But there’s no reliable way to tell whether any given supplement is safe. And the fact remains that dietary supplements—which your doctor may recommend and may sit right alongside trusted over-the-counter medications or just across from the prescription drug counter—aren’t being regulated the same way as drugs.
A study of one million people has found that physical inactivity costs the global economy $67.5 billion a year in healthcare and productivity losses, but an hour a day of exercise could eliminate most of that.
Sedentary lifestyles are linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, researchers found, but activity – such as brisk walking – could counter the higher likelihood of early death linked with sitting for eight or more hours a day.
From the Washington State Department of Health
More than 90,000 people in Washington are likely infected with hepatitis C, an infectious disease which can cause liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer, according to a new report by the Washington State Department of Health.
According to the report, there are about 550 hospitalizations a year in Washington state for hepatitis C-related illnesses, with expenses totaling over $22 million. In addiction, there are over 200 liver and bile duct cancers and 600 deaths in Washington every year linked to hepatitis C.
Most of those infected with hepatitis C were born during the “baby boomer” years of 1945 through 1965. They had high risk of exposure to infected blood through unscreened blood products, medical or dental exposures before modern infection control measures began, and injection drug use.
Recent spread of hepatitis C virus is occurring among younger people—mostly through sharing needles and other equipment used for injecting drugs. Hepatitis C can also pass from a mother to child during delivery. [Read more…]
By Teresa Wiltz
In the wake of the Flint water crisis, states are rushing to test for high levels of lead in drinking water. But many are failing to come to grips with a more insidious problem: lingering lead paint in homes and schools.
Paint, rather than drinking water, remains the main source of lead poisoning of young children in the U.S. But even though there are myriad federal and state laws designed to eradicate lead paint, enforcement is lackluster, hampered by a lack of money and the misperception that the problem has been solved.
Many state laws don’t conform to federal recommendations, and federal funding for lead abatement has been slashed from $176 million in 2003 to $110 million in 2014.
Though the federal government banned lead-based paint in 1977, it persists in an estimated 38 million homes, lingering on old window frames and trim, and in dust.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in at least 4 million U.S. households are being exposed to “high levels” of lead, and an estimated 535,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated lead levels in their blood. (The CDC does not consider any level of lead safe for children.) [Read more…]
Website ClinicalTrials.gov Doesn’t Disclose Costs To Patients
By Emily Bazar
Photos by Heidi de Marco
Kaiser Health News
Last summer, Linda Smith learned she was losing significant cartilage in her knees, a consequence of her lifelong love of skiing, running and ultimate frisbee.
Diagnosed with osteoarthritis, she wanted to avoid surgery and was eager to consider alternatives.
So the 56-year-old Morgan Hill, Calif., resident embarked on a search for clinical trials, which test potential treatments on human subjects. She scoured the government-run website, ClinicalTrials.gov, focusing on a form of stem cell therapy — a promising but unproven approach for her condition.
She thought she’d scored with StemGenex, a clinic in La Jolla, and called to inquire. The screener asked a long list of questions, then dropped a bomb: If Smith wanted in, she’d have to pay “associated” costs.
Total charge: $14,000.
I was outraged,” Smith said. Her anger only grew when the screener suggested she could raise the money, as other callers had, through family and friends in an online GoFundMe campaign, she said.
Smith, a retired hospital administrator, knew enough about clinical studies to understand that the $14,000 price tag was unusual. Most trials are free and some even pay people to participate, in recognition of the possible risks and inconvenience involved.
The ClinicialTrials.gov website, run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its National Library of Medicine, is the most comprehensive such database available to the public in the United States, with listings for more than 210,000 clinical studies both here and abroad.
But Smith’s experience exposes one of its little-known limitations: It does not require trial sponsors to disclose charges to patients — and does not even independently vet the listings. [Read more…]
By Susan Jaffe
Kaiser Health News
Only days after Judy Hanttula came home from the hospital after surgery last November, her doctor’s office called with bad news: Records showed that instead of traditional Medicare, she had a private Medicare Advantage plan, and her doctor and hospital were not in its network.
Neither the plan nor Medicare now would cover her medical costs. She owed $16,622.
“I was panicking,” said Hanttula, who lived in Carlsbad, N.M., at the time. After more than five hours making phone calls, she learned that because she’d had individual coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield when she became eligible for Medicare, the company automatically signed her up for its own Medicare Advantage plan after notifying her in a letter.
Hanttula said she ignored all mail from insurers because she had chosen traditional Medicare.
“I felt like I had insured myself properly with Medicare,” she said. “So I quit paying attention to the mail.”
With Medicare’s specific approval, a health insurance company can enroll a member of its marketplace or other commercial plan into its Medicare Advantage coverage when that individual becomes eligible for Medicare.
Many Well-Known Hospitals Fail To Score 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings
By Jordan Rau
Kaiser Health News
The federal government released its first overall hospital quality rating on Wednesday, slapping average or below average scores on many of the nation’s best-known hospitals while awarding top scores to many unheralded ones.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated 3,617 hospitals on a one- to five-star scale, angering the hospital industry, which has been pressing the Obama administration and Congress to block the ratings.
Hospitals argue the ratings will make places that treat the toughest cases look bad, but Medicare has held firm, saying that consumers need a simple way to objectively gauge quality.
Just 102 hospitals received the top rating of five stars, and few are those considered as the nation’s best by private ratings sources such as U.S. News & World Report or viewed as the most elite within the medical profession.
Medicare awarded five stars to relatively obscure hospitals and a notable number of hospitals that specialized in just a few types of surgery, such as knee replacements.
There were more five-star hospitals in Lincoln, Neb., and La Jolla, Calif., than in New York City or Boston. Memorial Hermann Hospital System in Houston and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., were two of the only nationally known hospitals getting five stars.
Medicare awarded the lowest rating of one star to 129 hospitals. Five hospitals in Washington, D.C., received just one star, including George Washington University Hospital and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, both of which teach medical residents. Nine hospitals in Brooklyn, four hospitals in Las Vegas and three hospitals in Miami received only one star.
Some premiere medical centers received the second highest rating of four stars, including Stanford Health Care in California, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., New York-Presbyterian Hospital and NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia. In total, 927 hospitals received four stars. [Read more…]
People who watch television for five or more hours a day have more than twice the risk of those who watch half as much TV to die of a blood clot in the lung, a large Japanese study suggests.
By Christine Vestal
PORTLAND, Maine — When Clifton Hilton decided to quit drinking this month, he called a residential drug and alcohol detoxification center in this coastal Maine city on a Friday afternoon and was told a bed was available for him. But by the time he arrived on a bus from Bangor the next morning, the bed had been taken.
“I just walked the streets for five days,” Hilton said. It wasn’t until Wednesday that the Portland detox facility, the Milestone Foundation, had an open bed for him.
Hilton, 70, is more fortunate than most of Maine’s growing number of low-income seniors with a drug or alcohol abuse problem. He was able to find help for his alcohol addiction and said he expects to secure a spot at Milestone’s sober housing facility in Old Orchard Beach once he gets “straightened out.”
As the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic expands, older adults in Maine and other states face mounting barriers to getting help for abuse of alcohol and opioid painkillers — not the least of which is finding they are squeezed out of scarce treatment facilities by younger people with prescription drug or heroin habits. [Read more…]
By Shefali Luthra
Kaiser Health News
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on doctors to more aggressively screen pregnant women for the Zika virus and to take advantage of new testing technology to improve the diagnosis, follow-up and monitoring of those who have been infected.
The guidance, published Monday, comes amid growing concerns about Zika, which is spread by mosquito bite and sexually transmitted. If contracted by pregnant women, it can result in severe birth defects — including microcephaly, which stunts children’s brain development.
It has also been implicated in miscarriages and diseases like Guillain-Barre, a neurological disorder that causes temporary paralysis.
By urging testing for more pregnant women, the recommendations “will improve our ability to give definitive diagnoses of the Zika infection to those women who are at the highest risk,” said Margaret Honein, who chairs the CDC’s birth defects branch. She was also a co-author on the guidance. [Read more…]