Farah & Farah September 2016 Newsletter

Posted on September 5, 2016

Zika Virus Tracked in Florida is Moving Outside of Miami

Nationwide about 3,000 people have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, most of those cases contracted while traveling to South and Central America. 

The Zika infection in someone who is not pregnant can create a mild flu-like reaction, fever, rash and joint pain or can be asymptomatic

Zika in pregnant women is a different story.  Babies born with microcephaly, or partially formed heads, are reported to have problems swallowing and with vision, hearing and brain damage. Some babies do not live very long. 

Florida is receiving the brunt of Zika cases where 84 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus.

In August, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced free Zika virus testing for all pregnant women. The problem is so many women responded that test results are backlogged and Florida forbids abortions after 24 weeks, foreclosing that option for some infected women. 

Zika is tracked daily by the state. Duval has eight cases of travel-related Zika, while St. Johns County has four cases.   Miami-Dade reports 194 cases, with 58 cases from bites from local mosquitos. Orange County reports 70 cases, while Broward County has 107, both are travel-related cases.  Cases have been reported as far north as Tallahassee and the Panhandle.

Eight individuals who live outside of Florida have contracted Zika with the infections reportedly occurring with a 1.5 square mile zone of South Beach on Miami Beach.   

In August, Gov. Rick Scott declared Miami Beach a Zika zone while the Wynwood neighborhood, just north of downtown Miami reported the first local mosquito bites to carry the virus.

One infected person from New York, one from Texas and another from Taiwan have had their Zika infections linked back to Florida. 

But those individuals will not appear in the Florida total.

The Miami Herald reports there are some concerns about the accuracy of state reporting because the state numbers do not include anyone who is not a resident of Florida, in other words, under-reporting the actual number of identified cases.  That is particularly egregious to tourists, says an expert in infectious disease.

It raises the question of whether a Zika case should be reported in the state where the person lives, or where the exposure occurs.   

Meanwhile, Miamians have been protesting the aerial spraying of insecticide, naled.

The European Union banned naled in 2012 over concerns for the safety of human and aquatic life.  In South Carolina, commercial honey bee farmers report the naled spraying killed their bees.

As a precaution, all Florida residents should drain areas of standing water which could include garbage cans, a bird bath or pool cover, to minimize mosquito breeding grounds. The Zika virus is carried primarily by an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Thomas Frieden, recently announced the government is out of money to fight the Zika virus and warned the country is “about to see a bunch of kids born with microcephaly” in the coming months.    ###

Sources:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/us/zika-test-delays-florida-pregnant.htmlhttp://www.businessinsider.com/floridians-worried-about-zika-and-the-insecticide-used-to-combat-it-2016-9https://www.cdc.gov/zika/,   http://www.miamiherald.com/news/health-care/article66790817.html

EpiPen Scandal — Big Pharma, Big Greed

The CEO of the Mylan Pharmaceuticals has become the latest poster woman for corporate greed. 

It’s the kind of publicity that no one wants.

The fierce consumer backlash is directed at Heather Bresch since her company, Mylan jumped the price of its lifesaving EpiPen from $124 in 2009 to now over $600.  That’s a 400 percent jump in just seven years. Bresch says it’s not the company’s fault.  Blame the healthcare supply chain system, she says. Bresch calls it “broken” and in need of an overhaul.   

Congress isn’t buying that.   An investigation by the House Oversight Committee has been launched into Mylan and Mylan must produce documents about the 15 price hikes EpiPen has undergone since 2008.

Fortunately her dad, West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, is not on that committee.

At least her bank account is not broken. Ms. Bresch personally took in nearly $19 million in compensation last year. CNN reports over three years, Bresch has made $54 million.

She likes to remind us hers is a for-profit corporation. No kidding. 

The furor might not be so loud if EpiPen was not a life-saver. It delivers a much-needed jolt of epinephrine to quiet an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen.

After the EpiPen scandal came to light, the company crafted a plan.  It would offer coupons to bring down the price of EpiPen to those who might rely on it to save their life. The company offered $300 coupons to users as opposed to cutting its profit margin, which went from 9 percent to 55% by 2014.

So customers, who rely on the emergency fix in case of an allergic episode, can clip coupons.

The company reports only about four percent of prescription users actually pay full price out of pocket. 

Price gouging has become new profitable predator in the Big Pharma field and the perpetrators are shameless.

Gilead Sciences, maker of Solvaldi, a hepatitis C drug, was investigated when the price of one pill rose to $1,000. A senate investigation said the company put profitability above patients and taxpayers pick up the bill through Medicare and Medicaid.

Then there is drug maker, Martin Shkreli, who joins Bresch in the Big Pharma Hall of Shame. 

He is the smug-faced 30-year-old who took to the airwaves to defend his company raising the price of AIDS medication, Daraprim, 5,000% in one day last year from $13.50 to $750 per pill! His company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, said the hike was for research and was fair.   

Consumers didn’t think so. Public backlash caused Shkreli to drop the price for a single pill to $375, still out of the reach of most consumers.  

Not surprisingly, Shkreli has injected himself into the debate over EiPen defending the price increase by Mylan Pharmaceuticals.  ##

Driverless Cars – Cool Technology But Are They Safe? 

What is the number one cause of death behind the wheel? 

According to government statistics, the answer, in the majority of cases, is the driver. So it makes sense, if you reduce human error, you will cut down on car crashes. 

That’s the theory behind autonomous vehicles, a generic name for driverless, self-driving or robotic vehicles.  This evolving technology is designed to detect the vehicle’s environment and react to a variety of conditions on the road. 

The forecast is that manufacturers will be filling the demand for robotic cars in major cities around the world.  Tesla, Ford, Toyota, GM, BMW, Delphi, Volkswagen and NuTonomy are all planning to offer self-driving vehicles within five years.

Even if you are not planning to purchase one, chances are that you will soon be driving next to a driverless vehicle. So, are they safe?   

Tesla has been in the news recently for two fatal crashes and a number of accidents involving autonomous vehicles. 

A Florida driver was involved in a fatal crash in May of this year when his Tesla hit a tractor-trailer that crossed its path. Because the big truck was backlit against a bright sky, apparently the camera in the car didn’t detect it, and neither did the driver. 

In Montana, a driver said his Tesla veered to the right and didn’t slow down after hitting barriers alongside the road. He survived. In that case,

Tesla blamed the driver and insists the safety benefits outweigh the risk, but the driver accuses Tesla of a cover-up.

Regardless of who or what is to blame, it’s fair to say Tesla is not entirely road ready.

Tesla now says it has incorporated six times as many information points per object as before. Improvements to autopilot now require a driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel for long periods of time and will send out reminders when he doesn’t. 

Still to be worked out – the rules of the road.  When an autonomous vehicle is programmed to obey the law, how can it know when to break the law to avoid a bicyclist, a branch or a pedestrian? 

Humans have judgment.  In an extreme situation they can choose the best of some bad alternatives on the road and they can make that decision quickly. 

One consumer group, Consumer Watchdog, warns these vehicles are being overhyped and there is not enough oversight, especially by NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The group is concerned the agency is taking a cheerleader role in promoting the new technology rather than a watchdog role of carefully and critically assessing the safety of the technology. 

It certainly is not the first government office that sides with industry over consumer safety.

Sources: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/09/11/driverless-cars-equal-accidents-tellusatoday/90239510/http://www.theverge.com/2016/8/30/12700290/drive-ai-autonomous-car-human-robot-interface;   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car   ; http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/29/heres-what-the-future-looks-like-in-a-world-of-self-driving-cars-commentary.html;   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/12/business/elon-musk-says-pending-tesla-updates-could-have-prevented-fatal-crash.htmlhttps://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=tesla%20accidents%3F;  https://electrek.co/2016/07/22/tesla-autopilot-model-x-crash-montana-coverup/

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