Washington, Mar 18 (AP/UNB) — As ominous music plays in the background, the narrator of a radio ad echoes objections from drugmakers by warning that a Trump administration proposal to apply international pricing to certain Medicare drugs would be a nightmare for seniors.
The one-minute spot is the handiwork of the Alliance for Patient Access, a nonprofit group that gives off a consumer-friendly vibe yet is bankrolled by the powerful pharmaceutical industry. It's also closely aligned with a Washington lobbying and public relations firm, Woodberry Associates, whose president, Brian Kennedy, is the nonprofit's executive director.
As Congress and the Trump administration aim to lower prescription drug costs, outside groups like the Alliance for Patient Access are seeking to sway the outcome. But not all of these organizations are clear about who they actually represent. Their names can obscure the source of the message and they're cagey about where they get their funding.
Yet even a small degree of separation can be valuable for pharmaceutical companies at a time when the industry faces stiff political headwinds. Drug prices may provide a rare bipartisan issue on which Congress and the White House could collaborate on legislation ahead of the 2020 elections. In a prelude of sorts, the Senate Finance Committee last month grilled drug company executives over the cost of their products.
Anger is bubbling up from their constituents. A February poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found nearly one in four Americans taking prescription drugs have difficultly affording their medications. Although majorities of the public trust pharmaceutical companies to develop new and effective drugs, only 25 percent trust them to price their products fairly — down from 41 percent in 2008.
Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the Alliance and Woodberry, described the nonprofit as "a national network of physicians that advocates for patient access to the medicines they prescribe."
Through the Alliance, she said, doctors "can share their perspectives about the benefits of respecting the physician-patient relationship, clinical decision making and personalized, patient-centered health care." It's no surprise, Hepworth said, that the group's backers include companies that manufacture medicines.
She declined to answer questions about the radio ad. The one-minute spot singles out for criticism a Trump administration proposal to gradually shift Medicare payments for drugs administered in doctors' offices to a level based on international prices.
Prices in other countries are lower because governments directly negotiate with manufacturers. But drugmakers have assailed the Trump plan, arguing it smacks of government price-setting and would lead to socialized health care.
The Alliance's radio spot makes the same argument, using nearly identical language. Under the Trump proposal, the ad says, "cancer treatment would be paid based on rates from countries with European-style health care, where access to new medicine is rationed and patients often wait months for care."
Tax filings for 2015 through 2017, the most recent available, show the Alliance has paid Woodberry's consultants more than $1 million. Brendan Fischer of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center said the transactions may raise red flags.
"Nonprofits are supposed to promote social welfare, not operate to provide a private benefit to any person or entity," Fischer said. "A nonprofit could run afoul of tax law if it is substantially benefiting a nonprofit officer's for-profit consulting firm."
Hepworth said Woodberry is a consultancy with a division that specializes in nonprofit coalition management and that the money paid to the firm's people represents a small amount of the Alliance's expenditures for those years.
The Alliance "files all of the appropriate paperwork with the IRS and takes the extra step of making available on its website a current list of its supporters," according to Hepworth. The link to this list takes a bit of searching to find, however.
The Alliance's money comes from more than three dozen associate members and financial supporters, which include several of the largest pharmaceutical companies. Among them are AbbVie, manufacturer of Humira, the blockbuster drug for immune system conditions; AstraZeneca, maker of the cholesterol drug Crestor; Bristol-Myers Squibb, maker of the blood thinner Eliquis; and Pfizer, maker of Lyrica for nerve pain.
The group's leaders are medical doctors based outside of Washington; those identified in the tax records as directors aren't paid for the one hour per month, on average, of work they do for the nonprofit. But several of them have earned tens of thousands of dollars in consulting and speaker fees from the health care industry, including companies that back the Alliance.
For example, Dr. Jack Schim, a neurologist in California and an Alliance director, was paid nearly $329,000 between 2015 and 2017, with the bulk of the money coming from Allergan, maker of wrinkle treatment Botox, according to a database maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Schim was one of the top-ranking physicians in his specialty for these payments.
While the Alliance names its supporters, it doesn't disclose how much each has contributed. Federal rules permit groups structured as tax-exempt social welfare organizations to say little about their benefactors.
Social welfare organizations like the Alliance also may engage in limited political activities so long as politics isn't their primary focus. Known by their IRS designation as 501(c)(4)s, they typically are civic-minded groups such as homeowner associations and volunteer fire departments.
The Alliance spent $13.6 million in 2015 and 2016 on awards to recognize dozens of members of Congress who, according to Hepworth, "have championed patient access in the Medicare program." The lawmakers, who are barred by ethics rules from accepting monetary gifts, are presented with a plaque and are praised in press releases and advertisements. Recent recipients include Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Tax records for the drugmakers' influential trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, provide a bit of insight into the Alliance's finances. The association, known as PhRMA, identifies the recipients of its grants and contributions. It donated more than $1.8 million to the Alliance between 2009 and 2016 and since 2016 gave another $215,000 to two smaller offshoots — the Institute for Patient Access and the Global Alliance for Patient Access.
PhRMA's largest single contribution, $1.4 million, came in 2016 when Trump, then a candidate for president, and Democratic contender Hillary Clinton rattled drug companies with their pledges to take aggressive steps to bring down prescription medication costs.
"Groups like the Alliance for Patient Access often act as foils for the pharmaceutical industry instead of advancing patient interests," said Steven Knievel of the nonpartisan watchdog group Public Citizen. "They advocate for policies where industry and patient interests align. But any time drug prices are on the table, they toe the line of their corporate backers."
Kennedy, a former top official at the Republican Governors Association, registered the Alliance in June 2006 in Iowa; he lists an address in Bettendorf on the certificate. He registered Woodberry Associates as an LLC nearly five months later, also in Iowa. Kennedy is the Alliance's executive director and Woodberry's president. The nonprofit and the business share an office in downtown Washington.
The bulk of the more than $1 million paid to Woodberry between 2015 and 2017 was for consulting services that Hepworth said ranged from managing Alliance working groups to the development and promotion of white papers, podcasts and social media posts. Kennedy also received more than $457,000 in reimbursements for travel, hotels and catering contracts.
Mar 16 (AP/UNB) -The latest U.S. research on eggs won't go over easy for those who can't eat breakfast without them.
Adults who ate about 1 ½ eggs daily had a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who ate no eggs. The study showed the more eggs, the greater the risk. The chances of dying early were also elevated.
The researchers say the culprit is cholesterol, found in egg yolks and other foods, including shellfish, dairy products and red meat. The study focused on eggs because they're among the most commonly eaten cholesterol-rich foods. They can still be part of a healthy diet, but in smaller quantities than many Americans have gotten used to, the researchers say.
U.S. dietary guidelines that eased limits on cholesterol have helped eggs make a comeback.
The study has limitations and contradicts recent research, but is likely to rekindle the long-standing debate about eggs.
The new results were published online Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and elsewhere pooled results from six previous studies, analyzing data on almost 30,000 U.S. adults who self-reported daily food intake. Participants were followed for roughly 17 years, on average.
The researchers calculated that those who ate 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily — about 1 ½ eggs — were 17 percent more likely to develop heart disease than whose who didn't eat eggs.
The researchers based their conclusions on what participants said they ate at the start of each study. They took into account high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and other traits that could contribute to heart problems. Risks were found with eggs and cholesterol in general; a separate analysis was not done for every cholesterol-rich food.
Dr. Bruce Lee of Johns Hopkins University, said nutrition studies are often weak because they rely on people remembering what they ate.
"We know that dietary recall can be terrible," said Lee. The new study offers only observational data but doesn't show that eggs and cholesterol caused heart disease and deaths, said Lee, who wasn't involved in the research.
Senior author Norrina Allen, a preventive medicine specialist, noted that the study lacks information on whether participants ate eggs hard-boiled, poached, fried, or scrambled in butter, which she said could affect health risks.
Some people think '"I can eat as many eggs as I want'" but the results suggest moderation is a better approach, she said.
Eggs are a leading source of dietary cholesterol, which once was thought to be strongly related to blood cholesterol levels and heart disease. Older studies suggesting that link led to nutrition guidelines almost a decade ago that recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily; one egg contains about 186 milligrams.
Newer research questioned that relationship, finding that saturated fats contribute more to unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol that can lead to heart problems.
The latest U.S. government nutrition guidelines, from 2015, removed the strict daily cholesterol limit. While eating as little cholesterol as possible is still advised, the recommendations say eggs can still be part of a healthy diet, as a good source of protein, along with lean meat, poultry, beans and nuts. Nutrition experts say the new study is unlikely to change that advice.
Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard University noted that most previous studies have shown that eating a few eggs weekly is not linked with risks for heart disease in generally healthy people.
"I don't think that this study would change general healthy eating guidelines" that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans and limiting processed meats and sugar, Hu said. Eggs, a breakfast staple for many, can be included but other options should also be considered, "like whole grain toast with nut butter, fresh fruits, and yogurt," Hu said.
Dr. Rosalind Coleman, a professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, offered broader advice.
"The main message for the public is not to select a single type of food as 'bad' or 'good' but to evaluate your total diet in terms of variety and amount.
"I'm sorry if it seems like a boring recommendation," she added, but for most people, the most important diet advice "should be to maintain a healthy weight, to exercise, and to get an adequate amount of sleep."
Dhaka, Mar 14 (UNB)- The 14th edition of an international motor vehicle exhibition 'Dhaka Motor Show-2019' had its curtains raised on Thursday.
The fair, divided into three segments - Dhaka Bike Show, Auto Parts Show and Commercial Automotive Show is arranged by CEMS Global and is taking place at International Convention Center, Bashundhara (ICCB).
Minister of Industries Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun inaugurated the 3-day long exhibition.
In his speech he stressed the improving of local automobile parts manufacturers saying that country will soon start producing cars at local plants.
He also credited Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's contribution for the improvement of country's industrial sections.
Dhaka Motor Show 2019 will see automobile industry leaders like Peugeot, Honda, Toyota, Honda, Haval, TVS, Suzuki and more showcasing their latest car and bike models.
The fair will continue till Mar 16.
Dhaka, Mar 14 (UNB) - Sushi Tei is not your average fusion sushi restaurant. So, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Upon entering, we were greeted in Japanese loudly by every member of the staff which is very unique in Bangladesh. The atmosphere was brightly lit, and it seemed like they could house over 100 customers at a time. The staff who was assigned to our table was knowledgeable about the menu and ensured that the food came promptly without any compromise to its presentation.
First came the appetiser: the Hanasaki Ika Tempura (squid) and Chuka Wakame (seaweed). This fried squid was different not only in terms of its shape but also the flavour. The smelt roe adds a burst of sweetness despite being so tiny. The seaweed also had a subtle sweetness to it and if I had to describe the texture in a word, it would be rubbery.
Next arrived the sushi and sashimi! The Mentai and California Maki looked neat and the portions were great compared to the price point. I cannot begin to rave about how delicious the mentai sauce is. The Dai Dai roll and Spicy Aburi Maguro & Salmon Roll were nothing too special. I didn’t like the idea of mango in a savory sushi on the other hand, the Spicy Maguro’s fish tasted meaty, smooth, and buttery for a fish but the other ingredients just did not do justice to such a fine protein. The Gyuniku Roll is what I saw pictures of the most on social media. The thin slices of beef had more of a teriyaki flavour to it which I loved! However, beef and mushroom, maybe too much meatiness?
One of my favourite dishes was the Salmon Mentaiyaki (Grilled Salmon with Cod Roe & Mayonnaise sauce). Again, the Mayo sauce won the show complimenting a side of grilled salmon which had a crispy exterior and a beautiful, soft, and pink salmon meat.
For the Chicken Katsu/cutlet, slices of chicken breast were served with velvety and satisfying gravy and a side of rice. The gravy was thick with an umami flavour to it and the cutlet itself was really juicy though it looked dry. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone who wants a safe option at a Japanese restaurant. We ordered a side of Spicy Fried Rice, too. I could definitely taste the spiciness at my first spoonful, but it was the good flavoursome spiciness that would keep you craving for more. There were enough crabmeat and chunks of squid, so you will definitely get your bang for the buck.
While Sushi Tei abroad is a place from grabbing a quick bite, in Bangladesh it is considered to be quite a pricy experience. Their prices range from BDT 250 all the way upto BDT 2400. What I appreciate from the franchise is that they have started offering Bento boxes and student meals, which are always hits amongst Bangladeshi consumers.
By- Ifreet Taheea
Dhaka, Mar 9 (UNB) - Travelling is fun, just like a breath in fresh air. My each journey is made of countless stories, meaningful memories and new discoveries. Exploring new things is the best part of my every journey. There are lots to learn while visiting new places. I am always open to new experiences, get to know the people and the culture of each new place I visit and all memories end with some kind of change. And the feeling is different, oh-so-refreshing!
Last year, I went to an incredible country `INDIA’ and explored four cities in Rajasthan and Agra for one week. But here I will share my unforgettable experience of my first camel safari in the Golden city ‘Jaisalmer’.
Jaisalmer, the ancient fort city is famously known as `Golden City’ of India because the yellow sandstones used throughout the every architecture of the city that shines like gold. The main attraction of Jaisalmer is to ride a camel through the rolling sand dunes of the Thar Desert.
When I first came across some wonderful shots of Thar Desert in my Instagram explore, they straightaway got stuck so deep in my mind.
My dream came true when I first stepped into the sand dunes. I was totally overwhelmed to see this dusty golden beauty.
Before getting into there we needed to book our camel safari. There are loads of companies in every alley of the city offering safaris. But I was lucky enough to get the booking done by our hotel owner. It was a great deal, only 600 rupees for two persons whereas others were offering 1,000 rupees per person. Isn’t it great???
Then I met my super cute camel ‘Bablu’ and climbed aboard for our sunset ride out into the desert. When the camel stood up, I was up high...YAY!!!
At first, the ride was a bit less comfortable but when my camel started plodding along I got to enjoy the scenery. During the ride, my little camel handler stopped us in the mid of the desert for taking insta-worthy desert and camel pictures. Click Click!
After one hour of riding, we reached our designated sunset point and sat on the sand to admire the sunset. OH! This was so beautiful, surreal and so romantic. I can never forget this magical view over the barren sand dunes.
Post sunset we headed towards the hotel. Though we missed the desert, safari camp under the sky was full of stars. I think, I will come back just to experience this desert campfire. All I can say, it was truly an incredible experience to witness this dramatic desert life of India. I just love every bit of it.
By: Farah Seraj