Medication error melts woman’s face

There are medication errors and then there are medication errors that melt your face.

Khaliah Shaw, 26, said in 2014 she went to a doctor because she felt depressed and received a prescription for the anti-seizure medication lamotrigine. The drug is often marketed in the U.S. as  Lamictal.

A pending lawsuit by her claims she received the wrong dosage of the medication, 11Alive reports. Sometimes anti-seizure medication is used to treat bipolar illness.

Khaliah Shaw found herself in a coma after being given the wrong strength of prescription for her bipolar disorder. Photo courtesy of Khaliah Shaw.

“The goal to spread awareness as much as I can,” Shaw told The Palm Beach Post on Tuesday. “It is difficult being in the spotlight, but I think it is worth it if it means someone is more educated about the medication that they are taking.”

She is not alone. People are suing pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for aggressively promoting Lamictal without fully disclosing its risk of the drug.

The pharmaceutical giant in July 2012 pleaded guilty to criminal negligent charges and paid $3 billion to resolve allegations of fraud and failure to report product safety data for Lamictal.

For Khaliah, after two weeks of using the medication, blisters broke out all of her body.

(WARNING: Graphic Photo)-Read more below

 

“I was in excruciating pain. It felt like I was on fire,” the Georgia woman told Atlanta television station 11Alive. “It essentially causes your body to burn from the inside out and you pretty much just melt.”

She was diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome a rare serious skin disorder that is often caused by an allergic reaction to medication. She went from looking like a young vibrant young woman to something out resembling a burn victim.

“I didn’t have to have people staring at me or wondering why I look different,” she said. “Three years ago, my life changed forever.”

Shaw spent five weeks in a medically induced coma. During that time, her skin melted off.

“They’re telling me this could happen again, and they’re telling me if it did happen again, that it would be worse,” said Shaw.

Shaw’s medical bills have reached more than $3.45 million.

“I never heard of Steven Johnson Syndrome until I was in the hospital with my skin melting off of my body. That’s when I learned what it was,” she told 11Alive. “It’s a lesson she says no one should have to learn. “It’s important to know what’s in your body.”

She wants to get the word out to people to be careful about medications.

You can read more about Shaw’s story at her web page including photos at the Journey of a Butterfly by clicking here.

Or read the whole 11Alive report by clicking here.

(Feature photo provided by Khalia Shaw).

Trauma center, certificate of need bills die in Legislature again

This was the year that Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans in the Florida Legislature delivered on all their talk about opening up competition in health care. Like with medical marijuana legislation, it was a big failure.

One only needs to see every other billboard on Interstate 95 to realize the hospitals are in an all out war for patients in areas of heart surgery and maternity care. But Scott and House Republicans wanted to open up it even more in some very troublesome areas, critics said.

They wanted to add trauma centers across the state and to eliminate the requirement that hospitals prove community need before expanding into an area of practice.

Both bills (HB 7 and HB1077) died on Friday when the Senate refused to take them up. This is not the first time that Scott, a former health-care executive, has tried to get rid of these regulations.

This blog explored both issues during the session that also saw lawmakers fail to implement voter-mandated medical marijuana laws. 

When comes to specialized hospitals programs and trauma, hospitals need as many patients as they can get so they can perfect the practice. You know, brain injury and pediatric heart surgery are not exactly easy.

Governor Rick Scott holds a brief press conference at Palm Beach International Airport announcing his order for Florida National Guard recruiters to work from nearby armories after attacks in Tennessee on July 18, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Governor Rick Scott wants to eliminate the need for hospitals to prove a community needs them to expand.

Trauma centers are no different.

Scott called for getting rid of a limit of 44 trauma centers statewide. Right now, Palm Beach County has two level-one trauma centers: St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Beach Medical Center.

Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center, told The Post earlier this year that it is important to limit the number of trauma centers.

“Can you imagine coming to a center and you have traumatic brain injury and the neurosurgeons only do about 10 operations a year? Are you going to comfortable there or do you want somebody who does 1,000 operations a year?”

Smoking: Cost of a pack-a-day habit? $10,000 over five years

When it comes to getting cigarette smokers to give up the habit, just about everything has been tried.

There are ghosts of smokers past, talking in public service announcements after their deaths from lung cancer. There are those disgusting pictures of autopsied lungs replete with the disease.  And there is the old standby of shame.

Now the Florida Department of Health wants smokers to consider their pocketbook and how much their habit is costing them.

Gov. Rick Scott proclaimed this week Tobacco Free Florida Week and his Health Department says a pack-a-day smoker in Florida can spend more than $2,000 in just one year and more than $10,000 in five years.

“We often discuss the physical and health consequences of tobacco. This Tobacco Free Florida Week, we also recognize the emotional and financial toll that addiction can take on tobacco users and their loved ones,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

“Pack-a-day smokers in Florida can save more than $2,000 per year if they quit. They can also live longer and more fulfilling lives.”

The costs go beyond just that for a pack of smokes. Sick smokers incur significant costs of course through treatment and hospitalization.

The Health Departments says the reduction in adult smoking rates from 2007 to 2015 resulted in approximately $17.7 billion in savings in cumulative smoking-related health care costs.

About 30 percent of cancer deaths in Florida are caused by cigarette smoking.

(Featured image by Mark Sebastian, Creative Commons)

Medical marijuana: Health Department must pick up Legislature’s fumble

So much for the Florida Legislature carrying out the will of people when it comes to medical marijuana.

Among the many “up in smoke” headlines was the news the Legislature failed to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

In the wake of the massive failure, Republican leaders were pointing fingers at each other, marijuana advocates were doing the same and a gubernatorial candidate was calling for a special session.

The lawmakers were not able to compromise on how many dispensaries would be allowed. Now, it is up to the Department of Health to implement the law. It created placeholder rules it published in January into a thriving medical marijuana market that could grow to hundreds of thousands of patients.

The amendment specifies that key regulations be laid out by July 3. The first patients are supposed to get their IDs by Sept. 3 to obtain the drug.

But the department’s proposed rules in January got an earful from critics at town hall meetings who said the state aimed to block patients from timely and affordable access to the medication.

The rules would also restrict physicians in treating their patients and undercut the quality of the product, these critics contend.

The Department of Health issued a statement Monday saying that it took the public comments at five workshops held earlier this year seriously.

“The department is committed to quickly moving through the rulemaking process to create a regulatory structure for Amendment 2,” it said.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

But while patients with these ailments wait, Republicans in Tallahassee finger-pointed at each other on Monday.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida, Senate President Joe Negron put the onus on the House for the bill’s demise, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran rejected the blame.

Photo: Creative Commons.

“If I were a voter I would be very disappointed,” said Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who sponsored the House bill to legalize the drug told the Tampa Bay Times. “They had a legitimate expectation that we would pass an implementing bill.”

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. turned gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is calling for a special session to enact the medical marijuana legalization amendment.

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” Graham, Democrat, said in a story by CBS Miami.

“Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

The two two advocates for medical marijuana in Florida — financial backer John Morgan and United for Care campaign consultant Ben Pollara also turned bitter.

Morgan, an attorney, said Pollara sold out by backing dispensary limits, according to New Times.

Pollara offered his own analysis of the Legislature’s failure in a statement Monday and tried to mend fences with Morgan. He said the House bill was partially drafted by Drug-Free America that banned smokable, edible and vapable forms of marijuana and required a 90-day waiting period.

He said he understands Morgan is angry, but the choices faced were “bad,” “worse” and “the worst.”

Advocates: Disabled take huge hit under GOP health reform

Advocates for the disabled say the House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act seriously threatens some of the most vulnerable Americans.

The website DisabilityScoop reports that advocates say the bill threatens home- and community-based services and other supports that people with developmental disabilities rely upon.

Photo: Joshua Zader/Creative Commons

“The American Health Care Act shows callous and dangerous disregard for the well-being of people with disabilities and their families and erases decades of progress,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, an organization that service people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The House passed the bill 217 to 213, allowing President Donald Trump and Republicans to do a victory lap that they had finally succeeded in destroying Obamacare. The measure though was roundly criticized by doctors, hospital and senior groups. It must still pass the U.S. Senate, which gave it a lukewarm response and promised to address its more draconian measures.

While the disabled take a hit, the most wealthiest Americans are big winners with the new legislation as it delivers a big tax cut the would redistribute billions of dollars to the upper tier.

 

How does it hurt the disabled? The many groups who represent them say the bill would institute a per capita cap for Medicaid. This means the federal government would offer a fixed amount of money for each beneficiary.

“These huge cuts and caps will likely put pressure on states to cut home- and community-based waiver services, especially those that are ‘optional,’ like personal care services and therapies,” said Kim Musheno, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of disability advocacy groups.

Schools also would be affected by the Medicaid shift because they are currently able to seek reimbursement for a variety of services provided to disabled children to a tune of $4 billion annually. That means money to reimburse schools for speech and occupational therapy, specialized playground equipment, and even wheelchairs is now in jeopardy.

Advocates for the disabled say House Republicans would allow states to no longer consider schools as eligible Medicaid providers.

To read all of the story by DisabilityScoop click here.

 

In the midst of heroin epidemic, enters new drug dubbed ‘Grey Death’

Florida, shaken to the core by an unprecedented heroin overdose epidemic, may now have to grapple with a brand new deadly opioid mixture dubbed “Grey Death” that utilizes several opioids and looks like concrete.

Mixing  opioids are not new, but West Palm Beach CBS affiliate, Channel 12, calls this particular concoction “the deadliest drug yet.”  It’s already killed people in Georgia and Alabama and it’s heading our way.

When it comes to designer drugs, Martin County seems to be a magnet and Sheriff William Snyder is well aware.

In August, a 19-year-old man high on a bath salt-like drug smashed through the front plate-glass window of a family’s Stuart home and attacked two people, police said.

Snyder says Grey Death looks consists of heroin, fentanyl and other opioids.

“They don’t call it gray death for any other reason other than the fact that it can definitely cause death,” Sheriff Snyder told CBS12.com.

“My prayer is that we never see it here, my expectation is the likelihood is we will see it here in Martin County,” Sheriff Snyder said.

The new drug mixture can be injected, smoked, snorted or swallowed. Snyder has ordered special gear for his deputies when they encounter Gray Death and other strong opioids that can be deadly simply by touching it.

“They will be able to cover all their body, hands, and feet and it will protect them so when they come out of that scene they can take it off, decontaminate and be safe,” Sheriff Snyder said

Read The Palm Beach Post’s coverage of designer drugs by clicking here and the heroin epidemic by clicking here.

 

Congress deals vape industry another blow – but battle far from over

A provision to protect mom-and-pop vape shops from an industry-destroying FDA regulation died in the current budget battle between President Donald Trump and the Democrats.

The Democrats were intent on killing any of Trump’s “poison pills” in the current budget deal, and while most of the attention was on the president’s border wall — you know the one Mexico was going to pay for — the provision to protect the vape industry became collateral damage.

The Cole-Bishop Amendment would have restricted the Food & Drug”s deeming” regulations to e-cigarette products sold as of Aug. 8, 2016 that fails to grandfather in existing products, whether it be devices or liquids. To get FDA approval for each product could cost millions of dollars and put many companies out of business, the industry says.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement that death of Cole-Bishop “delivers critical victories for America’s kids and health over the tobacco industry by rejecting proposals to greatly weaken FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes and cigars and slash funding for the CDC’s programs to reduce tobacco use.”

But while American health officials deride electronic cigarettes, there is little evidence that they are even remotely as deadly as traditional tobacco.

In England, health officials have promoted vaping and electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, but in the U.S. there has been a concerted effort to rein in the hundreds of small businesses that have sprouted up around the industry.

The vaping industry says the reason is clear: they take away profits not only from Big Tobacco, but the pharmaceutical industry peddling cessation patches and gums, as well as the government that heavily taxes cigarettes.

Read the Palm Beach Post’s investigation into whether health officials claims on vaping are legit by clicking here. 

Greg Conley of the American Vaping Industry vows the fight to roll back FDA regulations is far from over.

Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Industry, says the fight is far from over with a separate bill, HR 1136, sponsored by Democrats that mimics Cole-Bishop.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has also introduced HR 2194, The Cigarette Smoking Reduction & Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act.

“This budget is done with, but they need to come back in October and pass the FY 2018 budget,” he said. “The appropriations committees will likely start on that again soon and we will be pushing for Cole-Bishop or similar language to again be included.”

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi.

In the meantime, Conley warns politicians who carry water for Big Tobacco against the vaping industry. He said if Democrats want to motivate millennial voters to come out to vote against the party, then dare to oppose measures to protect this alternative to traditional tobacco.

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi, said while last week was disappointing, there are several avenues for the industry to pursue still in Congress.

“In addition to a handful of lawsuits filed against the FDA that are working themselves through the legal system, there is the bill introduced last week by Rep. Duncan Hunter,” he said. “That bill places e-cigarettes in a new category for harm-reduction products to move people off of tobacco-containing cigarettes.”

Want to save a life? Gardens man needs Hispanic bone marrow donor

The dearth of Hispanic bone marrow donors has a Palm Beach Gardens man with a rare blood cancer in the unenviable position of begging for someone who can save his life.

Manny Valdes says if willing Hispanics donors could just get their mouths swabbed, then he can possibly find a bone marrow match.  The test is free for the potential donor.

Manny Valdes with his two children. Valdes is fighting a rare form of leukemia but is having trouble finding a Hispanic donor.

The 42-year-old  husband and father of two was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in February. It is a rare form of blood and bone marrow cancer.

Currently, in the second round of chemotherapy, Valdes is in need of a  bone marrow transplant, but so far no match has been found for him yet.  Valdes works as director Florida IT Operations at Minto Communities.

The Gift of Life Marrow Registry, a national non-profit organization based in Boca Raton, operates a public registry dedicated to curing blood cancer through marrow and stem cell donation. They are appealing nationwide to increase Hispanic representation in the donor pool.

The Palm Beach Post reported in April 2015 how minorities fighting leukemia and other cancers have an additional hurdle in finding an outside donor to save their lives. Nicole Rivera, a young Jupiter mother,  spoke to The Post about the dilemma Hispanics have in finding suitable donors for a bone marrow transplants.

The mother of two ended up losing her battle with cancer after having to wait to find a donor for her second transplant.

Before her death from leukemia in September 2016, Nicole Rivera got the word out of the need for Hispanic bone marrow donors.

And now Valdes is playing the same waiting game.

Gift of Life says bone marrow is inherited like eye or hair color which makes ethnic and racial diversity crucial to finding donor matches for a greater number of patients in need of marrow transplants.

Because of the under-representation, 55 percent of Hispanic cancer patients and 75 percent of multi-racial patients are never matched with donors who can save their lives.

All it takes to become a bone marrow donor is a simple check swab. Once the tissue is typed, volunteers will then be entered into a registry for a patient currently or in the future.

People can request their FREE swab kit to become a potential donor at https://www.giftoflife.org/register.

There is also a Facebook page for Valdes: https://www.facebook.com/MANNYVSTRONG/

Judge gives doctor’s defamation lawsuit against CNN green light

CNN had the heartbreaking stories from parents who lost their children. It had damning statements by some of the state’s top cardiologists.

But in its zeal to shut down St. Mary’s Medical Center’s pediatric cardiac surgery program, did CNN purposefully fudge the death rate, reporting it was three times the national average?

Did the cable news giant intentionally defame the physician at the center of the program, Dr. Michael Black, whose photograph was splashed on television sets and websites with the headline: “Babies as sacrificial lambs”?

A Palm Beach County Circuit judge ruled Friday that a defamation lawsuit brought by Black against CNN could move forward, rejecting a motion by the network to dismiss it. Judge Richard Oftedal order 15-page order was built on a foundation of solid libel law that included a federal defamation action against CNN by St. Mary’s former CEO.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision. CNN intentionally misled its readers and intentionally manipulated statistical data to portray Dr. Black in a negative light,” said Libby Locke, the attorney for Black.  “We have every confidence that a jury will reach the same conclusion when CNN’s reporting is scrutinized.”

CNN’s attorney, Charles Tobin, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Oftedal’s ruling echoes another by a federal judge in Atlanta in February when it allowed the defamation case brought by St Mary’s former CEO, Davide Carbone, against CNN to also move forward. U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans found that Carbone’s allegations were sufficient to establish that CNN was acting “recklessly with regard to accuracy.”

 

Dr. Michael Black

Oftedal, in his order, repeatedly referenced the Carbone decision in denying CNN’s motion to dismiss.

The pediatric cardiac surgery program at St. Mary’s shut down and Carbone resigned following CNN’s June 1, 2015, story titled, “Secret Deaths: CNN Finds High Surgical Death Rate for Children at a Florida Hospital.”

As reported by The Palm Beach Post in several stories, the data used in CNN’s report that St. Mary’s sported a death rate of infants in the unit three times the national average was widely disputed by the hospital and the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. St. Mary’s said at the time that CNN failed to use risk-adjusted data in determining the death rate.

St. Mary’s, owned by Tenet Healthcare, said CNN missed numerous operations and procedures in its analysis.

Black has gone further, saying in court CNN purposefully manipulated the data in order to justify its narrative.

After the criticism, CNN published a story on its methodology as the statistics took center stage, overshadowing the parents featured in the story and a report finding problems with the program by the state’s Cardiac  Technical Advisory Panel. Black is the defendant in lawsuits brought against him by parents of his tiny patients who died or who ended up crippled.

Oftedal rejected CNN’s efforts to dismiss Black’s suit by arguing that the doctor was a public figure and that it was really criticizing St. Mary’s and not the physician. He didn’t buy CNN’s argument that the sensationalized headlines used in the story were just “rhetorical hyperbole” and protected free speech.

The judge noted CNN reported that Black made a “total mess of the babies,” juxtaposing the phrase with the doctor’s photograph.

 

 

Breakthrough: new vaccines take aim at mosquito-borne illness


A vaccine to combat the Zika virus is now undergoing clinical testing.

And in Africa, people will actually start receiving the world’s first vaccine against malaria next year which the World Health Organization claims will save tens of thousands of lives.

To work, the vaccine needs to be given once a month for three months with a fourth dose 18 months later. The three countries involved in the trial are Ghana, Kenya and Malawi and involve more than 750,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17 months, according to the BBC.

“The world’s first malaria vaccine is a real achievement that has been 30 years in the making,” said Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance which is helping to fund the study.

“Malaria places a terrible burden on many of the world’s poorest countries, claiming thousands of lives and holding back economies.”

The Palm Beach Post on this blog reported earlier this month that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has announced that vaccination trials have begun using an experimental DNA serum.

The trial aims to enroll at least 2,490 healthy participants in areas of confirmed or potential active mosquito-transmitted Zika infection, including the continental United States and Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.

“A safe and effective Zika vaccine is urgently needed to prevent the often-devastating birth defects that can result from Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci said on March 31.

“Evidence also is accumulating that Zika can cause a variety of health problems in adults as well. This trial marks a significant milestone in our efforts to develop countermeasures for a pandemic in progress.”

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released a report that 15 of infants were born with birth defects in pregnancies with a confirmed Zika virus infection in the first trimester. “These findings highlight why pregnant women should avoid Zika virus exposure,” the report stated.

The CDC suggest that because the full effects of the virus are unknown, all pregnant women infected with Zika should receive postnatal imaging and a comprehensive newborn physical exam and hearing screen.