Maryland Touts new Generic Drug Price-Gouging Law

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Following Maryland’s recent efforts as the first state to enact a law that protects consumers from generic prescription drug price-gouging, local leaders and health care advocates on Tuesday highlighted the benefits of the legislation and urged Marylanders to share their personal stories about drug affordability.

The law went into effect Oct. 1 and restricts manufacturers of generic and off-patent prescription drugs from price gouging, or the “excessive and not justified” increase in the cost of a drug, according to a state analysis.

In July, the Association for Accessible Medicines, the trade association that represents America’s manufacturers of generic and biosimilar medicines, filed a lawsuit against Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Dennis Schrader, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, charging that the law was unconstitutional. The association said in July that the law was only protecting high-priced brand name drug companies and punishing lower cost generic alternatives.

In September, a judge rejected portions of the association’s argument and allowed the law to take effect. The association in a statement has said it plans to appeal.

“As a caregiver, prescription drugs are a big part of my life,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in a press release. Baker on Tuesday explained how the law has personally affected him and his family. His wife was diagnosed with early onset dementia and the cost of her medication had shot up from $100 during his earlier pharmacy visits to $300 in recent visits.
“You think about the fact that I have some of the best insurance as county executive. … I have resources, but what happens to somebody that comes in and can’t afford to pay $300?” Baker said.

Generic medications account for 88 percent of drugs dispensed nationally, and 22 percent of generics studied by the Government Accountability Office experienced an “extraordinary price increase” of 100 percent or greater between 2010 and 2015, according to the office of the Maryland Attorney General.

“I take care of patients, not laws,” Dr. Stephen Rockower, past president of MedChi said Tuesday. “My job is to make sure that patients get better, which means patients taking their medicine, and I can’t do my job when they can’t afford their medicine.”

EpiPens and Naloxone are medications that officials have raised concerns about recently — citing prices that rose sharply from October 2013 to April 2014. Prices of EpiPens had a 508 percent increase in price. Naloxone, a medication used to treat opioid overdose — an especially important medication amid the nation’s opioid crisis — increased in price by 553 percent, according to the office of the Maryland Attorney General.

“It’s outrageous that companies can jack up prices like this,” Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative President Vincent DeMarco told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “This law is a life-saver and we’re confident that the attorney general will continue to succeed in court with this legislation.”

Maryland joined 44 other states on Tuesday in an antitrust investigation of the generic drug industry. They asked a federal court for permission to file a new complaint to increase the number of generic drug manufacturer defendants from six to 16, and drugs at issue from two to 15.

“We have to go after it,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told Capital News Service. “We’ll see the drug companies collapse and take it to trial.”

Supporters of the legislation urged consumers on Tuesday to submit their stories to www.healthcareforall.com/hearmystory, a new webpage created for the public to share how escalating drug prices have hurt them or their families.

“As legislators, one of the ways we were able to fight was to hear the stories of individuals and repeat them in court by talking to people who could not afford the medicine that they needed,” said state Delegate Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery). “We need your help to make sure that the legislation works.”

By Georgia Slater

Senior Nation: Springtime is the Perfect Time to Eat Right by Kimberly Huff

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The National Institute on Aging recommends older adults follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines which emphasizes a variety fruits and vegetables, focusing on dark green, red and orange vegetables, whole grains, seafood and fat free dairy products.

Unfortunately, older adults are often faced with many barriers to heathy eating. Age-related changes result in diminished sense of smell and taste, difficulties with chewing and swallowing, digestive disorders and other chronic conditions which can influence eating habits. One of the most concerning change is the loss of appetite which results in decreased hunger and increased satiety (feeling full). This if often referred to as “anorexia of aging”.

Medications may also represent a barrier to healthy eating. Medications can alter taste perception which decreases interest in eating. Medications may also have interactions with foods, have diet altering side effects, impair digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Lifestyle factors such as changes in physical activity, changes in cognitive function, economic status and social isolation can also have a negative impact on dietary choices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides the following recommendations to help older adults overcome barriers to
healthy eating:

• Shopping on a budget: buy foods on sale – buy store brands – use coupons
• Options for people with difficulties with chewing, swallowing or digestion: fruit juices, soft canned fruits, vegetable juices, creamed or mashed cooked vegetables, ground meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, cooked cereals and rice
• Unable to shop – requesting assistance from family members or friends or use a delivery service
• Unable to cook: buy low sodium, pre-package meals
• Limitations with taste or smell: use herbs and spices to flavor food
• Decrease interest in eating: sharing meals with family and friends
• Check with Health Care Professional to see if medications may be affecting eating habits

Kimberly Huff is the Fitness Director of Heron Point in Chestertown MD.

Senior Nation: Beat the Nighttime Eating Habit

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Beat the Nighttime Eating Habit: Five Washington Post staffers reported, in a recent tabloid section, how they embarked on a 30-day diet by cutting back on their late nighttime eating habits.

They found that timing itself is a major issue. Our bodies metabolize foods differently at different times of the day. Eating more calories at night, as opposed to earlier in the day, is linked t obesity, increased inflammation and great risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The good news is that the Post staffers also found that the late night eating is a habit one has the power to change.

Here are some strategies they used to reset their eating patterns:

Eat Regular Meals: Not eating enough throughout the day sets the stage for nighttime binging. Give yourself a fighting chance for success after sundown by eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day. Also planning and even preparing them ahead helps so that you are not caught scrambling when you are busy. You don’t have to go with three square meals. It can be two or three meals and a couple of snacks or several small meals. The idea is to find a pattern that works for you and fits into your schedule.

Pick a Cutoff Time: Draw a line in the sand, picking a cutoff time to stop eating in the evening. About 8 or 9 p.m. seems to work for most people, but you can choose what works best for you. Ideally, it should be about three hours before your bedtime, giving enough time to digest your dinner, but not so long that you are likely to get hungry again before going to sleep.

Wait and Reevaluate: If you are craving food at night, instead of impulsively raiding the refrigerator take a 15-minute break. Check in with how you are feeling and ask yourself whether you are really hungry or whether, perhaps there is another way to find satisfaction. Perhaps a relaxing bath, brisk walk or a cup of tea might do the trick if it’s stress that is driving you to eat. In that 5-minute window, the craving might just pass, you might find yourself happily distracted by another activity or you might ultimately decide to eat something after all. Regardless, waiting a bit and reevaluating how you feel will allow for a mindful decision.

Planning an Evening Snack: If you tend to eat dinner early or your evening meal is on the light side and you regularly find yourself hungry at night, plan a small, healthy snack to eat between dinner and bedtime – some fruit and yogurt, a cup of soup or avocado toast, for example. The idea is to strategically snack to manage your hungry rather than let your appetite leave you vulnerable to random munching.

Set Some Ground Rules: It’s practically a national pastime – eating out of a bag or carton while sitting on the sofa watching TV — but it’s scene that creates a perfect storm for mindless overeating. To break that unhealthy habit, set some new ground rules. When you choose to eat something, any time of day but especially at night, put a portion into a bowl or onto a plate and put the rest away. Sit at a table away from the television and fully enjoy your food. When you are done, you can return to your regularly scheduled programming, better off than before.

New Easton Center for Nutritional Microscopy Offers Window into How Nutrition Affects Health

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A new business has opened in Easton which can help individuals gain a window into their health. Easton Center for Nutritional Microscopy at 10 S. Hanson Street in Easton offers its clients individual nutritional live blood assessments.

According to Aniello Costagliola, the certified nutritional microscopist with the Center, comments, “We are living in stressful times – with fast-paced lifestyles and toxins in our air, water, and daily environments. Diabetes, digestive disorders, and poor immune system function are among the top health issues in America today.”

He adds, “By gathering one drop of blood through nutritional microscopy, I can help determine such health risks indicators as vitamin and enzyme deficiencies, fat and sugar disorders, mineral and electrolyte imbalances, and air contamination.”

He further explains that when we contaminate our blood through what we eat, what we drink, or what we breathe, we can bring disease to our bodies. The Center’s goal is to provide individual assessments and proper education to help clients make important nutritional and lifestyle changes that can improve health and prevent sickness and disease.

The process is a simple one. Once the sample of a drop of blood is taken, Costagliola is able to show his clients live blood through a microscope. By using a Darkfield Microscope with a large computer monitor, he can show clients the properties of individual blood cells, including live white blood cells, which can be indicators of a functional immune system. By examining layered dry blood cells, he can gain a more historic view of conditions that have been developing over some time. Some of these indicators cannot be found using the traditional method of blood analysis.

The advantages of Live Blood Cell Microscopy are that many of these disorders and chemical changes can be detected earlier than standard blood tests, which look only at dead cells. Live blood analysis enables the client to see how his or her blood behaves in the body. Nutritional microscopy can help clients discover how the choices they make every day affect their overall health and well-being; see the effects of certain foods, drinks, and environmental toxins have on their bodies and blood; detect and prevent underlying sickness and disease; learn how to take responsibility for their health; and balance their systems by giving them the nutrition they need.

Costagliola, who used to be a massage therapist, has always been interested in helping people better understand their health. He adds, “I saw this technology and got interested in learning more about it. I was trained by Dr. Sandy Corlett of the Center for Nutritional Medicine in Buford, GA and became certified as a nutritional microscopist.”

His own health status has been improved by the information he has learned through the testing. Diagnosed in 1988 with diabetes, he has struggled with regulating his blood sugar levels. Since evaluating his blood, he has been able to lower his A1c, which paints a picture of his average blood sugar level. By simply introducing a series of cleanses into his life, he was able to bring his A1c level down and keep it regulated.

Costagliola states, “I realized that this simple monitoring could help people get well. Our body is a great machine. When God created it, he also created a way for us to heal ourselves.”

Among the changes the Center recommends upon review of a client’s blood are parasite and candida cleanses, liver cleanses, and changes in diet. In some cases, clients can add enzymes, supplements and probiotics to help balance their systems and enhance overall health.

To learn more about nutritional microscopy and the Easton Center for Nutritional Microscopy, call Costagliola at 410-253-9197.

Caption: Pictured is Aniello Costagliola, certified nutritional microscopist, with the new Easton Center for Nutritional Microscopy. The new business can help individuals gain a window into their health by seeing the effect nutrition has on their cells and how the choices they make each day can affect their overall health and well-being.

UM Shore Health Moves Forward with Telehealth

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A telehealth grant totaling $75,000 from the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) has been awarded to University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (UM SRH). The grant supports projects designed to expand access to needed services and specialists in palliative care and psychiatry for patients and their families in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. It is a collaboration between UM SRH, University of Maryland Medical System eHealth, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

Telehealth utilizes telecommunications and related technologies such as video-conferencing, image capturing and use of remote examination tools to support health care services, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. The expanded telehealth capability aims to reduce hospital emergency department visits, inpatient admissions and readmissions; to enable the early provision of appropriate treatment; to improve access to care; and to provide cost savings to patients and providers.

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William Huffner, MD

“We are grateful to the MHCC for supporting this initiative that will significantly enhance patient care in medically underserved communities in rural Maryland,” said Robert A. Chrencik, MBA, CPA, president and CEO, University of Maryland Medical System. “This grant will allow us to use the latest in technology to expand the reach of our clinical services and increase access for patients.”

MHCC’s telehealth grant project was launched this month and continues through July 2018. Funds awarded through the grant will assist UM SRH in the purchase of varied telehealth technologies, training for UM SRH clinicians and other users on the use of telehealth equipment, and support for UM SOM research professionals involved in the project.

“The MHCC grant enables UM Shore Regional Health to apply state-of-the-art telehealth technology to close difficult gaps in rural healthcare,” says William Huffner, MD, chief medical officer and senior vice president, Medical Affairs for UM SRH.

One significant gap in rural health care is caused by the nationwide shortage of skilled health care providers in key medical specialties. Palliative care and psychiatry are two arenas in which the scarcity of providers is a serious issue, especially in rural areas.

“We are very fortunate to have highly qualified physicians in both palliative care and psychiatry serving our patients through University of Maryland Community Medical Group,” Dr. Huffner notes. “However, the size of our region – five counties covering more than 1,700 square miles – makes it impossible to offer ongoing, on-site care at all locations at all times. The MHCC grant funding supports the expansion of our telehealth capabilities at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and the installation of telehealth technology at UM Shore Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and will enable us to improve access to care for residents of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties.”

The grant funds, for which University of Maryland Shore Regional Health has agreed to provide a 2:1 financial match, also will support research on the most effective use of telehealth technology.

As Dr. Huffner explains, “Experience tells us that with any new technology, it is important to study how it is used in a way that will enable us to develop best practices. This grant will help us ensure that we make the best use of telehealth by addressing a number of questions, such as: What factors about a patient’s condition make the use of telehealth ideal or less than ideal? What are the boundaries of telehealth, in terms of patient tolerance and satisfaction? With regard to palliative care, one challenge we have sought to address is how to include not only patients but also key family members in palliative care discussions so that everyone understands the care options. Telehealth may prove very successful in achieving that goal by enabling the patient, the provider and family members, including those at varied remote locations, to participate in a three-way telehealth discussion.”

“Palliative care is a critical component of the care that we give to patients. The telehealth program is an innovative attempt to extend that care to more patients and families, over a wider area,” says University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also the vice president for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “We are fortunate to have this opportunity to further collaborate with our partners across the state to help improve the lives of underserved patients and their families.”

 

Senior Nation Fitness: Time to Take Care of Your Heart

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February isScreen Shot 2017-02-14 at 8.12.13 AMand a great time to take care of your heart. The heart beats approximately 100,000 times a day to pump blood through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Just like other parts of the body the cardiovascular system is made stronger and more efficient with healthy behaviors like exercise and healthy eating and is negatively affected by unhealthy lifestyle choices like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and poor eating habits. Just like the rest of the body the cardiovascular system experiences age related changes resulting in less efficient blood flow and greater risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Institute on Aging reported that 40% of all deaths in people between 65 and 74 are related to heart disease and 60% of deaths in people over 85 are related to heart disease

Although age related changes account for some of the risk of heart disease, lifestyle also plays an important role. The World Health Organization says that modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and smoking account for 80% of diagnosed cardiovascular disease. Other risk factors that can be modified by lifestyle choices include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and obesity.

The good news is that cardiovascular disease can be prevented and existing cardiovascular disease can be managed by participating in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Exercise has been proven to play a vital role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that all people participate in 150 min of moderate intensity physical activity a week, to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. This would include activities that increase heart rate and blood flow such as walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike. ACSM also recommends that anyone not accustomed to regular exercise or experiencing symptoms that might be related to cardiovascular disease (dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain) consult a medical professional prior to beginning an exercise program.

Kimberly Huff, MS, CSCS
Fitness Director
Heron Point of Chestertown

Senior Nation Tips: Do Less, But Do it Better

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A recent Washington Post Home Section had an interesting piece dealing with people, in general, having a common sense of feeling overwhelmed, all of the time. This certainly applies to those in the “older” group.

The Post reported that, “We’re driving ourselves crazy trying to do everything, instead of identifying ways to do fewer things and a few things better.”

They offered five suggestions on how one might simplify and prioritize his/her “to-day” lists as well as to think through what can be  eliminated or integrated. And, perhaps most important, when they can say no.

Turn off your cellphone at the same time each night: The endless emails and texts that arrive on our computers and phones, 24 hours a day, are a major reason we feel constantly overwhelmed. There’s never a break in the action. The Post Home Section recommends that you turn off your phone and computer each night at 9:00 PM and wait until the next day to deal with whatever may have come up.

Manage expectations about having a clean and tidy home: No matter how hard you work at keeping your house spotless and orderly, it’s a battle you’re never going to win. So think about which spaces are nonnegotiable – those areas that you absolutely need to have clean and tidy – and just let the other rooms go. It will vary from household to household. No-one’s house looks like a picture in a magazine anyway.

Don’t try to attend every social event: Many people feel guilty if they are unable to attend every social event to which they are invited. It’s okay if you are not at every event. No one will think less of you if you are not at every event.

Find at least two things you can delegate: It can be easier to do household work ourselves rather than explain it to someone else (and then worry that it’s not being done correctly). We just do it ourselves.

But it’s important that we delegate tasks when we can, even if the person doing them doesn’t do them the way we would. Asking for help, is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of leadership and efficiency.

Schedule time to do something for yourself: Make yourself a priority. This is not selfish. If you don’t schedule time to do things you need and want to do, it will make you less organized. Block off time on your calendar and commit to giving yourself at least an hour or two each week when you are doing something for yourself. If you don’t give yourself a break, no one else will.

Senior Nation Fitness: Staying Balanced in the New Year – Part Three

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There are many systems in the body that work together to maintain balance. There are medical conditions and environmental conditions that challenge the body’s ability to maintain balance and increase the risk of falling. The good news is, there are simple things that can be done to improve balance and decrease the risk of falling:

Using night lights and eliminating trip hazards will reduce the risk of falling in the dark.

Being aware of obstacles and changes in surfaces inside and outside of the home, such as curbs, walking across grass or going from carpet to tile flooring. This is especially important when carrying grocery bags, laundry baskets or boxes.

Participate in vision screenings. Wearing proper glasses can improve vision and decrease the risk of falling. Bifocals can make it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces or climb stairs, remove glasses if possible.

Discuss all medical conditions and medications with physicians to determine if they increase the risk of falling. Also discuss symptoms that can increase risk of falling such as dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fatigue, numbness in the feet, and joint or muscular pain.

There may be simple solutions that will improve functional mobility and decrease the risk of falling.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults 65 and over participate in an exercise program that includes balance exercises a minimum of twice a week. Balance exercises should challenge static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) balance. Standing on one foot for 10 to 30 sec will challenge static balance. Marching in place or alternating tapping your heel on a step for 20 or 30 sec will challenge dynamic balance.

Exercises that strengthen the legs and torso and stretching exercises will also improve posture, allow for more stable movements and reduce the risk of falling. A certified fitness professional will be able to provide specific recommendations to improve or maintain balance. A Physical Therapist could also provide recommendations to improve balance if medical conditions are increasing the risk of falling or if balance concerns are limiting mobility.

 

Kimberly Huff, MS
Fitness Director
Heron Point of Chestertown

 

Senior Nation: Stress and the Holidays

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It’s officially the holiday season and, according to William C. Cox of the Baltimore Washington Disc Institute and Odenton Chiropractic Holistic Wellness Center, it also can be an extremely stressful and hectic time.

Making preparations for holiday meals, planning parties, coordinating schedule and shopping for gifts must be accomplished on top of everyday tasks.

All of these things add up and can really take a major toll on our minds and bodies.

These emotional stressors don’t just affect our heads, but also lead to physical tension, pain and a whole array of other health issues. When we experience stress, our bodies react by releasing the stress hormone Cortisol.

Cortisol is a hormone related to our fight or flight response. Although this response is our body’s way of protecting us in potentially dangerous situations, when activated repeatedly over a period of time, a vicious cycle in thrown into motion. When we experience repetitive stress, the protective responses in our body actually become harmful.

When cortisol levels in the blood are chronically high, inflammation in your body skyrockets. This causes all sorts of pain and muscle tension throughout the body.

One example of this that you may be familiar with is tension you might experience in your neck, shoulder and upper back when you are stressed or tense. Many people “hold their stress” in these or other areas. Then, to make matters worse, these aches and pains create even more emotional stress. Not only are you stressed out mentally, but now
are in pain. The vicious cycle begins.

Chiropractic can be a very effective means to relieve chronic pain, muscle tension, aching joints, headaches and other related problems. During this stressful time, Chiropractic care treatment can break this cycle, ensure your body is working properly and get you back on track of feeling healthy and less stressed.

Your Chiropractor may not be able to do your shopping, planning, cooking or thousand other things on your to-do list, but at least you can feel better and healthier so you can survive the holidays.