Archive for April 2012

Cheaper Generic Lipitor Will Be Available Soon

April 30, 2012

(April 30, 2012) – Lipitor, made by Pfizer, is considered a miracle drug for the millions of patients who take this statin medication. Statin medications are so effective at lowering “bad” cholesterol and preventing secondary heart attacks and strokes, that they have become one of the worlds most widely prescribed drugs.


Pfizer held the patent on its Lipitor medication for 14 years. The patent expired December 1, 2011, and everyone thought the cost savings with the generic would be considerable. Unfortunately, the generic version, introduced December 1st, is almost as expensive as the high-priced brand name.


The price of the generic drug, atorvastatin, is expected to drop after May 31st, when several manufacturers (such as Teva and Mylan) will be permitted to put their own versions on the market.


It is predicted that before long, the generic cost will be 95 percent less than name-brand Lipitor, at approximately $20 or $30 for a three month supply, compared with $450 to $500 for the brand name.


Experts explain that it is not until the second, third, or fourth manufacturers come into the market that you really see the prices come down. Even then, they urge patients to shop around, as prices can vary tremendously.


Lipitor patients were looking forward to a big price drop when atorvastatin came out, but experts say that it didn’t happen because of federal drug laws. Makers of brand-name drugs are allowed a certain amount of time without any generic competition on the market, which Pfizer somehow pushed for 14 years for its Lipitor. After the patent expired, the first generic maker, Ranbaxy Laboratories in India, can sell without competition for six months. Ranbaxy’s 6-month window closes May 31st.


Ranbaxy was greedy, as well. Although their generic was priced lower than the brand Lipitor, the savings were minimal. This is not what everyone expected from the launch of Lipitor’s first generic.


A one-month supply of 20 mg pills sells online and at Wal-Mart for about $130, compared to Lipitor at $165.  Big pharmacies are charging more than Wal-Mart, about $165 for the generic vs. $190 for the brand.


Pfizer is now offering their brand Lipitor cheaper than the generic with various discounts. All of a sudden, Pfizer finds a way to lower the cost to the consumer, now that the generics have come out. Where were they for the past 14 years when many of the consumers who are on fixed incomes had to struggle to pay the high costs for this medication?  Pfizer also offered to pay big rebates to health insurers and firms that manage drug benefits for employers, to stop them from switching patients to the generic.


After May 31st, Ranbaxy plans on lowering its price, as several competitors will begin to sell atorvastatin in coming months.


Pharmacies most likely will purchase a month’s supply for just a few dollars, but don’t expect them to pass all of these savings onto the consumers. So even though the chain pharmacies may knock the price down to $30 to $50 a month, they are only paying about $3 per month. This is still a considerable savings to the consumer, but the intention of the generics was to pass the savings on to help the consumer.


The experts say that nobody should be paying more than $20 or $30 for a 90-day supply within a few months after May 31st. It is also recommended that consumers check out the prices at the smaller pharmacies, as compared to the big chains, for considerable cost savings.  The hope is that competition will eventually drive the price so low that some pharmacies will sell the generic for $4 a month.


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Do Anti-Depressants Increase Birth Defect Risks?

April 28, 2012

(April 28, 2012) – Women are often advised by doctors to continue taking their antidepressant medication during pregnancy. Although this may be beneficial to the mother, research has shown that there is a highly increased risk of birth defects to the baby. Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft and many other similar drugs are part of a billion dollar industry.


Since September 2005, information has been made public that certain antidepressants may cause birth defects, including cardiac defects, pulmonary, neural tube defects (brain and spinal cord), craniosynostosis (skull defect), infant omphalocele (abdominal wall defects), club foot (one or both feet turn downward and inward), and anal atresia (complete or partial closure of the anus), cleft lip and cleft palate, as well as incidents of autism spectrum disorders.


Heart Birth Defects: The FDA issued a Public Health Advisory on December 8, 2005 based on findings from a U.S. and Swedish study showing exposure to antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy may be associated with increased risk of heart birth defects. Most of the cardiac defects observed in these studies were atrial or ventricular septal defects, conditions in which the wall between the right and left sides of the heart is not completely developed.


PPHN: Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborns is a serious, life-threatening condition of the lungs which occurs soon after the birth of the newborn. Babies born with PPHN have high pressure in their lung blood vessels and are not able to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream. These babies require intensive care and some die a couple of days after birth.


On July 19, 2006 the FDA issued a Public Health Advisory for SSRIs, including Celexa (citalopram), Fluvoxamine, Lexapro (escitalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), Symbyax (olanzapine and fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) based on a study that suggests there may be additional risks of SSRI medications during pregnancy. In this study, PPHN was six times more common in babies whose mothers took SSRI antidepressant after the 20th week of pregnancy, compared to babies whose mothers did not take an antidepressant.


A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in 2010 reported that children who experienced fetal exposure to antidepressant drugs showed significant delays in walking and sitting, as compared to children who did not have antidepressants in utero. A recent study in the Archives of General Psychiatry from 2011 reported that unborn children exposed to SSRIs during the first trimester might have an increase in the risk of autism spectrum disorder.


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Fatal Crash Involving Bread Truck Spurs Lawsuit

April 27, 2012

(April 27, 2012) – A family of an Ogden, Utah couple who were killed when a bread delivery truck crashed into their Jeep on Interstate 15 in 2010, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Friday.  The lawsuit was filed against the bakery companies and the bread truck driver.


The children of  the deceased victims filed the lawsuit, and are asking for at least $300,000 from Bimbo Bakeries USA, Sara Lee Corporation, Metz Baking Company, as well as the driver of the truck, Thomas Garzand.


In May 2010, the couple was traveling in their Jeep Cherokee with their grown son and his two children, on I-15 near Pleasant Grove, Utah, when the Jeep “became disabled,” the lawsuit states. The driver veered to the outer right lanes of I-15, turned on the vehicle’s hazard lights and removed his children from the Jeep. The grandparents remained in the vehicle.


The driver then began directing and motioning the oncoming vehicles on the roadway to drive around the Jeep. At approximately 3:30 am, five minutes after the Jeep pulled over, the lawsuit states that a white Sara Lee bread truck drove through the area “at a high rate of speed, in excess of the legal speed limit, directly toward the disabled Jeep.”


The jeep driver attempted to flag down Garzand, but the bread truck crashed into the Jeep, which caused the Jeep to roll over several times, ejecting  the two grandparents who remained inside of it.


The lawsuit said that the couple suffered “multiple blunt force trauma injuries, which caused their tragic and untimely deaths.”


The couple’s son, along with their two grandchildren, witnessed them being thrown through the air, documents state, which caused great emotional distress.


The family is seeking at least $300,000 for wrongful death against the driver and negligence in various degrees from the companies listed in the lawsuit, as well as emotional distress, which were caused to the family.


The negligence of the driver of the bread truck was tragic enough, but to have this take place right in front of the children and grandchildren of the victims is surely enough to cause emotional pain and suffering. Those poor little children will have to deal with the image of seeing their grandparents fly in the air to their deaths.  Such a senseless, avoidable accident, is now the cause of the untimely death of two people. Is this justice?


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Wrongful Death Suit Filed Over School Bus Accident

April 27, 2012

Wrongful Death Suit

(April 27, 2012) – The parents of an 11-year-old girl, who was killed in the February 16th crash where a dump truck collided with her school bus, have filed a lawsuit against both drivers and their employers.


A civil suit was filed Wednesday, April 18th in Supreme Court in Mount Holly, New Jersey. The suit seeks unspecified damages from the accident, which claimed the life of their 11-year-old daughter, and was also the result of serious injuries to her triplet sisters.


“This case involves a heartbreaking, preventable tragedy in which an overloaded dump truck traveling at an excessive speed failed to avoid a school bus, loaded with children, and failed to observe oncoming traffic before attempting to cross a high speed intersection,” says the lawsuit.


There were 25 elementary school students on the school bus on their way to school when the collision occurred. 17 of the children were injured overall, although most of the injuries sustained were minor bumps and bruises.


New Jersey is one of only six states in the U.S. that has seatbelt requirements on school buses for passengers. National Transportation Safety Board chief investigator, Peter Kotowski, said, “the safety board has been interested in occupant protection on school buses for several years, and restraint systems are an important part of what we will be looking at here.”  It is not certain whether or not all children were wearing their seat belts at the time of the accident.


In their lawsuit, the parents claim the defendant’s “negligence and recklessness” led to the deceased’s sisters witnessing her death.


The bus driver, John Tieman, 66, of Beverly, was cited for failing to stop or yield in connection with the collision. The truck driver, Michael Caporale, 38, of Plumstead, Ocean County, and the vehicle’s owner, Herman’s Trucking of Wrightstown, were charged with violations stemming from the poor condition of the truck, which was overweight and equipped with inadequate brakes, according to authorities.  The truck’s load was also improperly secured, officials said. Also named as defendants in the complaint are the bus company and the construction companies, of which the construction companies operated a construction site where the dump truck was overloaded with asphalt just prior to the accident.


The complaint argues that the defendants were negligent in their daughter’s death, as well as the injuries and trauma her two sisters sustained. It claims that the truck should not even have been on the road due to its excessive weight and poor conditions of the brakes. In addition, Caporale was speeding and was not paying attention to the dangers on the road, as was reported.


The complaint also cites the prior suspension of Caporale’s driver’s license in 2003 for reckless driving as a “predictor” that he would likely be involved in future accidents. It also states that Herman’s should have assigned him to a non-driving position in light of his driving history.


“Herman’s Trucking knew or should have known the single greatest predictor of whether or not a commercial motor vehicle driver will be involved in a future accident is if they have a prior reckless driving violation…(it) increases the likelihood of the driver being involved in a future crash by 325%,” the lawsuit states.


In addition, the suit claims that Tieman, who had been driving for Garden State Transportation for about three weeks, was not properly trained and that the company ignored complaints from parents who had reported Tieman for accelerating before the children had taken a seat, causing them to fall in the aisle. What kind of school bus driver doesn’t wait for the children to be seated before driving away?


The 11-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene. 17 other children were injured, including her sisters, who were hospitalized for an extended period, along with a third passenger.


The lawsuit claims the surviving triplets’ injuries “may involve permanent loss of bodily function, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment.”  It also claims that the parents were initially notified that their daughters were all right before they arrived at the scene.


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Former U.S. Military Academy Students Sue After Being Raped

April 24, 2012

(April 24, 2012) – Two women filed suit in Manhattan federal court on Friday, claiming that they were raped while enrolled at two of the nation’s most prestigious military academies.


In their lawsuits, the women claim that the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, ignored “rampant sexual harassment.”


The suit also claims that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the former superintendents of the two academies and the current secretaries of the Army and Navy are “personally responsible” for failing to “prevent rapes and sexual assaults at the Naval Academy and West Point.”


These lawsuits are merely days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the military would actually start punishing sexual assault as opposed to continuously covering it up.  All branches of the military supposedly have a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to sexual assault. Yet the Defense Department estimates that, even with as many as 3,192 cases of sexual assault last year, 86 percent of the incidents were totally unreported.


One of the victims, 20-year-old Leah Marquet, described her short-lived, two-semester stint at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, like being one “female entering into a giant fraternity.” An all-star student, and one of the best high school soccer players in the country, Marquet turned down scholarships to play soccer at Ivy League schools for a chance to join the Navy. “All of their graduates from the soccer team went on and became pilots and Marine officers. It just sounds like those women are so powerful and well-respected, and I wanted to be that woman.”


But unfortunately, Marquet would learn that, in order to become a member of a fraternity, you must first endure the hazing.


Both girls were forced to withdraw from their respective military academies, as this traumatic incident left both young girls depressed and suicidal. In addition to that, it was hard for both girls to look at their harasser every day.


In both incidents, and what seems to be the much wider, less talked-about norm, the upperclassmen use the military’s strong trust in leadership values, in order to get these unsuspecting girls drunk beyond control, and taken advantage of.


To make matters worse, there have been some reported incidents where these prestigious military academies have ordered the alleged victims to take out the trash of their alleged rapists for over a month!


Could it be that these prestigious military academies are relying on their reputation, ignoring these victims’ pleas, essentially cries for help, just so they will not tarnish their name?


In a strange, yet sobering twist of irony, the elite of the elite, the academies that help our nation’s army become the strongest in the world, undermines the very values and morals it is attempting to instill in its members. Is this justice?


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Pfizer Ordered to Pay $4 Million in Damages in Prempro Case

April 23, 2012

(April 23, 2012) – A Connecticut jury ruled on April 18th that Pfizer Inc. must pay at least $4 million in damages to a woman who developed breast cancer after taking Prempro.


Jurors in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, ruled that Pfizer’s Wyeth unit (which Pfizer acquired in 2009) was liable for causing Margaret Fraser’s breast cancer, and that Prempro was an “unreasonably dangerous product,” as stated by one of her lawyers. The panel also found Wyeth should pay punitive damages over its handling of the drug.


The jury concluded that Wyeth’s handling of Prempro “was reckless and they had misrepresented the risks and benefits of its drug to patients and doctors.” The judge will decide the amount of the punitive damages reward that Pfizer must pay, at a later date.


In May 2011, Pfizer said it expected to pay at least $772 million to resolve litigation for the hormone-replacement therapy drugs, including Prempro. Pfizer inherited much of the litigation when it purchased Wyeth.


There are more than six million women who have taken Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and mood swings, before a 2002 study made the public aware of Prempro’s link to cancer.


Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-based Provera, manufactured by Pfizer’s Upjohn unit, to relieve their symptoms of menopause. Wyeth eventually combined the two hormones in their Prempro pill.


Prior to the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study, Wyeth’s sales of the drugs, which are still on the market today, reached more than $2 billion.


Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have lost 11 of 20 Prempro cases decided by juries, since the trials began in 2006. The New York-based drug company got some of the verdicts thrown out after the trial or had awards reduced. Some of the verdicts were resolved through settlements, while other decisions are on appeal. Pfizer has also had cases thrown out before trial and has settled others.


The jurors in Fraser’s case found that Wyeth officials had failed to properly warn the retired public school principal about the risks of Prempro. Is this justice?


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FDA Issues Warnings on Fentanyl Patches

April 22, 2012

(April 21, 2012) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to healthcare professionals, as well as to the public, outlining the appropriate storage, use, application, and disposal of fentanyl painkiller patches, including Duragesic (Janssen Pharmaceutical, Inc.) and generic patches, to prevent life-threatening harm from accidental exposure to fentanyl, particularly by children.


At least 10 people have died and 12 were hospitalized in the past 15 years. In a safety alert, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that a majority of the 26 cases of accidental exposure to fentanyl observed since 1997 involved children under the age of two years old.


The FDA issued a consumer advisory on Thursday, reminding parents, caregivers, and heath care workers of the deadly consequences regarding children coming in contact with, or ingesting of, fentanyl patches.


The patches are prescribed for patients experiencing chronic, severe pain, such as cancer patients. These patches contain a strong, synthetic opiate pain medication that relieves pain for three days at a time. The patch should only be used for long-term or chronic pain when other, less powerful pain medications no longer provide relief.  


“Young children are at particular risk of accidental exposure to fentanyl patches,” the FDA states as an advisory on their website. “Their mobility and curiosity provide opportunities for them to find lost patches, take improperly discarded patches from the trash, or find improperly stored patches, all of which may result in patches being placed in their mouths or sticking to their skin.”  In addition, risk for exposure can also arise from a young child being held by someone wearing a partially detached patch, the statement notes. Even patches that are used contained a “considerable” amount of fentanyl, the FDA points out.


Fentanyl is a Schedule II opioid agonist, indicating a high potential for abuse, subsequent respiratory depression from overdose, and possibly for criminal diversion.


“The FDA previously alerted the public to the appropriate use and disposal of fentanyl patches in 2005 and 2006, following the receipt of reports of death and life-threatening adverse events related to fentanyl overdose,” the statement notes. “Those adverse events occurred when the fentanyl patch was used to treat pain in patients who were not tolerant to opioids and when opioid-tolerant patients applied more patches than prescribed, changed the patch too frequently or exposed the patch to a heat source”, the new statement notes.


In 2011, proper disposal of fentanyl patches was part of a broader public awareness campaign. “FDA recommends that the adhesive side of the patch should be folded together and then the patch should be flushed down the toilet,” the new statement notes.


The FDA recommended keeping the patches out of children’s sight and out of their reach. In addition, they suggested patch-users shoulder cover the patch with an adhesive film just to be sure that the patch stays on their body.


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