Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
DeSaulnier, White House laud House bipartisan vote for 21st Century Cures Act, amid bipartisan oppositionThursday, December 1st, 2016
Accusations it includes fraud, bribery, corruption; requires Senate passage during lame duck session
By Allen Payton
On Wednesday, November 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34) on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 392-26. The almost 1,000-page bill is designed for medical innovation, additional funding for cancer research, and to combat the nation’s growing opioid and heroin epidemic. But opponents say what the bill includes continues and advances corruption. Plus, they don’t like the fact it’s being considered and voted on by a lame-duck Congress, some of whose members weren’t re-elected in November and will be leaving, soon.
Congressman DeSaulnier (D, CA-11), who represents most of Contra Costa County and voted for the bill, issued the following statement lauding its passage.
“This legislation will help ensure the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have the resources needed to continue important work improving biomedical research and developing innovative treatments. Included in the bill is funding for the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot, which is essential to continuing the program under the new Administration, as well as funds to combat the growing opioid and heroin epidemic facing our country. While this bill is not perfect, it provides $4.8 billion in new funding to ensure NIH is able to further its work for patients and families relying on research, treatment and recovery options. As a survivor of cancer and a beneficiary of the remarkable progress this country has made in treatment and research, I know all too well the value of these investments and how many lives can be saved as a result.”
According to other news reports, the legislation was introduced by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., “in hopes of speeding up the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving drugs and devices for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It passed the House 344-77 in July, but later stalled in the Senate. A reworked version was released last weekend.”
Congressman DeSaulnier offered an amendment to the bill, which would have helped improve doctor-patient communication when patients are diagnosed and receiving treatment for severe or chronic diseases. No amendments were included in the final version of the bill. He will continue to work on these important issues.
White House Supports
The bill will now go to the Senate for a final vote and if passed the White House has indicated President Obama will sign it. In a statement, issued Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest praised the passage of the bill.
“This critically important legislation will get states the resources they need to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. It invests the $1 billion the President has repeatedly said is necessary to help communities that have seen far too many overdoses. It also responds to the Vice President’s call for a Moonshot in cancer research by investing $1.8 billion in new resources to transform cancer research and accelerate discoveries. Plus, it invests nearly $3 billion to continue the President’s signature biomedical research initiatives, the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives, over the next decade to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s and create new research models to find cures and better target treatments.
H.R. 34 also takes important steps to improve mental health, including provisions that build on the work of the President’s Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. It further advances the drug approval process by taking steps like modernizing clinical trial design and better incorporating patients’ voices into FDA’s decision-making processes. Like all comprehensive legislation, the bill is not perfect, and there are provisions the Administration would prefer were improved, but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns. The Senate should promptly pass this bill so that the President can sign it.”
However, not everyone in the Senate is supportive of the bill, including DeSaulnier’s fellow Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). She has been generally supportive of the legislation, but will now work against its passage, blasting it for being favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, saying “there’s a lot of bad stuff” in the bill, and called it extortion, and includes “special favors for campaign donors and giveaways to the richest drug companies in the world.”
In a floor statement on Monday night, which can be viewed here, she said that “Big Pharma hijack(ed) the Cures bill. This final deal has only a tiny fig leaf of funding, for NIH and for the opioid crisis. And most of that fig leaf isn’t even real. Most of the money won’t really be there unless future Congresses passes future bills in future years to spend those dollars.”
Warren continued, saying “In the closing days of this Congress, Big Pharma has its hand out for a bunch of special giveaways and favors that are packed together in something called the 21st Century Cures bill.
And when American voters say Congress is owned by big companies, this bill is exactly what they are talking about. Now, we face a choice. Will this Congress say that yes, we’re bought and paid for, or will we stand up and work for the American people?
Medical breakthroughs come from increasing investments in basic research. Right now, Congress is choking off investments in the NIH. Adjusted for inflation, federal spending on medical research over the past dozen years has been cut by 20%. Those cuts take the legs out from under future medical innovation in America. We can name a piece of legislation the “cures” bill, but if it doesn’t include meaningful funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, it won’t cure anything.”
Her reasons for opposing the bill include her argument that “this funding is political cover for huge giveaways to giant drug companies.” She stated it would “legalize fraud” and “cover up bribery,” and, in her usual practice of partisan attacks, also said it would “hand out dangerous, special deals to Republican campaign contributors.”
Warren said that “this Cures bill that would shoot holes in the anti-fraud law. Make it easier for drug companies to get away with fraud.”
Another accusation she made is “the Cures act offers to sell government favors. It delivers a special deal so people can sell…treatments without meeting the FDA gold standards for protecting patient safety and making sure these drugs do some good.”
Warren gave a list of other reasons she opposed it.
“The Cures Act – a bill that was supposed to be about medical innovation – has a giveaway to the gun lobby,” she said. “The bill cuts Medicare funding. It raids money from the Affordable Care Act. It takes health care dollars that should have gone to Puerto Rico. It makes it harder for people with disabilities to get Medicaid services. There’s a lot of bad stuff here.”
“It is time for Democrats – Democrats and Republicans who should be ashamed by this kind of corruption -to make it clear who exactly they work for. Does the Senate work for big pharma that hires the lobbyists and makes the campaign contributions or does the Senate work for American people who actually sent us here,” Warren concluded.
Some conservatives are also opposed to the bill, but not all for the same reasons as Warren’s. The conservative Heritage Foundation gave four reasons they oppose the bill, calling it a “Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests.”
On their website, they wrote, “Congress has taken this legislation, which was initially a 300 page bill, and turned it into an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill. The negotiators have added pieces of a mental health bill, makes changes to Medicare Part A and B, another bill making significant changes to the federal foster care system, a “cancer moonshot” requested by Vice President Biden, additional funding for opioid abuse prevention, etc., in addition to the NIH funding and the FDA funding, for a grand total of over $6.3 billion dollars. In Washington terms, backroom negotiators have turned the Cures bill into a Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests, all at the expense of the taxpayer. Therefore, conservatives should oppose the 21st Century Cures Bill for four main reasons.
First, the bill’s “pay-fors” rely on budget gimmicks, and even worse, the new spending is not subject to the budget caps. Second, NIH and FDA do not need additional funding. Instead, they need to spend the money they already have on critical research instead of wasteful projects. Third, Congress has no business considering an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill during the lame duck session. Fourth, and finally, the process has been questionable and the bill will likely be closed to amendments.
An email to DeSaulnier’s office asking for his comments on Warren’s statements opposing the bill was not responded to before publication time. Please check back later for any updates.
A vote by the Senate on the bill is expected to take place early next week. For the complete text of the bill, please click here.
County Health Services ID’s two more cases of illness linked to Thanksgiving dinner, rules out 21 foodborne diseasesWednesday, November 30th, 2016
The Contra Costa Health Services issued the following announcement at 5:44 p.m.:
Update on Public Health Investigation of Incident in Antioch
Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has now identified two additional people who fell ill soon after eating food from a Thanksgiving charity event in Antioch.
All people who became ill developed symptoms within 24 hours of ingesting food served at the charity event and we don’t expect to see new cases.
These two newly discovered people didn’t seek medical attention and have recovered. There are now 19 total people known to have fallen ill—including three people who died—after eating food served at the Antioch American Legion auditorium, 403 West Sixth St., on Thanksgiving.
Anyone with leftover food from this event should not eat it and throw it away. Anyone who ate food from the Thanksgiving Day event and is now feeling sick should immediately contact their medical provider and also call CCHS at 925-313-6740.
Tests of biological samples from the reported cases came back negative for 21 foodborne diseases, including salmonella, E. coli and norovirus. CCHS is sending samples to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to test for other agents that are common but testing is not locally available. Results from the CDC tests may not be available for months.
Our Public Health and Environmental Health divisions continue to work in collaboration on the ongoing investigation
Golden Hills Community Church issues updated statement on possible dinner related illnesses and deathsWednesday, November 30th, 2016
According to Larry Adams, Senior Pastor of Golden Hills Community Church in Brentwood and Antioch, the following updated statement about the Thanksgiving dinner they served in Antioch, last Thursday, and the possibly linked illnesses and three deaths, was posted on the church’s website on Tuesday night:
This past week we were alerted to an outbreak of illness in our community that could have been related to our annual Thanksgiving meal served in Antioch. Golden Hills Community Church has been seeking to help meet this need in the community for over 30 years with meals served to many thousands of people. As the week unfolded, we met with Contra Costa Health officials seeking to assist them in any way possible to determine the source of the illness. The preliminary evidence seemed to point away from the food that we served to over 800 people that day.
Our greatest concern has been twofold. First and foremost we are grieving for those who have lost precious loved ones and for those who have endured this illness. The loss of life is a human tragedy that no amount of investigation can undo. While we do not, even now, know who these individuals are, this has not stopped us from grieving and praying diligently for these families.
Secondly, we have wanted to hear from the Health Department their determination of the real cause of this illness, regardless of our connection. Truth will help prevent future occurrences of this type of illness and perhaps keep others from having this horrible experience.
We still do not have any conclusive word from County Officials regarding this matter. We continue to do what we can to help with the investigation that is ongoing. Evidence that once pointed away from the meal that we provided to so many, now seems to point back that direction. We will continue to await the final findings, to pray for all those affected, and offer to do what we can to help those who are hurting. We thank those who have joined us in prayer and ask you to continue in your efforts.
The church’s website is www.goldenhills.org.
By Allen Payton
The Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff Coroner’s Division has identified the three victims in the possible food-related deaths that occurred in Antioch, on Wednesday afternoon.
They are identified as: 43-year old Christopher Cappetti, 59-year-old Chooi Keng Cheah and 69-year-old Jane Evans. They were residents at assisted living facilities in Antioch.
Autopsies for the victims show all three had similar intestinal abnormalities. The Forensic Pathologist is trying to determine the causes of death, which are pending the results of various tests.
The Coroner’s Division continues to work with Contra Costa Health Services on this case.
According to Michael Weston, spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services, “two of the deceased individuals were from Minerva’s Place on Palo Verde Way and the third individual was from Minerva Place IV which is on El Paso Way” in Antioch.
In a Wednesday afternoon interview, he shared additional information about the homes where those who died resided.
Owned and operated by Emerito Ramon and Minerva Gonzalez, they have “four different facilities in two different licensing categories,” Weston stated.
Two are “residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) assisted living. They can be for seniors age 60 and over,” he explained. “But it can be individuals with like needs. There’s some flexibility in that area.”
When told of the one man who died who was age 43 and another age 59, Weston replied, “That wouldn’t be uncommon to have. It just depends on the needs of that individual. I don’t know the exact type of clients they serve. An RCFE may be a better fit for somebody even if they’re not at the age of 60, yet.”
The Gonzalez’ also own two adult residential facilities (ARF) in Antioch, which are “basically a residential care home for people age 18 through 59 with mental health care needs or people with physical or developmental disabilities,” Weston stated.
Those are Minerva Place II with State License #79200259 at 2831 Vista Way and Minerva Place III with license #079200232 at 1128 Monterey Drive.
Two more locations with the Minerva name in Antioch are listed on the internet, including Minerva’s Place Arf at 1911 Wilson Court and Minerva’s Place #2 at 2833 Fortuna Court, but don’t appear on the state’s website.
“They may have other facilities that don’t require a license,” Weston explained. “It depends on the level of care need, like a boarding house and if people administer their own medications. The licenses are for 24-hour care facilities.”
“Room and boards, (also known as) board and care homes, don’t require licenses,” he continued. “Halfway houses don’t require licensing, either. You’d have to talk to the local city or the county, whoever is in charge, regarding any restrictions they may have for that.”
Residents from another home in Antioch were also at the Thanksgiving dinner served by the church.
“We were made aware that Rose’s Garden Adult Residential #3, license number 079200512, also had individuals at the event,” Weston shared. “That’s an adult residential facility.”
But, he couldn’t share if any of those residents had fallen ill or went to the hospital due to health privacy laws.
“So five different facilities we’ve been in contact with regarding this,” he added. “The fatalities are related to the Minerva Place locations.”
Attempts to reach the Gonzalez’ for comment and to answer questions about the matter have been unsuccessful.
County Health Services claim nine more people possibly got sick at Antioch Thanksgiving meal served by churchWednesday, November 30th, 2016
By Allen Payton
The Costa Health Services (CCHS) announced on Tuesday, they are investigating several new cases that are likely related to a foodborne illness outbreak reported in Antioch over the weekend. CCHS investigators on Tuesday contacted an additional eight people who were likely sickened by food or drink from the same event. None of those patients are currently hospitalized.
During a second press conference on the matter in Martinez on Tuesday afternoon, Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood and Dr. Louise McNitt, Communicable Disease Medical Director, stated there is now a ninth additional person who was reported to also become sick due to eating at the same dinner. That brings the total number of people who claim to be sickened by the meal served by Golden Hills Community Church to 17.
Eight cases of possible foodborne illness connected to the incident, including three that resulted in death, were reported to Public Health on Nov. 25 by Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch. All of the eight patients reported by Sutter Delta ate food from the holiday event.
It is now reported that all eight were residents of three different senior care, assisted living, group home facilities of four in Antioch owned by the same couple. Calls to the administrator and licensee of the homes, asking them why some of their staff and residents, as well as they and their family attended the Thanksgiving meal intended for the homeless, low-income residents and those who didn’t want to be alone on the holiday, were not returned before publication time.
In an attempt to clarify information about where the food was prepared, that was served at the Antioch event organizer Jeff Oransky explained that, “some of the food is prepared in people’s homes like the turkey, ham, and some of the stuffing, and then brought to the hall. The only things prepared on site are instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and green beans.”
He mentioned the small size of the kitchen at the hall as the reason. Asked about how he can control the quality of the food being prepared and brought in, he replied, “We’ve had discussions about that” since last Thursday. “We’ve never had a problem before.”
“We’re pretty careful,” Oransky explained. “Every year we buy 600 disposable gloves and we run out of every one of them. We generally don’t touch the food, even with the gloves. We use the ladles and utensils, and we keep everything heated. Nothing just sits out.”
“The other issue is the to-go meals,” he continued. “Some people come in and take a to-go meal to take home. Others eat there and also take a meal home. As far as I know they haven’t determined if these people (who got sick) did one or the other, or both.”
Asked if there were delivery of prepared meals from the hall, Oransky said, “No, not that I know of. We don’t deliver them. I don’t have enough people to do that.”
“We have Meals On Wheels deliveries. But they have nothing to do with the food at the hall,” he clarified. “Those meals are all professionally prepared and delivered to people’s homes, who are Meals On Wheels clients. But Meals On Wheels doesn’t deliver on Thanksgiving, so we take it over and deliver for them. But, we don’t deliver food prepared from the hall.”
Asked about serving the Thanksgiving Day meals in the future, Golden Hills Community Church Executive Pastor Phil Hill, said “the county health services told us in the future we would have to get a permit and that means that all food would have to be prepared in an approved commercial facility.”
Asked if that will be required even if it’s determined that the church is not at fault, he responded, “Correct.”
An email asking for the name of the group distributing prepared meals outside of the hall, to people standing in line waiting to get in for the Thanksgiving meal was sent to Vicky Balladares, Communications Officer for Contra Costa Health Services.
She replied, “Our Environmental Health folks are trying to get the name. As far as I know they have not been able to get a name yet.”
Anyone who ate food from the Thanksgiving Day event at the Antioch American Legion Hall and Veterans Memorial Building at 403 West Sixth Street, and is now feeling ill should immediately contact their medical provider. Anyone who is not ill, but has food or drink from the event, should throw it away. The general public can call (925) 313-6700 for more information.
County health investigators are in the process of collecting biological samples from the reported cases for testing at county and state public health laboratories.
‘Tough Enough To Wear Pink’ Day, Friday October 21st
Free Tickets for Breast Cancer survivors and their families from the Herald!
For the first time ever the 70th Annual Grand National Livestock Expo, Horse Show, and Rodeo announces Friday, October 21, 2016 as “Tough Enough To Wear Pink” Day, and plans to bring together the Breast Cancer community in a day of solidarity and awareness. As a national campaign, Tough Enough to Wear Pink Programs in rodeos across the nation have raised almost $10 Million dollars. But the biggest asset of the program is that the money stays in local communities.
The Grand National Rodeo has partnered with Bay Area Cancer Connections, and California Pink Plate. To get involved attendees can stop by booths in the Western Marketplace to learn about early detection and other resources for cancer patients and survivors. Bay Area Cancer Connections is a nonprofit that provides free programs and services that address survivorship needs of all those facing breast and ovarian cancer in the Bay Area, including early breast cancer detection services for low-income uninsured young women and men.
By partnering with the California Pink Plate organization, the Grand National hopes to help the organization reach the DMV requirement of 7,500 paid orders which will then move the Pink Ribbon license plate into production. The Pink Plate is almost halfway to their goal, with nine months left until the deadline, the Grand National can play a big part in helping to make the plate a reality. All proceeds from the pink license plates goes to the ‘Every Woman Counts’ initiative, which provides underserved women all over California the opportunity to get free screenings, something that the founder of the pink plate feels is the key to beating the disease.
“I am a nine-year stage IV breast cancer survivor and I ignored my lump for several months. I don’t want that to happen to another woman/man. What better way to remind people everyday about early detection than on the California roadways. Pink Plate can become a part of the solution. This is an opportunity to save countless lives and remind people daily about the importance of early detection. We are all in this together, and excited to partner up with Tough Enough to Wear Pink and the Grand National Rodeo this year! I don’t think about myself as a breast cancer SURVIVOR, I think of myself as a breast cancer FIGHTER! I know we’ll meet our goal and encourage Rodeo fans to purchase or gift a Pink Plate through our website www.pinkplate.org, so we can reach our goal of 7,500!” – Chere Rush, Discovery Bay, California Pink Plate Co-Founder
For 70 years the iconic Cow Palace Arena & Event Center has been celebrating the old west and inspiring youth to take part in the agriculture industry through their annual Grand National Livestock Exposition, Horse Show and Rodeo event. From top to bottom, the Cow Palace is filled with the ultimate western experience including an agriculture exhibition, a professional Rodeo in partnership with the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), and a classic western marketplace – including mechanical bull rides, live music, BBQ, shopping, and more.
The family-friendly event takes place all day over two, action-packed weekends on Oct. 14-15 and Oct. 21-22, 2016. Although tickets must be purchased for the Grand National Rodeo in the main arena, the Livestock Exposition, Horse Show, Interactive Agricultural Area, and Marketplace are FREE to the public.
Use coupon code ‘PINK’ to receive $6.00 off reserve Dress Circle tickets or $11.00 off reserved Box Seat tickets to the Oct. 14-15 & 21-22 rodeo performances. Tickets can be purchased on the Cow Palace website (cowpalace.com). For more details contact email@example.com or call 415-414-4100.
Event Schedule, Friday Oct. 21 – ‘Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day’
NCA Dog Trials
About California Pink Plate:
Pink Plate’s mission is to educate, promote and raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness in California. Early detection saves lives. We can think of no better way to spread this message than through the California Pink Ribbon License Plate. All funds generated from sales of the California Pink Ribbon License Plate will be deposited into the Breast Cancer Control Account, which funds the Every Woman Counts (EWC) program (click here). EWC is administered by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and provides free clinical breast exams and mammograms to Cal ifornia’s underserved women.
About Bay Area Cancer Connections
Bay Area Cancer Connections is a nonprofit organization that supports people touched by breast and ovarian cancer by providing comprehensive, personalized services in an atmosphere of warmth and compassion. The non-profit provides free programs and services that address survivorship needs of all those facing breast and ovarian cancer in the Bay Area, including early breast cancer detection services for low-income uninsured young women and men. Learn more at www.bcconnections.org.
If you know a breast cancer survivor who would like to attend the Grand National Rodeo with their family on Friday, September 21st for free, contact the Antioch Herald at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll reserve a ticket good for them and four guests. Tickets are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition, we also have a free General Admission ticket good for any of the four days, available to the first four readers who contact us.
See the full schedule of the 2016 Grand National Rodeo, by clicking here: www.cowpalace.com/p/grandnational
Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Ted Lieu (CA-33) called on House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to initiate an immediate investigation into the egregious overprescribing of opioid prescription painkillers and the inaction of Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies that may be aware of inappropriate opioid distribution by bad actors.
Recent reports by the Los Angeles Times exposed that Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyCotin, collected extensive evidence on the overprescribing and illegal trafficking of the substance for more than a decade, yet the company failed to notify the appropriate federal and state authorities. During the course of their inaction, sales of OxyCotin at some pharmacies increased by over 1400 percent. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and simultaneously so have sales of these prescription drugs.
“Despite receiving evidence from pharmacists and its own employees regarding suspected criminal trafficking of opioids, Purdue Pharma reportedly refused to take action and continued to engage in irresponsible practices that may have violated the law. In California, I was a leader in the fight to improve the state prescription drug monitoring program to prevent overprescribing by physicians and doctor shopping. Congress has a responsibility to investigate pharmaceutical companies that work around these reporting systems, ignore reports of illegal activity, disregard patient safety for the sake of profits, and endanger the public health,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier.
“I am troubled to learn of Purdue Pharma’s inappropriate opioid distribution practices. Reports indicating Purdue Pharma knowingly disregarded evidence of criminal drug trafficking of its drug reveals the company’s clear negligence for patient safety, medical ethics, and legal responsibilities all for the sake of profit. The fact that the United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic is cause for serious concern and we must hold those responsible accountable. As a member of the House Oversight Committee, I urge the Committee to initiate an investigation into this matter,” said Congressman Ted Lieu.
Click here to read a full copy of the letter sent to Chairman Jason Chaffetz.
To read complete coverage of Purdue Pharma by the Los Angeles Times click here.