Legislators Question Epi-Pen Price Spikes


Image Credits: Mylan (R), New York Times

Following up on my posting about why Epi-Pen prices have increased 5-6X in 12 years, the New York Times reports that a bipartisan group of legislators is questioning the basis for these price spikes.

As the medicine and injection technology have not changed in years, consumers have also started an on-line petition to Stop the Epi Pen Price Gouging.

Mylan’s virtual monopoly limits access to life-or-death medication and disproportionately redistributes public dollars for private gain.

Food Fraud – More Emerging Risks

fake rice image

Image Credit: Mauro Alvarees and Q Costa Rica

Just when I thought I understood the vast extent of food fraud, FoodLawLatest reported about another one: rice made from plastic. Rice is one of the cheapest foods available, so I had not considered that it presented a risk of economic fraud.

If someone is making a profit from selling a food, then there is a motive and opportunity for someone else to sell a counterfeit version of it. This problem is worldwide — from fake bottled water in China, to counterfeit Smirnoff vodka in Europe, to mislabeled seafood in the U.S. And this problem is not limited to high-value products.

Although some fraudsters are criminally prosecuted, some consumers who discover food fraud seek justice with class action lawsuits.

 

Why Have EpiPen Costs Spiked 5-6X in 12 Years?

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Image Credit: Mylan(R)

Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli isn’t the only one charging new prices for old medicine. It appears that Mylan, the manufacturer of the EpiPen, has increased the price of its emergency epinephrine injection 5-6X over the last 12 years, according to this article in Slate.

It is true that EpiPen can be a lifesaver in a food allergy emergency that causes anaphylaxis. However, this was also true 12 years ago, and it appears that the technology and medication have changed little in the interim.

So what changed? Marketing that turned this modest medication into a billion-dollar profit center. (Mylan offers a co-pay coupon for prescriptions, but many people still pay too high a price and risk their lives with cheaper and riskier ways to inject emergency epinephrine.)

Hopefully, Teva (and other generic drug companies) will soon be able to market a safe and (cost) effective alternative for the captive market of anaphylactic consumers.

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Tip Skimming from Waitstaff is a Serious and Under-Reported Problem

Food safety is about more than just pathogens and pesticides. It’s also about making sure that the people who grow, process, cook, and serve our food have safe working conditions and are treated fairly:

https://i1.wp.com/www.labor.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WageTheftEnglishIV.jpg

Image Credits: Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft (available at UCLA Labor Center website).

Tips provide a substantial portion of restaurant workers’ income. However, some management personnel unlawfully take some or all of those tips. Please see my new article about tip skimming in the June 2016 issue of Plaintiff Magazine to learn more about the under-reported problem of wage theft.

 

Shigella Food Poisoning Outbreak Closes San Jose Restaurant

October 22, 2015 1 comment

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(Photo credits: http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_28995979/update-dozens-sickened-12-intensive-care-after-eating; KGO ABC 7 News.)

The Santa Clara County Health Department has closed Mariscos San Juan, a San Jose, California seafood restaurant due to a Shigella food poisoning outbreak that has sickened more than 90 people.

What is Shigella?

Shigellosis is an infection caused by Shigella bacteria.  Symptoms usually appear within 1-2 days after infection.

How Bad Is It?

Diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever are common symptomsChildren and immuno-compromised people are most at risk of infection.

Shigella complications are rare, but they can be serious.  They include Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS) that can cause acute kidney failure and reactive arthritis.  

How Does It Spread?

Although no specific source of contamination has been identified in this outbreak, there are multiple possible sources of shigella infection, which is highly contagious.  These include:

How is It Treated?

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which can be treated with fluids.  Serious cases may require additional medical treatment such as antibiotics.

Why Should I Worry About It?

Shigella is prevalent, causing about 500,000 cases annually in the U.S.

Shigella bacteria are also developing resistance to many common antibiotics, which makes the condition harder to treat and more likely to spread.

What Can I Do About It?

Shigella victim Greg Meissner filed a lawsuit against the restaurant.  Given the number of people infected, more will likely follow.

Followup Re: GMOs and the Pesticide Arms Race: EPA Considering Testing Food for Roundup Residues

 (Photo Credit: zengardener.com. Trademarks and copyrights are property of their registered owners.)

As reported by Reuters and Food Safety News, the EPA is considering testing food products for residues of glyphosate, also known by the Monsanto brand name, Roundup.

The EPA has only tested for glyphosate in one year, 2011.  Although most soybean samples tested contained residues, all were below the exposure limit.  However, exposure to glyphosate occurs from a wide variety of products, so some consumers are concerned even about what appear to be relatively low levels, such as the 0.12 ppm found in the kids’ cereal, Froot Loops, and the .05 ppm found in organic honey.

Given the pervasive application of Roundup to non-organic crops and recent research supporting the hypothesis that glyphosate increases antibiotic resistance, testing for residues is a good first step.

GMOs Accelerate the Pesticide Arms Race

April 18, 2015 2 comments

No GMO (Photo credit: Liam Wilde)

I hold Bill Nye in high regard for all he has done to raise public awareness of important scientific issues.  However, I respectfully disagree with his love of GMO foods for at least four reasons.

(1) The Pesticide Resistance Arms Race:

“Roundup Ready” crops have been genetically modified to withstand exposure to glyphosate, the generic name for Monsanto’s Roundup, “the largest crop protection brand” in the world.  Farmers that grow Roundup Ready crops had every incentive to use it to kill weeds without apparent harm to the crop.  (From 1996 to 2006, Roundup use increased six-fold.)

The problem: Roundup “worked spectacularly well — until it didn’t,” because weeds have developed resistance to it.

The purported solution: crops genetically modified to withstand exposure to more toxic and persistent pesticides like 2,4 D, a major component of Agent Orange linked to numerous cancers and other serious health problems.  (Although some sources claim that the problems with Agent Orange arise from another ingredient, 2,4,5-T that has been banned in part because its production is contaminated with Dioxin, 2,4-D can also contain Dioxin.)

Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide contains both glyphosate and 2,4 D.  Question for Dow: how long will this “weed control system” actually control weeds, and when will you start selling Enlist Trio, Enlist Quattro, etc.?  Although using higher concentrations of more lethal pesticides may keep weeds at bay temporarily, over time, this overdose will only result in creating an even greater superweed problem.  Monsanto, Dow, and other companies that sell GMO seeds resistant to their pesticides profit from the pesticide arms race, but I have yet to see evidence that increased exposure is good for my family’s health.

(2) Farm Workers Exposed to Higher Amounts of More Toxic Pesticides:

Farm workers are routinely exposed to far higher levels of pesticides than consumers, which can cause these workers to develop acute and chronic health problems.  Choosing to eat pesticide-free foods is a market-based solution to getting off of the “chemical treadmill” and reducing their exposure.

(3) Higher Pesticide Exposure = Lower Fertility:

A recent study found that men who ate foods with more pesticides had lower sperm counts and fewer normal sperm.

(4) GMOs Feed Shareholder Profits; They Are Not Used to “Feed the World”:

Fun fact: GMO crops do not have higher yields than conventional ones.  But they do have higher profits for the GMO seed companies, at the expense of farmers.

If Dow, Monsanto, and their competitors dedicated, say, 20% of their GMO R&D budget to reducing the $1 trillion of annual food waste, why would we purportedly need GMOs to “feed the world“?  Because profits.  You probably can’t aggressively enforce a patent on public service announcements re: how to reduce food waste.

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