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U.S. Joins Whistleblower lawsuit Against UnitedHealthcare

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The U.S. government has joined a former UnitedHealth executive in a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the company “engaged in systematic fraud” that allowed it, subsidiary companies, and other insurers to fraudulently overcharge Medicare by “hundreds of millions — and likely billions — of dollars.” Benjamin Poehling, the former finance director for UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement, a subsidiary that works with the Medicare Advantage program, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles in 2011 under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. The lawsuit remained under seal for years while federal officials investigated Mr. Poehling’s claims. It became public ... Read More

Study: Vaping Linked to increased Risk of Heart Disease

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A research team at UCLA recently found that vaping may increase the risk of heart disease. In the study, which was published in the Feb. 1 issue of online journal JAMA Cardiology, researchers discovered that two risk factors for heart disease were present in 16 e-cigarette users, compared to the absence of the risk factors in 18 nonsmokers. Cardiologist Holly Middlekauff, a coauthor of the study, said “the pattern was spot-on” for what has been found in heart attack victims as well as heart disease patients and diabetics. The participants of the study who used e-cigarettes displayed a heartbeat pattern that is associated with epinephrine, ... Read More

Canadian baby food recall linked to cases of botulism food poisoning


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning U.S. residents to be aware of a baby food recall issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that has caused botulism food poisoning in some babies. The recall involves PC Organics baby foods that are only sold in Canada, but the FDA is concerned that some U.S. consumers may have purchased the products. The recall was initiated by Loblaw Companies Ltd. For PC Organics baby food pouches on Feb. 3, and expanded Feb. 8 to include more than 30 products in a variety of flavors. A full list of affected products, sizes ... Read More

First Xarelto trial delayed due to NBA All Star game


The first bellwether trial in the massive multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving bleeding risks with the blood thinner Xarelto was scheduled to begin this month in the Eastern District of Louisiana, but the National Basketball Association (NBA) All Star game occurring in New Orleans at the same time pushed U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon to delay trial until March. The Xarelto MDL under Judge Fallon has swelled to nearly 14,000 lawsuits since the it was first consolidated in December 2014. Last summer, Judge Fallon had scheduled the first cases to be tried, with the first to be tried in February. But the ... Read More

House seeks to give FDA authority to require recalls of dangerous OTC drugs

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A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to require manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to stop marketing unsafe products. The Recall Unsafe Drugs Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), would give the FDA the authority to wield its power over medicines and homeopathic products, closing up a loophole that currently allows companies to refuse the FDA’s request that they remove products from the market if they are deemed unsafe. For example, last month the FDA asked Standard Homeopathic Company to recall its Hyland’s homeopathic teething gels and tablets ... Read More

Dietary supplement maker agrees to stop selling unapproved products

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Dietary supplement maker Cili Minerals has agreed to stop manufacturing and selling untested products that promised to treat serious conditions including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. The agreement, penned by the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney in Lafayette, Louisiana, also requires Cili Minerals to recall and destroy all products it made and distributed since June 1, 2014. Lafayette, Louisiana-based Cili Minerals is owned by Anton S. Botha, and operated under names including Pick and Pay Inc., and Pick and Pay Hyper Inc. Its products were sold under various names including ProLith, Germanium and CilZinCo. The company’s products were ... Read More

Real-world data shows Xarelto has greater bleeding risk than Pradaxa


The blockbuster blood thinner Xarelto, prescribed to millions of patients worldwide, may have a higher bleeding risk than its competitor Pradaxa, according to a study based on real-world data published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study involved records on 118,000 Medicare patients with atrial fibrillation who were treated with either Pradaxa or Xarelto for the prevention of strokes associated with the heart ailment. When compared to patients treated with Pradaxa, the Xarelto group had significant increases in intracerebral hemorrhage, major extracranial bleeding, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Pharmaceuticals are approved for marketing in the U.S. after undergoing a series of clinical trials ... Read More

E-Cigarette Use Tied to Heavy and Frequent Tobacco Use Among Teens

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New research indicates that teens who regularly use e-cigarettes are more likely to become heavy and frequent smokers of traditional cigarettes. Students at 10 Los Angeles County public schools were surveyed, and the results were surprising. The survey found that teens who regularly vape are more than twice as likely to pick up smoking traditional cigarettes on a weekly basis. The findings also showed double likelihood that the teens would smoke more cigarettes on days when they do smoke as a result of vaping. “The more you vape, the more likely in the future you’re going to be smoking (cigarettes). You’re going to ... Read More

Gist reasoning test can help better identify chronic TBI in patients

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A sensitive reasoning test developed by clinicians and cognitive neuroscientists at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas may be better at identifying certain cognitive defects caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI) than traditional cognitive tests. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, researchers found that a so-called gist reasoning test was better at helping doctors identify previously undiagnosed cognitive changes that could explain why people experience difficulty solving problems, understanding complex information or maintaining friendships. Researchers used a gist reasoning measure called the Test of Strategic Learning to accurately identify 84.7 percent of patients with chronic ... Read More

Ethicon loses appeal in $3 million pelvic mesh verdict


Johnson and Johnson unit Ethicon is unhappy with and petitioning against the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent decision to uphold a $3.27 million jury verdict in the second Ethicon pelvic mesh bellwether trial. This was the first of the 31,676 lawsuits to go to trial in the New Jersey multidistrict litigation against Ethicon related to the mesh devices. The trial, which concluded on Sept. 5, 2014. involved plaintiffs Jo and Allen Huskey, who alleged that because of a design defect in Mrs. Huskey’s TVT-O sling she experienced severe pain. The sling had eroded and surgery could not completely remove ... Read More