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."
London, March 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -Exposure to social media marketing of unhealthy food could lead to an immediate increase in children's intake of unhealthy food with more calories, a new study published in Pediatrics Monday suggested.
With an aim to examine the impact of social media marketing of snack foods on children's snack intake, researchers of the University of Liverpool in Britain designed a control experiment which consisted of 176 participants aged nine to 11.
The participants were randomly split into three equal groups with each assigned to one of three influencer-marketing conditions: healthy food marketing, unhealthy food marketing, and non-food marketing, and shown artificially created social media pages of popular vloggers consuming different kinds of food.
The result showed that children in the group that viewed unhealthy snack images consumed 31.5 percent more calories from unhealthy snacks specifically, and 25.5 percent more calories in total compared with children who saw non-food images (the control group).
According to the study, even though acute experimental exposure to influencers promoting unhealthy food on social media revealed direct influence on children's food intake, healthy food endorsements on social media had little or no effect on them regarding healthy food intake.
"Tighter restrictions are needed around the digital marketing of unhealthy foods that children are exposed to, and vloggers should not be permitted to promote unhealthy foods to vulnerable young people on social media," Anna Coates, a member of the research team, said in a report published on the university's website.
Dhaka, Mar 2 (UNB)- It's finally that time of the year when we pack all our woollens back into the stash and bid goodbye to winters only to welcome spring. As we make a shift from cosy sweaters to cool tees, we also need to change our skin care routine. There is no better time to start prepping our skin for the impending (read: highly-welcomed) pleasant temperature but with sticky and humidity that lies ahead, reports NDTV. To ease your search, we have laid down a few skin care tips to help you decipher the change you require in your skin care routine due to the change in weather.
Here Are 5 skin care tips for spring:
Exfoliation is the name of the game in this change of season for your skin. Since extreme cold and rains may have caused a long build-up on your skin of dead cells, it is important for you to scrub your face and body once a week in order to remove all the dirt, oil and dead cells. A natural exfoliating scrub like sugar and coffee scrubs can nourish your skin and clear clogged pores to give you a fresh and glowing skin.
Protect Yourself From Sun Damage
Post spending months bundled-up in hoodies, mufflers, scarves and beanies, using a nice sunscreen is very important. As per various health and beauty experts, spring is the time where people complain of sunburns and sun damage. Since our skin is preparing itself to adjust with the warm weather outside, sometimes it is not able to cope with the strong sun rays that may result in sunburns or sun damage. Therefore, using a nice SPF may protect the skin from such sun damages. Better still, use natural ingredients to protect your skin from sun damage. Take your pick from a wide range of ingredients to make natural face masks, scrubs and packs to soothe your skin this spring; for example, mix masoor dal powder with milk. Scrub it for 5 minutes in circular motion and then wash off. This face mask will not only protect you from sun damage but will also help remove tanning and dark spots from your skin. Another great natural ingredient is lemon, which acts an excellent bleaching agent.
During season change, our skin gets extremely vulnerable to the extremities of the weather. Although weather is warmer in summers, but we don't realise that our skin is lacking moisture and needs to be hydrated. Drink at least 7 to 8 glasses or 2 litres of water every day; you may carry a bottle of water wherever you go. Alternatively, you can clean your skin with rose water after concluding your day and before going to bed. Rose water is known to soothe our skin, protect from the sun damages and hydrates our skin. Moreover, rose water has anti-inflammatory properties and can balance the pH of our skin. Other natural foods that you can apply to hydrate your skin are milk, honey and curd.
Use Natural Ingredients Rich In Vitamin C
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that helps keeping wrinkles and ageing at bay. Moreover, it helps the production of collagen, which generally diminishes due to various reasons like stress and age - extreme change in weather is one of the reasons too. You may use natural ingredients like orange peel, lemon juice, strawberries or blueberries to give your skin its fill for vitamin C. Make a natural face pack by taking 1 tsp ground orange peel and mix it with 1 tsp aloe vera gel and half tsp lemon juice. Apply it on your face and wash off once it dries off.
Eat A Nutritious Diet
Last but not the least; eat a well-balanced nutritious diet, filled with all the seasonal vegetables and fruits. It is because what you eat reflects on your face, and skin is the first thing that tells a lot about your eating habits. Add more fibre and protein to your diet so that you do not eat foods that are bad for your body as well as for skin.
There you have it; five important skin care and wellness tips for spring! Spring is the best time to plan outdoor trips. While you enjoy your time on beach or pool, make sure your skin doesn't suffer.
Washington, Feb 25 (AP/UNB) — With health care a top issue for American voters, Congress may actually be moving toward doing something this year to address the high cost of prescription drugs.
President Donald Trump, Democrats trying to retire him in 2020, and congressional incumbents of both parties all say they want action. Democrats and Republicans are far apart on whether to empower Medicare to negotiate prices, but there's enough overlap to allow for agreement in other areas.
High on the list is capping out-of-pocket costs for participants in Medicare's popular Part D prescription drug program , which has a loophole that's left some beneficiaries with bills rivaling a mortgage payment.
The effort to cap out-of-pocket costs in Medicare's prescription plan is being considered as part of broader legislation to restrain drug prices.
Limits on high medical and drug bills are already part of most employer-based and private insurance. They're called "out-of-pocket maximums" and are required under the Obama-era health law for in-network services. But Medicare has remained an outlier even as prices have soared for potent new brand-name drugs, as well as older mainstays such as insulin.
"The issue has my attention," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare. "Out-of-pocket costs are a concern of ours, particularly at the catastrophic level." His committee has summoned CEOs from seven pharmaceutical companies to a hearing Tuesday.
While Grassley said he hasn't settled on a specific approach, the committee's top Democrat, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, recently introduced legislation that would cap out-of-pocket costs at about $2,650 for Medicare beneficiaries taking brand-name drugs. One co-sponsor is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential candidate.
In Des Moines, Iowa, retired special education teacher Gail Orcutt is battling advanced lung cancer due to radon exposure. Although she has Medicare prescription coverage, she paid $2,600 in January for her cancer medication and will pay about $750 monthly for the rest of the year. She said it cost more last year for a different drug — $3,200 initially and then about $820 monthly.
Someday her current drug may stop working, said Orcutt, and then she'd have to go on a different medication. "What if that is two or three times what I'm paying now?" she said. "It's not sustainable. The country needs more problem-solving for the common good and not the corporate bottom line."
At a recent House Ways and Means Committee hearing, three expert witnesses with varied policy views concurred on limiting drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. "This is still the only program that does not provide that protection to its beneficiaries," testified economist Joe Antos of the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute. The House committee also oversees Medicare.
Before the hearing, the committee's chairman and top Republican released a joint statement unusual in polarized times: "We agree that the time is now to take meaningful action to lower the cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. health care system," said Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Kevin Brady, R-Texas.
John Rother of the National Coalition on Health Care is a longtime participant in national health care debates, and his organization represents a cross-section of interest groups. "There is a common recognition of a problem, and also a sense that they want to move something this year," he said.
At issue is the Medicare prescription benefit's "catastrophic" protection. Experts say it was intended as a safeguard but isn't working that way, either for beneficiaries or taxpayers.
Catastrophic protection was enacted before the advent of drugs costing $1,000 a pill. It kicks in after beneficiaries have spent about $5,100 on medications, under a complex formula.
After that, the beneficiary is only responsible for 5 percent of the cost of the medication, and taxpayers' share rises to 80 percent. The patient's insurer covers the remaining 15 percent.
The problem for beneficiaries is that there's no dollar limit to what they must pay. For example, 5 percent of a drug that costs $200,000 a year works out to $10,000.
Numerous experts also say there's a problem for taxpayers.
Generally, the Medicare prescription benefit is financed with a mix of government subsidies and beneficiary premiums. But in the catastrophic portion, most of the bill is passed directly to taxpayers. That neutralizes the incentive for insurers to negotiate lower prices with drugmakers. Catastrophic is the fastest growing cost for Medicare's Part D.
The administration has supported an approach recommended by experts that would shift most of the responsibility for high-cost medications onto insurers, while capping what beneficiaries must pay. That would force insurers to seek lower prices. But it may well raise premiums.
About 3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries with Part D coverage — or 9 percent — had "catastrophic" costs in 2015, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Of those, about 1 million had to pay their share in full because they didn't qualify for financial assistance provided to low-income beneficiaries.
"This affects people with serious conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis," said Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert with Kaiser. "People on Medicare can still face huge expenses for their medication because the Medicare drug benefit was designed without a hard cap on out-of-pocket costs."