September 1, 2014

America’s Healthcare Crisis – The Whole System is Broken

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by Vera Sharav
Alliance for Human Research Protection

This is an introduction to our lengthy IV-Part, fully referenced, review of America’s Healthcare Crisis—including numerous recent peer reviewed journal articles.

America’s acute healthcare crisis affects average Americans—not just the poor. Specifically, we focus on several critical safety issues that plague US healthcare which are neither acknowledged, much less, addressed by ObamaCare,its progenitor, RomneyCare, nor any healthcare overhaul proposal being kicked around in Washington.

Those who formulate healthcare policy are oblivious to the alarming decline in the performance of US healthcare when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Their vision is obscured either by propaganda—i.e. “The United States has the best healthcare system in the world” or they pretend not to see the magnitude of harm produced by preventable hazards that are imbedded in America’s profit-driven healthcare system.

We have compiled a list of more than 100 current books by prominent physicians and knowledgeable academic and independent healthcare analysts who confront the real healthcare crisis from varying aspects. See “Medicine Hijacked: Books That Document the Real Healthcare Crisis”: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/855/9/

America’s healthcare crisis is demonstrable in its poor and worsening international ranking: America does not measure up on the two most important indicators of the well-being and healthcare quality of a country. Americans have the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate compared to all other industrialized countries: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html. And American suffer from a high rate of preventable, treatment induced harm.

America’s healthcare system is riddled with errors, duplication and waste—in both human resources and expenditure.

This is in large part the consequence of a commercially driven medical system that is aligned with the healthcare provider industries—insurance, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, hospitals, medical specialty societies, and the American Medical Association—all of who are major contributors to Congressional and presidential election campaigns, ensuring their interests are served.

The latest Institute of Medicine report (September 2012) estimates that in 2009 alone, $750 billion were wasted on unnecessary health spending.

“The costs of the system’s current inefficiency underscore the urgent need for a systemwide transformation. The committee calculated that about 30 percent of health spending in 2009—roughly $750 billion—was wasted on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud, and other problems. Moreover, inefficiencies cause needless suffering. By one estimate, roughly 75,000 deaths might have been averted in 2005…”

However, the IOM report fails to identify the specific industries that profit from wasted resources. For example, the pharmaceutical industry whose inordinate influence has penetrated public, private, academic and government institutions, has led to the adoption of healthcare policies and medical practices that greatly enhance this industry’s profit margin–often by sacrificing public safety.

Polypharmacy (combination drug cocktails) is an example of an untested current medical practice that increases profits by exposing millions of patients to potential serious harm without having demonstrated a clinical value.

  • The number of prescriptions filled in the US increased 72% from 1997 to 2007.
  • US prescriptions rose to 3.9 billion in 2009 and sales reached $300.3 billion.
  • Pharma profits have been in the double digits since 1995—far surpassing Fortune 500 companies.
  • In 2009, pharmaceutical companies raked in the highest profit ever, 19.8%.

But those profits were not earned by producing beneficial treatments that cured disease or improved Americans’ health. Indeed, Americans would be shocked to learn that the staggering expenditure for prescription drugs—in most cases—did not get them treatments that improved their health. Independent analysts have shown that only 1 in 10 new drugs offers substantial benefits for patients compared to existing much cheaper drugs whose risks are known.

What’s worse, doctors who prescribe newly licensed drugs that are heavily promoted as ”breakthrough” medicines, know absolutely nothing about the hidden risks that these drugs pose. Only after years on the market—after the drugs have caused serious harm to thousands of people—do the risks become known.

An analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine (2010): http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0910064

“The big picture—the poor and declining performance of the United States, which goes far beyond the challenge of universal insurance —will inevitably get lost if we do not routinely track performance and compare the results both among countries and among states and counties within the United States.”

A growing number of physicians and 5 major medical specialty associations acknowledge that medically unsupportable interventions pose serious risks of harm: http://choosingwisely.org. In the absence of demonstrable clinical benefits, they recommend LESS diagnosing of presumed, unsubstantiated conditions, LESS medically unjustifiable testing, and LESS prescribing of invasive treatments and drugs.

The following is an outline of inconvenient truths about US healthcare which are obscured from public awareness by stakeholders in the business of healthcare:

The third leading cause of death in the US is not a disease, but medical intervention—it ranks after heart disease and cancer. Every year: 225,000 hospitalized Americans die as a result of improper medical interventions–of these, 106,000 are killed by prescription drugs (excluding errors).

No one tracks the total annual deaths from hazardous or malfunctioning FDA-approved medical products–including medical devices and prescription drugs.

The FDA is the pivotal gatekeeper entrusted with determining the safety and efficacy of medical products. But the agency has been corrupted by its financial dependency on industry.

FDA has been given given failing grades by even authoritative reviews that found serious deficiencies in FDA’s scientific base and organizational structure: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/868/9/. See, synopses of these reviews at: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/868/9/.

Since 1995, FDA scientists have been clashing with FDA managers about safety issues. See AHRP post at: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/866/9/.

FDA adheres to an irrational–95%–certainty standard before recognizing a lethal risk. How many bullets are needed before FDA would say, the gun is loaded?

FDA-licensed prescription drugs are the cause of a preventable epidemic of injury and deaths. 28 drugs that had been approved since 1995, were withdrawn after they had killed hundreds of thousands of people: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/870/9/#_edn17.

See, list of prescription drugs that were recalled for safety issues at: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/861/9/.

FDA-licensed medical device recalls due to safety hazards SOARED in 2012. (WSJ, Aug. 2012): http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/870/9/#_edn19.

FDA-licensedvaccines pose inherent risks of harm—the law identifies vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe” and the US Supreme Court (2011) recently acknowledged them as such.

FDA-licensed Vaccines are not tested against inert placebo controlled safety trials—nor are combined vaccine interactions tested.

Severe vaccine safety problems are not disclosed to parents, and safety data is only selectively accessible for independent scientific review.

The US infant vaccine schedule is the most aggressive in the world–36 vaccine doses before age 6. What’s the rationale for vaccinating newborns with hepatitis B?

A neurosurgeon says: “Vaccinating millions of children with the hepatitis B vaccine at birth can only be described as dangerous idiocy.” http://www.heartmdinstitute.com/health-concerns/immune-system/danger-excessive-vaccination-during-brain-development and http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/870/9/#_edn21.

Vaccine manufacturers are shielded from all legal liability. Taxpayers are shouldering the burden of compensation for severe vaccine injuries. The US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) has dispensed close to $2.5 billion for sever vaccine-induced harm.

Autism has been declared “a national emergency” by US. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (2011) and its Chair acknowledged: “There is no question that there has got to be an environmental component here.”

Yet, no federal research has been initiated to identify the cause (or causes).

Read more about America’s Healthcare Crisis:

Part I: “The Whole System is Broken”: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/870/9/

Part II: What Do We Get for All That Money?: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/872/9/

Part III: The Untouchable Third Rail in Healthcare—The Vaccine Controversy: Core Issues: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/873/9/

Part IV: FDA, a complicit partner in crimes and corrupt industry practices: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/874/9/


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