The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has created an online application called eBenefits that processes disability claims faster. The VA urges Veterans to use the new application process to receive faster decisions on their applications and to help reduce claims backlogs. eBenefits also lets Veterans electronically submit copies of records and supporting evidence for their claims, and to choose representatives to help them.
Archive for February, 2014
Discovery of a mutant gene responsible for a disease is a milestone, but for most conditions, it may be only a first step towards a treatment or cure. Understanding Rett Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, is further complicated by the fact that the implicated gene controls a suite of other genes.
Pregnant women exposed to high levels of air pollution are twice as likely to have a child with autism compared to women exposed to low levels, scientists from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) reported in Environmental Health Perspectives (June 18th edition).
Patients who have early arthritis consume less alcohol than controls, regardless of the type of arthritis, according to a new study published online in the journal Rheumatology. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA) specifically, the inverse association between alcohol and disease was greater in men than it was in women.
Share of Cost, FCC Enforces Hearing Aid Compatibility Rules to Benefit Customers with Hearing Disabilities
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released two settlements on wireless hearing aid compatibility cases involving Airadigm Communications, Inc. dba Airfire Mobile, and TeleGuam Holdings, LLC. The hearing aid compatibility rules make sure that individuals with hearing loss can access wireless phone service without excessive background noise. The settlements will help wireless consumers who live in many rural areas and in Guam, where the companies do business.
Tobacco users worldwide need more concrete and committed help to quit, say researchers in an article in Addiction, which informs that over half of the countries that signed the WHO 2005 Framework on Tobacco Control have not set up any formal plans to help people stop smoking.
Millions of us cannot start the day without our coffee. Is that such a bad thing? According to several studies, regular coffee reduces our risk of developing diabetes, mental illness, many cancers, and overall mortality. However, no scientific studies have looked at whether coffee might affect appetite. Matt Schubert, a Ph.D. candidate, and Associate Professor Ben Desbrow, both from the Centre for Health Practice Innovation, Griffith University, Australia, set out to determine what effect coffee might have on appetite.
The relationship between dogs and their owners is very similar to the bond between young kids and their parents, a new study revealed. For approximately 15,000 years, pet dogs have been closely associated with people, the research, published in PLoS One explained. “The animals are so well adapted to living with human beings that in many cases the owner replaces conspecifics and assumes the role of the dog’s main social partner,” according to the experts. Dogs and children seem to share what is known as the “secure base effect”.
In 2 large studies, the association between aspirin use and risk of colorectal cancer was affected by mutation of the gene BRAF, with regular aspirin use associated with a lower risk of BRAFwildtype colorectal cancer but not with risk of BRAFmutated cancer, findings that suggest that BRAFmutant colon tumor cells may be less sensitive to the effect of aspirin, according to a study in the June 26 issue of JAMA. Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancerrelated death worldwide.
Use of advanced treatment technologies for prostate cancer, such as intensitymodulated radiotherapy and robotic prostatectomy, has increased among men with lowrisk disease, high risk of noncancer mortality, or both, a population of patients who are unlikely to benefit from these treatments, according to a study in the June 26 issue of JAMA. “Prostate cancer is a common and expensive disease in the United States. In part because of the untoward morbidity of traditional radiation and surgical therapies, advances in the treatment of localized disease have evolved over the last decade.
New evidence supports a causal relationship between adiposity and heart failure, and between adiposity and increased liver enzymes, according to a study published this week in PLOS Medicine. The study, conducted by Inga Prokopenko, Erik Ingelsson, and colleagues from the ENGAGE (European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology) Consortium, also provides additional support for several previously shown causal associations such as those between adiposity and type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.
Patients who have experienced a stroke spend a substantial amount of time and effort seeking out, processing, and reflecting on information about the management of their condition because the information provided by health services worldwide is currently inadequate, according to a study by UK and US researchers published in this week’s PLOS Medicine.
There is an urgent need to address the “wicked” problem of physical inactivity, say the editors of PLOS Medicine writing in this week’s issue. The editors explain that in health policy terms, wicked problems describe a situation that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.
Here’s an outrage that must be changed: Big Pharma has been systematically price-gouging the Medicare program for seniors and people with disabilities — and raking in billions in excessive profits. The 11 largest global drug companies made an astonishing $711 billion in profits over the 10 years ending in 2012, and they got a turbo-charged boost when the Medicare Part D prescription drug program started in 2006, according to an analysis of corporate filings by Health Care for America Now (HCAN). The drug companies hold the power to charge America’s consumers whatever they want. Worse, Medicare — the nation’s largest purchaser of drugs — is prohibited by law from seeking better prices. The result of this shortsighted policy is dramatic. In 2006, the first year of Medicare’s prescription drug program, the combined profits of the largest drug companies soared 34 percent to $76.3 billion. And unlike other industries, such as Big Oil, drug companies get something even better than a tax subsidy — they get a government program.
There is nothing wrong with a company making profits — that’s what they’re supposed to do. But the drug industry’s profits are excessive as a result of overcharging American consumers and taxpayers. We pay significantly more than any other country for the exact same drugs. Per capita drug spending in the U.S. is about 40 percent higher than in Canada, 75 percent greater than in Japan and nearly triple the amount spent in Denmark.
HCAN reviewed the last decade’s financial filings from the 11 prescription drug giants: Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Merck, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Even as millions of Americans struggle to afford their medicines and as Republicans in Congress threaten to cut seniors’ benefits, these corporate behemoths have extracted $711.4 billion in profits for Wall Street investors. The drug companies’ annual profits reached $83.9 billion in 2012, a 62 percent jump from 2003.
The drug companies, of course, say they have no choice and need to charge outrageous prices to pay for research that enables them to innovate and develop new drugs that save our lives. But that’s not true. Half of the scientifically innovative drugs approved in the U.S. from 1998 to 2007 resulted from research at universities and biotech firms, not big drug companies. And despite their rhetoric, drug companies spend 19 times more on marketing than on research and development.
There are two reasons why it matters that the drug industry is booking eye-popping profits. First, American consumers and taxpayers are footing the bill, and second, we could do something about it. It’s against federal law for Medicare, the nation’s biggest health plan, to use its unparalleled market power to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. This makes no sense. If the policy were changed, taxpayers and consumers would save huge amounts of money.
Simply empowering Medicare to get the same bulk purchasing discounts on prescription drugs as state Medicaid programs would save the federal government $137 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Eliminating price-gouging on that scale would go a long way toward addressing the fiscal challenges that are constantly under discussion in Washington — without harming seniors and middle-class families. This proposal has been supported by President Obama and is in the House Democrats’ budget plan. It is reportedly in the president’s 2014 budget plan as well.
Our politicians give all kinds of tax breaks and subsidies to big corporations that don’t need them: Big Oil. Wall Street. Companies that ship our jobs overseas. Every gift to a special interest, including allowing Big Pharma to overcharge Medicare, is an expenditure of scarce tax dollars. That’s called wasteful spending.