Category: Science and Other News

Billions of Dollars Later, Veterans Health Administration Still Failing

man-in-wheelchairBack in July 2014, I described how Congress was preparing to reward the Veterans Health Administration for its failure to ensure veterans get timely, adequate care, with a multi-billion dollar bailout.

Because Republicans had taken the majority in both Houses of Congress, the bailout was camouflaged as a method of allowing veterans more choice of healthcare providers, outside the government bureaucracy. The results are pretty bad, according to a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

Happy World Intellectual Property Day!

World IP DayTuesday, April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day. Coordinated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World IP Day celebrates “the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity.” This year, World IP Day focuses on “the future of culture in the digital age: how we create it, how we access it, how we finance it. We will look into how a flexible intellectual property system helps ensure that the artists and creative industries are properly paid for their work, so they can keep creating.”

In health policy, we are mostly concerned with patents, which protect investment in innovation in medical technology, especially drugs and biologics. In honor of World IP Day, here are some of the publications NCPA has produced to make the case for good patent policy:

No Blogging on Good Friday

We’ll be back blogging on Monday. Have a blessed Easter.

FDA Approves Iron Man Exoskeleton

If you’ve ever seen Robert Downey Jr.’s character Iron Man in The Avengers, you can imagine the attraction of a robotic exoskeleton.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved such a device made by the company Parker Hannifin. Parker Hannifin has years of experience with motion control technologies in industrial robotics.

The robotic, motorized leg brace is for people unable to walk. The product, Indego, is a 26-pound wearable skeleton. It walks by moving and bending the legs of people with lower body paralysis.  Multiple sclerosis, spinal-cord injuries, and possible seniors who would otherwise be confined to a wheelchair may someday be among those who benefit.  A rival product, ReWalk, by Argo Medical Technologies was approved for sale in the U.S. in 2014.

Before you run out to buy one be forewarned: the devices are not cheap. They cost about what a 4-year old Maserati GranTurismo costs; $70,000 to $80,000.

Maybe there will be an upgraded model by the time I get old and my mobility becomes impaired. I’m hoping Indego or ReWalk teams incorporates Rocket Skates or maybe a battery-powered jet pack booster or a personal-sized jet engine into my exoskeleton.

Health Wonk Review is up: Tales of the Trump

This week’s Health Wonk Review is up at the Health Business Blog.

A big thanks to David Williams, President of the Health Business Group, who’s Health Business Blog is hosting Health Wonk Review this week.

Had enough of Donald Trump by now? Well, you’d better do something about it unless you want to have to listen to him for another four years or more. I start this Health Wonk Review off with a couple Trumpy topics before moving on to the usual wonkery.

Continue reading here.

Happy Holidays

We’ll be taking the week off; and hope you will have a Merry Christmas, too!

We’ll be back blogging the week of December 28.

Hillary Clinton Profits from Big Pharma, Big Insurance

Chris Jacobs of the Conservative Review has an interesting review of Hillary Clinton’s business income from health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers:

At the end of this campaign’s first debate for Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton claimed that she counted the pharmaceutical and insurance industries as her enemies. Since that time, various reports have focused on the way in which her campaigns, as well as the Clinton Foundation, have profited from contributions by drug and insurance companies. However, few have reported how Bill and Hillary Clinton personally profited from insurance and drug company largesse.

To call it mere profit would be an understatement. As the below spreadsheet shows, financial disclosure records filed by the Clintons demonstrate that since Bill Clinton left office in January 2001, he and his wife have received more than $9.3 million in honoraria for speeches before groups associated with health care, and a whopping $3.4 million for speeches paid for by groups in the drug, device, and insurance industries (bolded in the spreadsheet).

(Readers can download the spreadsheet at Mr. Jacob’s article.)

My own conclusion is that the health insurers will get what they paid for, if Mrs. Clinton is elected President, whereas the drug-makers will be reminded of the old adage that “you cannot buy politicians; but only rent them.”

A Brief Note on the Canadian Election


This is a screenshot of an ad run by the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Canadian federal election held last Monday, October 19. Although the single-payer Canadian system is run by the provincial governments, the question of funding it dominates federal elections.

Health Care One Quarter of August Job Growth

This morning’s Employment Situation Summary, which showed slow job growth overall, contained a big jump for health services: 23 percent of last month’s jobs were in health services (see Table I).


Of the 41,000 health jobs, a little more than half were in ambulatory settings. Because of a long-term shift in the location of care, there are now almost seven million people working in ambulatory settings, versus just under five million working in hospitals. This is a positive development.

The FDA Wants to Regulate Feces Like a Drug

Slang words describing human feces are often used to denote products of poor quality or that have absolutely no value whatsoever. A product that is substandard is sometimes derisively referred to as “crap” — or worse. Now, a company in Massachusetts is collecting fecal material into a “stool bank,” and selling the screened preparations to hospitals for $385 apiece. The material is later injected into sick patients’ digestive tracts infected with Clostridium difficile.  These are difficult-to-treat bacterial infections that kill an estimated 14,000 people annually. The donated feces are obtained from healthy donors, who are paid $40 per donation. The average donation is screened and divided into four preparations, enough to treat four patients. In a clinical trial, the results from using donated fecal material were superior to using antibiotics.