Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America, with a special emphasis on the pharmaceutical industry. Her investigative reports and articles have been featured in hundreds of publications in the United States and abroad.
Washington, DC: Concern about the incentives to overuse injectable cancer drugs, created by the Medicare reimbursement system that paid a markup of 20% to 100%, caused rates to be changed to more closely align with what doctors actually paid for the drugs, and reimbursement is now supposed to amount to only 6% more than the average price paid by all doctors.
Wastington, DC: The cancer industry derives most of its profits from chemotherapy. Both the drug companies and the treatment providers profit from the chemotherapy drugs and the medications used to combat the side effects. The obscene profits made off chemotherapy override any incentive to find a cure or better treatments.
Washington, DC: According to US Renal Data System and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, Medicare spends about $64,000 annually for each person on hemodialysis for all medical services, and the anemia drugs Procrit, Epogen and Aranesp are the single largest drug expense for Medicare.
Washington, DC: On July 20, 2007, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued new reimbursement rules that limit the use and dosage for a class of anemia drugs known as erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESA's), in large part prompted by findings that the medications were being over-prescribed for profit under the current billing rules.
Washington, DC: Legal experts say the recent court ruling in Bush's home state of Texas that failure-to-warn claims against Merck by Vioxx victims in state courts are preempted is particularly egregious due to the FDA's failure to protect the public against Merck's deceptive mass-marketing of Vioxx as a safe drug for basically 5 years.
Washington, DC: The FDA is still helping Merck escape liability for the Vioxx disaster. Texas Judge Randy Wilson, who is overseeing the Texas state court proceedings, recently granted Merck's motion to dismiss possibly thousands of lawsuits, essentially because the FDA refuses to acknowledge that Merck concealed information about the safety risks of Vioxx.
Washington, DC: Due to their rampant off-label use, at a May 10, 2007, meeting, an FDA advisory panel voted 15-2 in favor of adding new restrictions on the use of the anemia drugs darbepoetin and epoetin, known as Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents, the man-made versions of a hormone produced in the kidneys that prevents anemia.
Washington, DC: On May 9, 2007, the New York Times reported that drug makers Johnson & Johnson and Amgen are paying "hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year in return for giving their patients anemia medicines."
Washington, DC: To increase profits, drugs used to treat anemia in patients covered by Medicare are being given at higher doses and for conditions not approved by the FDA, due to reimbursement policies adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the leadership of top officials appointed by the Big Pharma-friendly Bush Administration.
Washington, DC: Medicare has provided coverage for all patients with End Stage Renal Disease since 1972, and according to the House Ways and Means Committee, the government pays for 93% of services provided to dialysis patients, at a cost of about $2 billion a year.
Not much has changed at Merck since Vioxx was pulled off the market. The only difference for shareholders is that instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to promote Vioxx, the attorney's fees are now costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Former Vioxx users could be at risk of developing strokes for years, a prominent scientist said this week after evaluating new data from a 107-page report on patients who were followed for a year after they stopped the drug
Although Merck has long maintained that the risks associated with Vioxx occur after long-term use, a recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says the drug may raise the risk of heart attack for patients taking Vioxx for less than 2 weeks.