Daily Rounds: Pharmacy Probe Deepens; Tribal Politics; The New Heartburn; The Fat Tax Debate

Co-Owner Of Pharmacy At Center Of Meningitis Outbreak Is Faulted (The Boston Globe) — “Pharmacist Barry Cadden, co-owner of the Framingham pharmacy blamed for the deadly national meningitis outbreak, has a long history of not cooperating with federal regulators, including one 2004 inspection when he initially denied having an eye medication that was the subject of a complaint, according to a memo released Monday by a congressional committee. An inspector later spotted a drawer labeled with the drug’s name, Trypan blue, and asked Cadden to open it. Inside were 189 vials. The memo, based on documents and briefings from the US Food and Drug Administration, was prepared by the Republican staff of a House committee holding a hearing Wednesday on the causes of the outbreak and whether it could have been prevented. They raise questions about why the Massachusetts pharmacy board did not take stronger action against New England Compounding Center, despite having investigated 12 complaints about the company’s practices over a decade…”

Emotions Come To Fore In Political Losses And Wins (The New York Times) — “Once you’ve selected your party, you are likely to retrofit your beliefs and philosophy to align with it. In this sense, political parties are like tribes; membership in the tribe shapes your values and powerfully influences your allegiance to the group. So strong is the social and emotional bond among members of a political tribe that they are likely to remain loyal to their party even when they give it low marks for performance. Yankees fans don’t jump ship when their team loses any more than Republicans switch parties when they lose an election. Research has shown that when a team wins an athletic contest, fans the next day speak about how “we won,” and feel generally more optimistic, stronger and self-confident. Conversely, the losing side feels depressed, defeated and angry. Interestingly, some studies found that testosterone levels rose in a group of male fans whose team went on to win and fell in fans whose team was defeated. Testosterone is well known to elevate both mood and aggression. Thus, winning or losing doesn’t just change your mood; it changes your physiology and brain function.”

Why Your Heartburn Drugs Don’t Work (The Wall Street Journal) “Gastrointestinal experts now estimate that 50% to 70% of GERD patients actually have NERD, and studies show they are more likely to be female—and younger and thinner—than typical acid-reflux sufferers. They are also about 20% to 30% less likely to get relief from acid-blocking drugs. But their episodes of heartburn are just as frequent, just as severe and just as disruptive of their quality of life, studies show. Doctors suspect some may be suffering from a reflux of bile, a digestive liquid produced in the liver, rather than stomach acid, or from hypersensitivity to sensations in the esophagus. Another guess is psychological stress. A 2004 study of 60 patients conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that those with severe, sustained stress in the previous six months were more likely to have heartburn symptoms during the next four months. “It’s probably a bunch of different conditions put together in one basket,” says Loren Laine, a professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and president of the American Gastroenterological Association. “The ones we worry about are the ones who don’t respond to standard therapy,” he says. “Then we have to figure out why they don’t respond.”

Danes May Bring Back Butter As Government Rolls Back Fat Tax (NPR) — “Toothbutter: noun. Butter spread so thickly as to reveal teeth marks upon biting. The fact that this word exists in the Danish language should help to explain what politicians were up against when they introduced the so-called “fat tax” just over a year ago. This is a country that loves it some butter (and meat, and all things dreadful to the arteries). The goal of reducing waistlines and increasing life expectancy may have been laudable, but the previous administration’s decision to charge consumers 16 kroner (about $2.75) per kilogram of saturated fat in order to achieve that goal was much maligned from the get-go. Social advocates said it would unfairly affect the poor and worsen their health by sending them toward more caloric, lower quality food. Business leaders said it would cost Danish jobs as consumers scampered across the border to Germany to stock up on groceries. Danish butchers sued, saying the tax violated European Union trade rules. Some consumers accused supermarkets of using the tax as a screen to inch prices even higher. Other skeptical residents saw it as just one more way for the government to line its coffers. This cacophony of dissent meant no one was particularly surprised this weekend when the government announced that the fat tax would be abolished as part of the 2013 budget agreement. In the same breath, the administration also put the brakes on a “sugar tax,” which had yet to take affect. As you can imagine, the world is watching.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.