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The dangers associated with metal-on-metal hip implant devices have already prompted thousands of lawsuits in Illinois and across the country. Now regulators are taking a closer look, ordering implant makers to further study the safety of their devices.

The Food and Drug Administration is primarily concerned with metal particles that may be shed into a patient’s bloodstream, causing heart, nervous system, or thyroid gland problems. The agency is seeking more scientific data on the frequency, timing, and severity of these adverse reactions.

Early failure rates and severe health problems led DePuy Orthopedics, a division of Johnson &Johnson, to recall nearly 100,000 of its metal-on-metal hip implants back in August. DePuy is one of more than 20 manufacturers ordered to comply with the FDA’s request.

It is rare for the agency to require additional studies after a product has already hit the market. But most hip implants were approved for sale before they were properly tested, resulting in serious consequences. Although it may be too late for some patients who have already suffered the debilitating effects of a defective device, these studies may help to prevent future harm.

Long before regulators stepped in, Illinois medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have been investigating the adverse consequences that metal-on-metal hip implant patients have suffered. Our hip implant lawyers will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of those who have been injured by a defective device.

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Many nursing home employees who provide critical care for our nation’s seniors lack adequate, affordable health care of their own. According to recent estimates, one in four nursing home employees do not have health care coverage.

The new health care law is supposed to fix the problem. Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act will require that all employers who have 50 or more full-time employees offer affordable health care coverage or risk paying a penalty.

A New York Times cover story sheds light on an intense lobbying effort by nursing home and home care agency executives who are seeking an exemption from the law. They argue that their facilities heavily depend on Medicare and Medicaid for revenue, but the programs’ low reimbursement rates make it difficult to provide health insurance to employees. When nursing homes do offer health insurance, the benefits are often limited and employees cannot afford to pay for it.

The cost of providing additional health care insurance to caregivers may fall on the families of nursing home residents. Americans already pay at least $17,000 more per year for nursing home care than they did in 2005. Even more charges could be expected.

But ensuring that nursing home employees have access to affordable coverage may be well worth the additional cost. Nursing home injuries are common, especially for employees who lift patients and help them get out of bed. Employees who lack health insurance are less likely to seek treatment for on-the-job injuries. They are also less likely to seek treatment for contagious illnesses that could jeopardize the safety of the residents that they care for

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The unfortunate reality of our healthcare system is that hospitals designed to help patients often end up causing them even more pain. Each year, preventable medical mistakes contribute to nearly 190,000 deaths and more than 6 million injuries. Among the most common mistakes are procedures performed on the wrong body part, hospital-acquired infections, and medication mix-ups. These are serious adverse events that have serious consequences on the safety and well-being of patients.

A new report by the National Journal shows that patients are being forced to pay for medical errors in more ways than one. Researchers say that as much as 45 cents out of every dollar spent on U.S. health care is related to a medical mistake. Post-surgery infections are the single most expensive cause of harm, costing $3.36 billion in 2008. Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, cost nearly as much and occur just as frequently.

Because one out of every three patients will suffer from a medical mistake, patients are literally putting their physical and financial health at risk every time they step into a hospital. Despite recent efforts to curb medical errors, the problem seems to be worsening. If nearly half of every dollar is spent hurting someone, the medical community needs to be held accountable for their actions. If these avoidable errors continue to occur, patients will be forced to suffer the costly consequences.

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For millions of patients and their families, the current health care system is woefully inadequate. Patients that rely on hospitals to treat them in their time of need are often further victimized by medical errors, injuries, and complications that are preventable. Some hospitals have attempted to improve patient care by adopting new safety strategies such as electronic records. But patients continue to be harmed. Where these hospitals have failed, the Obama Administration hopes to step in.

Federal officials announced an unprecedented health care initiative that pairs private insurers, business leaders, hospitals, and patient advocates in a cooperative attempt to eliminate preventable harm to patients. The goal is to save lives and money by reducing the number of avoidable mistakes the kill thousands of Americans every year.

After more than a dozen years of agonizingly slow progress, the new program aims to cut the number of harmful preventable conditions by 40 percent in the next three years. It also seeks to cut hospital readmissions by 20 percent. The results, if achieved, will be dramatic.

Not only will fatal mix-ups be reduced, such as wrong medications or wrong surgical procedures, but medical costs could be significantly cut. Although the work is funded by $1 billion from the new health care law, it has the potential to save Medicare up to $10 billion at the same time. Hospitals that improve care will be rewarded, along with physicians that meet higher standards. Ultimately, patients will realize the greatest benefit if hospitals once again become a place of healing rather than a source of harm.

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After more than a decade of efforts to improve the quality of patient care in our nation’s hospitals, the problem continues to persist. And the problem may be even bigger than we realize. A study in this month’s journal Health Affairs found that the number of adverse events occurring in hospitals may be 10 times larger than previously estimated.

Sadly, even the most extreme mistakes, such as planting the wrong kidney in a patient, are often avoidable. However, the solution is far more complicated than hospitals first believed it to be. Despite sizable investments and aggressive promotional campaigns, efforts to improve quality are still highly inadequate. Even the most recent reporting systems fail to detect adverse events and cannot account for human error.

The Institute of Medicine famously exposed the inadequacies of our health care system in a 1999 report, which revealed that tens of thousands of American die from avoidable medical mistakes each year. Since that time, little, if any progress has been made. Patients rely on hospitals to help them heal, and injuries that are caused by medical mistakes rather than a patient’s underlying condition disadvantage patients in their most vulnerable state. Until significant changes are made, hospitals will continue to be a dangerous place for patients.

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The safety of certain medical devices, such as pacemakers and heart valves, is under serious scrutiny. These high-risk devices may lead to serious injury or death in patients, and government investigators found that lax review by the Food and Drug Administration is putting the public’s health even more at risk.

The Government Accountability Office recently faulted the FDA for approving the sale of several high-risk devices without conducting a close scientific review. Patients ultimately suffer the harm of this oversight because these devices are more likely to completely fail or malfunction.

The watchdog agency found that at least two dozen sensitive medical devices were allowed on the market without being properly tested, including metal hip joints, external defibrillators, and electrodes for pacemakers.

The now-recalled artificial hip sold by Johnson & Johnson is one example of a failed safety device that jeopardized the health of tens of thousands of Americans. The FDA approved the A.S.R., or Articular Surface Replacement, for sale without conducting clinical trials. The faulty hip began shedding metal particles and disinigregating in patients, leaving some of them crippled.

Medical devices are intended to prolong a patient’s life, not further endanger it. Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm continue to advocate on behalf of all patients harmed by these defective devices.

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A better mood may put you at risk for poor health. New research links popular antidepressant medications to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Antidepressants increase levels of certain brain chemicals such as serotonin that produce a feel-good effect. But they may also cause a thickening of the inner linings of the arteries in the neck, which can increase the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.

In a groundbreaking study of more than 500 middle-aged male twins, researchers found that those who took antidepressants of any kind were more likely to have thicker blood vessel walls and narrowed arteries. As a result, they were more at risk for hypertension, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Although the effects of depression can be disabling, the association between antidepressants and cardiovascular risk is significant. The benefits and risks should be assessed on a patient-by-patient basis to avoid causing patients further harm

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Every day, millions of Americans suffer from acid reflux and the troublesome symptoms it brings, including frequent heartburn, chest pain, and coughing. Many of them turn to acid-suppressing drugs like Prilosec and Prevacid for relief. But a new safety warning by the FDA is causing doctors to re-evaluate the risks and benefits of these popular treatments.

The FDA warns that long-term use of so-called proton-pump inhibitors that treat acid-reflux symptoms may actually have adverse effects. Patients that take the drugs for more than a year may end up with low magnesium levels, which can put them at risk for seizures, heartbeats, and muscle spasms.

Children that take acid-suppressing drugs to treat acid-reflux symptoms may be especially at risk. Proton-pump inhibitors are a common treatment for childhood gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, despite frequent questions about their effectiveness. The journal Pediatrics recently reported that children often experience side effects such as headache, stomach pain, and diarrhea. A study of infants even found that babies treated with proton-pump inhibitors had a higher rate of lung infections.

Americans of all ages should be aware that these medications simply may not work, or they may result in serious side effects. More research on the long-term safety and effectiveness of proton-pump inhibitors needs to be done to determine if the risks outweigh the benefits.

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Women taking medication to treat heart disease may actually be putting themselves at risk for another fatal illness. A new study shows that women taking the heart drug digoxin have an increased risk of breast cancer.

In a study of more than two million Danish women on digoxin, researchers found that they were 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women not taking the drug. One possible explanation for the higher risk is that digoxin is used to treat irregular heart beats and heart disease, but can also act like the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen has been linked to breast cancer in older women.

The women with the highest risk were those in the first year of taking digoxin, along with those who took the drug more than three years. The risk appeared to disappear when women were taken off the drug.

Although the study does not conclusively establish that digoxin causes breast cancer, it is possible that the benefits of the heart drug may not outweigh the risks. Some women may be trading one chronic disease for another, putting their lives at risk

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It is well-established that preventable medical errors are far too common and prove fatal to hundreds of thousands of patients each year. Although it is encouraging that some hospitals have taken preventative steps such as patient checklists or automated medication dispensing systems, a new study shows that poor communication among nurses still contributes to a significant number of hospital errors.

A survey of 6,500 nurses and nurse managers across the United States found that nurses often fail to alert their colleagues when they see a safety measure being violated. About 85 percent of nurses admitted to working with people that took dangerous shortcuts, such as not washing their hands for long enough. But they failed to speak up to prevent patient harm.

The study also found that incompetence and disrespect among hospital workers also contribute to communication breakdowns. More than one-third of participants reported witnessing incompetence that put a patient’s life at risk, but very few actually voiced their concerns.

This data shows that even when preventative measures are taken, communication failures undermine their effectiveness. The result is a dangerous hospital environment that leaves patients at risk for harm.