident attorneys have nearly 50 years of experience helping clients with serious injury cases, filing thousands of claims for compensation. We have the experience, the knowledge and the resources to provide advice and guidance throughout the legal process. We serve clients statewide from offices throughout OhioCall 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) to schedule your free consultation. You may also contact us online.

 

Sources:

Workers’ comp need not cover mental-health claim, justices ruleThe Columbus Dispatch, June 5, 2013.

Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co., Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-2237

Children Drugged at Ohio Daycare

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Westerville Police say Tammy Eppley, who ran a daycare facility out of her house, regularly put drugs into the children’s food to make them fall asleep. Eppley reportedly laced cupcakes, pancakes and possibly drinks with melatonin and Benadryl to make the children drowsy. She then used her cell phone to take videos of “catatonic children on her couch.” Eppley is facing 6 counts of child endangerment. Luckily, none of the children required medical attention.

Dangerous Drugs

Aside from being morally repugnant, Eppley’s actions were potentially dangerous.  Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a powerful antihistamine. According to the package insert, side effects may include drowsiness or excitability. If children are given too much of the drug, it “may cause hallucinations, convulsions, or death. Many people consider melatonin safe because it is a hormone that is produced by the brain. Linked to the body’s sleep cycle, it is available as a dietary supplement in tablet form. The Mayo Clinic reports that the side effects of taking melatonin supplements include sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, abdominal pain, anxiety, irritability, confusion, and depression. It may also affect the sexual development of children.

Eppley was not required to have a child-care license

Contrary to popular belief, not all daycares in Ohio are required to be licensed. Since Eppley was only caring for six children, including one of her own, her home fell into the “Type B” category of day care facilities. The Department of Job and Family Services lists the following requirements on its website:

Centers

  • 7 or more children of any age.
  • Centers must be licensed.

Type A Homes

  • 7-12 children (or 4-12 children if four children are under two years of age) cared for in the provider’s personal residence.
  • The provider’s own children under six years of age must be included in the total count.
  • Type A homes must be licensed.

Type B homes  

  • 1-6 children cared for in the provider’s personal residence.
  • No more than three children may be under two years of age.
  • The provider’s own children under six years of age must be included in the total count.
  • Anyone can operate a Type B Home without a license. However, care for more than 6 children requires a license. (Type B homes must be certified by the county department of Job and Family Services if the child care is paid for with public funds.)

When you entrust the care of your child to a daycare provider, you do so with the belief that your child will receive the best care possible and be properly monitored throughout the day. If your child has been injured due the negligence of a daycare center or home daycare provider, Elk & Elk can help you obtain compensation and get your child the medical assistance he or she needs in order to recover.
Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

 

Sources:

Day-care operator charged with drugging kids” By Theodore Decker, The Columbus Dispatch, June 18, 2013.

Child Care In Ohio –Types of Regulated Care in Ohio,” Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

FDA investigating Zyprexa deaths

The Food and Drug Administration released a safety announcement on Tuesday about two deaths linked to Zyprexa. The agency reports that two patients died 3-4 days after being injected with Zyprexa Relprevv (olanzapine pamoate), an atypical antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia. At this time, the deaths are considered “unexplained.” An investigation is pending but both patients had “very high” levels of the drug in their systems despite being given the proper dosage. This may be attributed to a complication known as post-injection delirium sedation syndrome (PSDD).

The Zyprexa Relprevv label contains warnings about the risk of PSDD, a serious condition in which the drug enters the bloodstream too quickly. Health care workers are only required to monitor patients for three hours following the injection. According to the FDA, Zyprexa-related PSDD may cause “marked sedation (possibly coma) and/or delirium.” High doses of the drug can also cause irregular heartbeats and cardiac arrest.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “An Eli Lilly spokesman said the FDA alert involved Zyprexa Relprevv, the long-acting injection, rather than the oral form of Zyprexa.” The oral form of Zyprexa and its generic equivalent, olanzapine, are also approved to treat bipolar disorder and depression.

The FDA says that PSDD was seen in clinical trials, but only within three hours of injection and that no deaths were recorded. The investigation is ongoing and the FDA will issue an update when more information is available.

 

Sources: 

FDA Probes Deaths of Two People Taking Lilly Antipsychotic Drug” by Jennifer Corbett Dooren, The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2013.

Alternative Medicine Under Fire

We often blog about the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter drugs; citing regulatory concerns as well as skepticism of manufacturer-supplied testing data. Therefore it comes as no great surprise that many people have turned to alternative medicine. Unfortunately, what many people perceive as natural alternatives to big pharma may also put consumers at risk.

Most natural and herbal remedies are considered “supplements”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is a staunch advocate for stricter regulation of supplements. He warns, “Consumers should know that when they buy a dietary supplement, they are really on their own.” The FDA can only act after an incident occurs, which in some cases, is too late.

According to USA Today, Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, says he’s lost patients with serious cardiovascular disease because they opted to take alternative medicines instead of those he prescribed. The practice, Nissen says, is “a national catastrophe in the making.”

While not all supplements are dangerous, we caution consumers to be leery of outlandish claims. Talk to your doctor about any supplements you may be taking, since they may interact with other medicines.

Finding a middle ground

“Complementary” therapies are those used alongside conventional medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has issued the following guidelines:

 Complementary therapies shown to be safe and effective:

    • Acupuncture relieved pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea
    • Mindfulness meditation reduced stress and pain
    • Tai chi improved balance in patients with Parkinson’s disease
    • Clinical hypnosis reduced post-menopausal hot flashes

 Complementary approaches proven not to be effective:

    • St. John’s wort supplements did not relieve depression.
    • Gingko biloba did not slow mental decline, improve memory or reduce blood pressure.
    • Echinacea did not prevent or treat colds.

 Complementary approaches proven not to be safe:

    • Ephedra was found to be associated with heart attacks and death.
    • Certain supplements that claim to help patients lose weight, build muscle and improve their sexual performance have been found to be contaminated and unsafe.

 

Sources:

Alternative therapies, supplements can cause side effects” by Liz Szabo, USA TODAY, June 18, 2013.

Book raises alarms about alternative medicine” by Liz Szabo, USA TODAY, June 18, 2013.

Possible Energy Drink Ban

cansThe American Medical Association may recommend a ban of sales and advertising of “high-energy/stimulant drinks” to children and adolescents under the age of 18. As we have warned readers before, energy drinks can be especially dangerous to children.

During a debate this weekend in Chicago, The AMA’s House of Delegates, its principle policy-making body, heard committee testimony urging the AMA to support the ban. In his report, committee chair Dr. Douglas W. Martin noted concerns about the “potential effects of marketing such products to an impressionable, young audience.”

The proposed resolution states, “Studies have shown that high ‘stimulant’ drinks contain excessive amounts of caffeine with one can having the equivalent of up to 50 cups of coffee.  Excessive caffeine can cause adverse effects such as dizziness, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, GI disturbances, myocardial infarction and death.”

While the AMA cannot enforce such a ban, it wields considerable influence. A formidable lobbying group, the AMA spent $16.5 million in political contributions in 2012. However, manufacturers of these beverages are unlikely to back down. The popular energy drink, Monster, has said its labeling already warns consumers the drinks are “not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine.”

Energy drinks are wildly popular among kids; with some studies estimating 50% of teens regularly consume the beverages. At Elk & Elk, we encourage parents to talk to their children about making healthy choices and the serious health risks associated with energy drinks.

 

Source:  “AMA May Endorse Ban of High-Energy Drinks” by Bruce Japsen, Forbes, June 14, 2013.

Beware of Travelling Contractors

In the wake of recent storms, Attorney General Mike DeWine has issued a warning regarding traveling contractors. He cautions Ohioans that some contractors may try to take advantage of desperate storm victims as they struggle to rebuild their homes.

“After severe weather hits, it’s important to be vigilant about home improvement scams,” DeWine said. “Some contractors track storms so that they can travel to affected communities to offer their services to homeowners who experience damage. Unfortunately many of these ‘storm-chasers’ do not follow Ohio laws and do nothing to help consumers.”

DeWine offers the following tips for homeowners who are looking for contractors and/or other repair or removal services:

  • Research the contractor before signing any contract. Obtain the name, address, and phone number of any contractor agreeing to do work for you. Ask for identification from the company’s representative. Check out consumer complaints with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Be cautious. Do not accept services from any contractor who refuses to provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references, or insists on a large payment before work begins.
  • Get written estimates. Do some shopping and get estimates from more than one contractor. Refuse to do business with a company that does not provide a written estimate.
  • Get a sworn statement. Insist that the contractor provide you with a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for and all subcontractors have been paid. This will protect you from liens which may be placed on your property if the contractor fails to pay all suppliers and subcontractors.
  • Never sign over your insurance check to a contractor. If you are financing the transaction, arrange for a certificate of completion with your bank. The bank will pay the contractor for each completed stage of the job only after you give your permission.
  • Be wary of a demand for a large down payment (more than one third of the total cost) and/or the use of high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Be cautious of people who knock on your door and want to do the work immediately. Businesses who solicit you at your home are required to give a three-day right to cancel and should not begin the work before the three days. Consumers may waive this right.

If your vehicle was damaged in the storm, contact your insurance company to determine what your plan covers. If you take your vehicle to a repair shop, you have the right to a verbal or written estimate if the anticipated cost of the repair or service is more than $25. In general, if the cost will be more than 10 percent of the original estimate, the shop must get your approval for the additional costs.

Ohioans who have questions about a contractor or those who believe they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 1-800-282-0515.

 

Source: “Beware Of Traveling Contractor Scams Following Storms, Attorney General DeWine WarnsFayette Advocate, June 17, 2013.