Economists Enter Legal Fray In Defense Of Health Reform

David Cutler of Harvard and Jonathan Gruber of MIT are just two of the 35 renowned economists who have signed an amicus brief in support of the national health reform law, which currently faces a constitutional challenge as part of a multi-state lawsuit underway in Florida. At issue is the health law’s requirement that most individuals get health insurance.

The group of economists, including three Nobel laureates, “say they have an interest in ‘assisting the Court in its understanding of the underlying economics that are at the heart of the minimum coverage provisions” of the law,’ writes NPR’s Julie Rovner in a blog post on the federal lawsuit today.

How do they want to help? Well, the economists want to make sure Judge Vinson understands that, despite the claims of the law’s opponents that requiring individuals to carry health insurance could lead to unprecedented federal intrusion in people’s lives, “the unique economics of health care distinguish it from virtually every other business and demonstrate that upholding the constitutionality of that provision will not serve as a basis for unlimited expansion of the federal government’s powers.”

Glaxo Pays $750M Fine For Selling Contaminated Pills, Products

U.K drug giant GlaxoSmithKline sold pills, products with questionable safety

At a news conference in Boston today, the Justice Department announced that drug giant GlaxoSmithKline will plead guilty and pay a $750 million fine for selling faulty pills and products, including baby ointment and an antidepressant. The agreement stems from a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former Glaxo manager, The New York Times reports.

Here’s the press release from the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts: “The criminal information filed today alleges that SB Pharmco’s manufacturing operations (a Glaxo plant in Puerto RIco) failed to ensure that Kytril and Bactroban finished products were free of contamination from microorganisms. It is further alleged that SB Pharmco’s manufacturing process caused Paxil CR two-layer tablets to split. The splitting, which the company itself called a “critical defect,” caused the potential distribution of tablets that did not have any therapeutic effect and tablets that did not contain any controlled release mechanism.”

And here’s The New York Times’ take:

Altogether, GlaxoSmithKline sold 20 drugs with questionable safety that were made at a huge plant in Puerto Rico that for years was rife with contamination. Cheryl Eckard, the company’s quality manager, asserts in her whistle-blower suit that she warned Glaxo of the problems but the company fired her instead of addressing the issues. Among the drugs affected were Avandia, Bactroban, Coreg, Paxil and Tagamet. No patients are known to have been sickened by the quality problems although such cases would be difficult to trace.

Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States attorney for Massachusetts, announced the settlement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Boston. The outcome provides one of the highest whistleblower award yet in a health care fraud case.

Daily Rounds: Health Care Lawsuit On Again; Chelation Crackdown; Bilingualism For Alzheimer’s; Digital Health Records Unveil Abuse; PCB’s In Kingergarten

Challenge to Health Care Law to Advance – “In a foreboding ruling for the Obama administration, a federal judge in Florida decreed Thursday that a legal challenge to the new health care law by officials from 20 states could move forward and warned that he would have to be persuaded that its keystone provision — a requirement that most Americans obtain insurance — is constitutional. ‘At this stage in the litigation, this is not even a close call,’ wrote Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., before asserting that the insurance mandate was an unprecedented exercise of Congressional authority.” (The New York Times)

FDA Warns Heavy Metal Therapy Not Proven to Cure Autism, Hardened Arteries : Shots – Health News Blog : NPR ( “The agency issued eight warning letters today to companies marketing chelation products without a prescription, and is telling patients not to use them. ‘FDA is concerned that patients will delay seeking proven, sometimes essential medical care, when relying on unproven OTC chelation products to treat serious conditions such as heart and blood vessel disease,’ the FDA said in a statement.”

Can bilingualism improve your brain's multitasking power? – “As UCLA linguist Jared Diamond writes in an editorial in the journal Science, knowing more than one language could improve your multitasking skills from infancy and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in old age.” (Los Angeles Times)

Digital Records Aid Discovery of Drugs' Side Effects – “The study, at Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's hospitals in Boston and sponsored by Pfizer Inc., showed a large increase in reporting of adverse events to the Food and Drug Administration once doctors used an automated tool. “(Wall Street Journal)

PCBs continue to force Estabrook kindergarteners out of classrooms – Lexington – Your Town – “Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash informed parents in a letter Thursday that the latest round of testing in the kindergarten wing of the 49-year-old school did not show a reduction in PCBs, and the district is now unsure if it can lower levels of the chemical to federal guidelines for kindergarten-age children.” (Boston Globe)

Daily Rounds: Hands-Only CPR; Health Care Lawsuits; Nurses’ Vs. Doctors’ Jobs; Mass. Medical Examiner Challenged; How Not To Fight Colds

The Associated Press: Hands-only CPR saves more lives in cardiac arrests “It’s the first large American study to show more adults survived cardiac arrest when a bystander gave them continuous chest presses to simulate a heartbeat, compared to traditional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing.” (

Lawsuits over health care law heat up – “The burst of litigation has the framers of the law and the Obama administration playing defense. Many scholars, such as Charles Fried of Harvard Law School, argue that the law is on firm legal footing. But there is no quick resolution in sight, and it may take a year or two, and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, for all the lawsuits to get sorted out.” (USA Today)

Report Says Nurses Have Bigger Jobs To Do, But Doctors Say Not So Fast : Shots – Health News Blog : NPR “Nurses will need to be better educated, says a report just issued by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. In 10 years, 80 percent of nurses should have bachelor’s degrees. Twice as many nurses should get PhDs and all nurses should do residencies, the sort of practical training that new doctors do.”(

Medical examiner’s credentials are challenged by predecessor – The Boston Globe “The state medical examiner’s office, which has been rocked by repeated controversies, now faces another embarrassing mess: One of the agency’s former top officials is accusing the current chief medical examiner of having falsified credentials.” (Boston Globe)

And last but not least: This came out yesterday and is making the rounds like, well, a cold — a nice debunking of supposed immune-boosters:
Op-Ed Contributor – How Not to Fight Colds – (The New York Times)