Longer Looks: Fight Against Meth Labs Faces Drug Makers' Opposition

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The Fresno Bee: Locked In Terror
The Fresno County Jail has been a place of terror and despair for mentally ill inmates who spiral deeper into madness because jail officials withhold their medication. About one in six jail inmates is sick enough to need antipsychotic drugs to control schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and other psychiatric conditions, but many sit for weeks in cells without medication previously prescribed by private doctors, say family members, lawyers and psychiatrists. If the inmates do get medication, it's often at a lower dose or is a cheaper generic substitute that doesn't work as well, they say. … But the drug policy has raised costs significantly in other areas. Taxpayers spend millions of dollars each year on the inmates — above and beyond the cost of caring for them in the jail (Marc Benjamin, Barbara Anderson et al, August 2013).

Health Affairs: In The Safety Net: A Tale Of Ticking Clocks And Tricky Diagnoses
The tempo had been building since our clinic session began. It was a typical Thursday afternoon in February, and the din was rising in the clinic's conference room as our internal medicine residents traded patient stories and plans for dinner, waiting for their turn to present their patients to the attending physicians. … That afternoon, the most essential thing we managed to provide to one particular patient was a bit of extra time. Today I still think of what the consequences could have been if we had not taken that time. We would have missed the opportunity to intervene at a critical moment—and to save our patient's life (Dr. Maria Madonado, 8/2013).

The Atlantic: Why Doctors Are Reluctant To Take Responsibility For Rising Medical Costs
Medical costs are skyrocketing and a survey published last month in JAMA has us doctors pointing fingers in every direction but at ourselves. The more than 2500 physicians surveyed rested most of the blame on malpractice lawyers, insurance companies, healthcare conglomerates, and drug/device companies. Patients came next. Trailing the lot were the doctors themselves. Doctors' enthusiasm for cost-containment strategies that affected their compensation—eliminating fee-for-service reimbursement, "bundling" payments for the total care of patients, penalizing physicians when patients were re-admitted to the hospital—was notably lukewarm (Danielle Ofri, 8/14).

Mother Jones: Merchants Of Meth: How Big Pharma Keeps The Cooks In Business
The first time she saw her mother passed out on the living room floor, Amanda thought she was dead. …The empty packages of cold medicine, the canisters of Coleman fuel, the smell, her parents' strange behavior all pointed to one thing. They were meth cooks. Amanda (last name withheld to protect her privacy) told her grandparents, who lived next door. Eventually, they called police. … As law enforcement agencies scramble to clean up and dispose of toxic labs, prosecute cooks, and find foster homes for their children, they are waging two battles: one against destitute, strung-out addicts, the other against some of the world's wealthiest and most politically connected drug manufacturers. In the past several years, lawmakers in 25 states have sought to make pseudoephedrine—the one irreplaceable ingredient in a shake-and-bake lab—a prescription drug. In all but two—Oregon and Mississippi—they have failed as the industry, which sells an estimated $605 million worth of pseudoephedrine-based drugs a year, has deployed all-star lobbying teams and campaign-trail tactics such as robocalls and advertising blitzes (Jonah Engle, 8/2013). 

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