More staff on leave as hospital reviews deaths, drug doses
Tuesday, January 29
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio hospital said Tuesday it has put more employees, including managers, on leave amid allegations that an intensive-care doctor ordered potentially fatal doses of pain medication for dozens of patients.
Mount Carmel Health System, which fired the doctor in December, said 23 staff members are on leave pending further investigation. It previously had said 20 employees — six pharmacists and 14 nurses — were on leave.
Mount Carmel found Dr. William Husel ordered potentially fatal doses for at least 28 patients over several years and doses for six more patients that were larger than necessary to provide comfort but not likely what caused their deaths. Nearly all were at Mount Carmel West hospital in Columbus.
The discovery raised questions about whether drugs were wrongly used to hasten deaths intentionally or possibly illegally without the patients’ families knowing, and whether pharmacists and nurses ignored existing safeguards when approving and administering medication.
Mount Carmel notified authorities and publicly apologized. It initially said affected patients were near death, but now says it’s investigating whether some received possibly lethal doses when there still might have been opportunity to improve their conditions with treatment.
The State Medical Board suspended Husel’s license, but no criminal charges have been announced. Husel’s lawyers haven’t commented.
At least eight wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed, alleging that patients were negligently or intentionally given overdoses and that hospital safeguards failed or were ignored.
Mount Carmel said it’s reviewing records of all patients who died in the hospital and were treated by Husel, and it anticipates more affected patients might be discovered.
Local authorities are investigating, as is the Ohio Department of Health.
Ohio pastor pleads guilty to sex trafficking of teen girls
By JOHN SEEWER
Tuesday, January 29
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A second of three Ohio ministers accused of enticing teen girls to have sex with them pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges that include child sex trafficking.
Cordell Jenkins pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. Another minister has already pleaded guilty, and the third is scheduled to go on trial next week.
Federal authorities say the men, who operated their own churches in the Toledo-area, paid teen girls for sex over several years and shared photos and videos of the girls.
Court documents have referenced three victims, the youngest being 14.
Jenkins was accused of having sex with two girls, one of whom attended his church, according to an FBI agent.
He had sex with the girls at his home, church office and a motel and often recorded the acts with his phone, authorities said in court documents.
Jenkins’ plea agreement did not include a negotiated sentence. His attorney declined comment, citing a court-imposed gag order.
Jenkins, who followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a preacher, built a large following and founded his own church that closed after his arrest.
Prosecutors have said Jenkins met one of the girls through Anthony Haynes, a former minister scheduled to go on trial next week.
Haynes began pursuing and grooming the 14-year-old girl in 2014 and gave her money for sex, according to court documents. He also warned her not to say anything because it would ruin his family and his church, according to investigators.
His attorneys also have declined to comment.
Earlier this month, his wife and stepdaughter were arrested after federal authorities said they abducted one of the victims at gunpoint on Jan. 5 and warned her not to testify at his trial.
Court documents say the pair forced the teen from her apartment, choked her with a cord and told her to take back statements she made to investigators. Attorneys for the pair declined to comment.
The first pastor to plead guilty in the investigation, Kenneth Butler, acknowledged in court last May that he had sex with two minors.
Butler pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking along with a related conspiracy charge and obstructing a sex trafficking investigation. He’s expected to face 17 years in prison.
Art museum delays decision on accepting Rockwell paintings
Tuesday, January 29
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — A board of trustees for an Ohio art museum has delayed accepting Norman Rockwell art from the Boys Scouts of America, fearing community backlash because of a recent report detailing the scouting organization’s problems involving child sex abuse allegations.
The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown had agreed to accept the estimated $130 million collection of more than 66 Rockwell works in September. Museum Executive Director Louis Zona said he decided to seek a delay after reading a news article in December detailing the legal and financial challenges faced by the Boy Scouts of America over sex abuse allegations, The Warren Tribune-Chronicle reported.
“We’ve worked very hard here to maintain a solid presence in a conservative community like ours,” Zona said. “We’re very proud of our reputation. Could it have been hurt by this? I don’t know.”
Butler Institute trustee Ned Gold, an attorney who has been involved with scouting for nearly 70 years, said he spent two years working to bring the collection to Ohio. Initial plans called for displaying half the collection at the Youngstown museum and the other half at its Trumbull branch in Howland.
Gold scoffed at the notion that people would be troubled that the Boy Scouts is the benefactor for the Rockwell works. The organization offered the collection to the Butler museum after deciding in 2016 to close a museum next to its national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
“I’m very disappointed in how Lou handled this thing,” Gold said. “I brought a Scout executive to talk about the child abuse thing, but he wasn’t listening.”
Rockwell, who died in 1978 at age of 84, once worked for Boy Scouts of America and created numerous Scout-related images for magazines, calendars and handbooks.
The initial deal called for the museum to cover the cost of moving the collection to Ohio and paying Boys Scouts of America $100,000. The organization later agreed to waive the $100,000 fee.
Zona said he is committed to revisiting the issue in a year.
Gold fears the Butler could lose the collection altogether.
“I’m bewildered by the view that this great institution of the Butler would censor this collection … because of the subject matter of the paintings and the ownership of the collection,” Gold said.
Information from: The Tribune Chronicle, http://www.tribtoday.com
GOP senator pledges insulin probe as Congress holds hearings
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Tuesday, January 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Republican lawmaker said Tuesday he plans to investigate spikes in the price of insulin for people with diabetes as Congress opened hearings on the high cost of prescription drugs.
“I have heard stories about people reducing their life-saving medicines, like insulin, to save money,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “This is unacceptable and I intend to specifically get to the bottom of the insulin price increase.”
Across Capitol Hill, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held its own hearings. Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has already announced a sweeping investigation of drug industry pricing practices, sending detailed information requests to 12 major manufacturers.
Although Democrats want Medicare to directly negotiate prices and Republicans prefer free-market approaches, they seem united in their disdain for the industry’s pricing. At the White House, President Donald Trump, who once accused drugmakers of “getting away with murder,” has backed multiple regulatory actions that include approving more generic drugs and an experiment to use lower international prices to save money for Medicare.
It all adds up to a politically perilous time for a powerful industry used to setting its own terms. However, it’s still unclear whether lawmakers in the end will be able to agree on a plan of action.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America points to research suggesting that price spikes of a few years ago have eased. Government price regulation will stifle innovation and deprive patients of timely access to innovative medications, the industry warns.
Insulin to treat diabetes is a particularly sensitive issue, since patients depend on the drug to try to maintain normal blood sugar and forestall complications of the disease, from heart problems to blindness and amputations. As yet there’s no effective generic competition to brand insulin costing hundreds of dollars a month.
A handful of companies dominate the insulin market, including Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly, which formerly employed U.S. health secretary Alex Azar as a high-ranking executive.
The American Medical Association has called on the government to investigate rising prices for insulin, which saw a nearly 200 percent increase from 2002-2013, according to the physician group.
Kathy Sego of Madison, Indiana, told the Finance panel how her college-student son got seriously ill cutting his insulin dose by three-fourths to save the family money. “I’m heartbroken to know that my son felt he was a financial burden to us,” said Sego. “Money over life is not the choice I want him to make.”
At the House hearing, Antroinette Worsham of Ohio told lawmakers of losing a daughter who was in her early 20s and had been rationing insulin because she couldn’t afford the cost. A surviving daughter also has diabetes. “I fear the same thing will happen,” Worsham said.
Drugmaker Sanofi said in a statement that it understands that some patients are angry because they have not benefited from discounts negotiated with insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. Sanofi said it is cooperating with lawmakers.
Grassley is an old adversary of the drug industry, having previously battled the companies over safety problems and pricing for government programs like Medicaid. Together with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, he also investigated the pricing of Sovaldi, a costly breakthrough medication for hepatitis C.
Grassley has returned to the chairmanship of the Finance panel after heading up the Senate Judiciary Committee. Finance has jurisdiction over the government’s major health care programs.
Grassley said drugmakers have been cool to his requests to testify in public before the panel.
“I want to express my displeasure at the lack of cooperation from the pharmaceutical manufacturers,” he said.
Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said Finance won’t hesitate to use its subpoena power.
Despite the tough talk, Grassley’s opening statement underscored just how far he and most Republicans remain from Democrats like Cummings on policy ideas.
Grassley issued a call for greater public accounting of how pharmaceutical companies set their prices, and he endorsed the Trump administration’s move to require drugmakers to disclose prices in advertising. Cummings is pushing a package of bills that would empower Medicare to directly negotiate prices, open up generic competition to drugs deemed “excessively priced,” and allow consumers to import lower-cost medications from Canada.
“There is a strong bipartisan consensus that we must do something to rein in out-of-control price increases,” said Cummings.
Consumer concerns are focused on brand-name drugs, particularly new medications that promise breakthrough results. Generics account for nearly 90 percent of prescriptions filled, but brand-name drugs account for more than 70 percent of the spending.
The hearings come as prices for brand-name drugs continue to rise, although data shows the total number of price hikes is somewhat lower than at the same time last year, and the overall percentage increase isn’t as steep.
The Environmental Impact Of Pharmaceuticals In Our Water Is Your Tap Water Really Safe To Drink?
January 28, 2019
When you pour yourself a glass of water from the tap, you think it’s clean. But is it? There could be traces of pharmaceuticals in your drinking water and you wouldn’t know it.
Because modern water treatment centers can filter almost all toxins from our water, we think it’s safe. But since it doesn’t remove 100 percent, the concern grows for the presence of pharmaceuticals, which can affect your health and environment.
What Is Pharmaceutical Pollution?
Also called drug pollution, pharmaceutical pollution is pollution in water used in industry and environment that maintains the presence of prescription or over-the-counter drugs and medications.
Where It’s Coming From
Traces of pharmaceuticals and common drugs in our water aren’t new. For years researchers found traces of prescription and over-the-counter medications like antibiotics, painkillers and antidepressants in lakes and streams.
One study found even Lake Michigan’s high water volume couldn’t completely dilute the presence of chemicals.
These damaging pharmaceutical compounds mostly come from human or animal urine and waste or improper disposal.
Why It’s An Issue
Impacts on the Environment
Unable to detect some pharmaceutical chemicals and compounds, water filtration facilities can enable these pollutants to leach into our water. When pollutants get into our water, they affect the quality of our lakes, streams and rivers.
Pharmaceutical pollutants also find ways to wildlife. Fish and other aquatic wildlife remain at a high risk for biological imbalances and changes from pharmaceutical pollution. It may cause a wipe out of some species.
Impacts on Health
If we don’t take precaution, pharmaceutical pollution can also affect our health.
When we consume animals and products exposed to this pollution, we too ingest the pharmaceuticals. Though the dosage may fall at different levels, the compounding of chemicals in our drinking water over time can disrupt how our body works and functions on a daily basis. Water treatment facilities can remove around 95 to 98 percent of the pharmaceuticals found in our water, but the untreated three to five percent remains a mystery in terms of our health.
Our development and growth processes could change, resulting in diseases and other chronic health conditions. And, with increased exposure to certain medications like antibiotics, the bacteria killed by those medicines may become resistant, making them ineffective
Though research is inconclusive on this issue and research is still underway, many people want to know what we can do.
What You Can Do
Help stop pharmaceutical water pollution before it gets worse and keep our environment sustainable by minimizing your footprint with the following habits:
Prevent medications from ending up in our water by not flushing them down the toilet.
Find a Quality Filter
Owning a water filter designed to filter certain chemicals and toxins from your drinking water can decrease the chance of pharmaceuticals making their ways into your home. You can get a pitcher or find one that attaches right to your sink.
Reduce Buying in Bulk
Though buying more to save money may appeal to your frugality, most pills from big bottles expire and get thrown out. Throwing medications away gives them the potential to end up in our water.
Take It Back
Many communities have programs that allow certain drugs and medications to be taken back on certain days.
Support Legislation and Groups
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works to increase education and regulations surrounding the production of environmentally friendly pharmaceuticals easily used by the body and the environment. Supporting the EPA and other organizations that put pressure on pharmaceutical manufacturers to make changes is something we can all do.
No matter how little you may be exposed, pharmaceutical pollution in our drinking water is a serious issue. Thankfully, there are measures we can take to save our health and our environment.
Emily Folk is the editor of Conservation Folks. She writes on topics of sustainability, conservation and green technology.
Flights canceled, offices close amid frigid Midwest weather
By BLAKE NICHOLSON
Wednesday, January 30
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures on Wednesday, triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses, and the canceling of more than 1,500 flights from Chicago’s airports. The cold even prompted the U.S. Postal Service to suspend mail delivery to a wide swath of the region.
Many normal activities shut down and residents huddled inside as the National Weather Service forecast plunging temperatures from one of the coldest air masses in years. The bitter cold is the result of a split in the polar vortex that allowed temperatures to drop much farther south than normal.
In Chicago, temperatures were still dropping after plunging early Wednesday to minus 19 degrees (negative 28 Celsius), breaking the day’s previous record low set in 1966. Snowplows were idled overnight in southwestern Minnesota, where temperatures dropped to negative 29 degrees (negative 34 Celsius). And the temperature in Fargo, North Dakota, was 31 degrees below zero (negative 35 Celsius).
In addition to the flight cancelations in Chicago at O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport, the extreme cold prompted Amtrak to cancel all trains into and out of Chicago.
Officials throughout the region were focused on protecting vulnerable people from the cold, including the homeless, seniors and those living in substandard housing. Some buses were turned into mobile warming shelters to help the homeless in Chicago.
Governors in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan declared emergencies as the worst of the cold threatened on Wednesday. In Chicago, major attractions closed because of the bitter cold, including the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Art Institute and the Field Museum.
“These (conditions) are actually a public health risk and you need to treat it appropriately,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday. “They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures.”
A wind chill of minus 25 (negative 32 degrees Celsius) can freeze skin within 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.
In Michigan, homeless shelters in Lansing were becoming “overloaded,” Mayor Andy Schor said. They also were filling up in Detroit.
“People don’t want to be out there right now,” said Brennan Ellis, 53, who is staying at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.
Detroit’s outlook was for Wednesday overnight lows around minus 12 (negative 24 degrees Celsius), with wind chills dropping to minus 35 (negative 37 degrees Celsius).
At least four deaths were linked to the weather system Tuesday, including a man struck and killed by a snow plow in the Chicago area, a young couple whose SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern Indiana and a Milwaukee man found frozen to death in a garage.
A popular saying goes: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat …” will stop the mail from being delivered. But extreme cold will on Wednesday.
The U.S. Postal Service said it would suspend mail delivery on Wednesday in parts or all of several Midwest states including North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
Hawaii native Charles Henry, 54, was staying at a shelter in St. Paul, Minnesota, and said he was grateful to have a place to stay out of the cold.
“That wind chill out there is not even a joke,” he said. “I feel sorry for anybody that has to stay outside.”
Chicago was turning five buses into makeshift warming centers moving around the city, some with nurses aboard, to encourage the homeless to come in from the cold.
“We’re bringing the warming shelters to them, so they can stay near all of their stuff and still warm up,” said Cristina Villarreal, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Family and Support Services.
Shelters, churches and city departments in Detroit worked together to help get vulnerable people out of the cold, offering the message to those who refused help that “you’re going to freeze or lose a limb,” said Terra DeFoe, a senior adviser to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Hundreds of public schools and several large universities from North Dakota to Pennsylvania canceled classes Tuesday or planned to do so Wednesday.
American Indian tribes in the Upper Midwest were doing what they could to help members in need with heating supplies. The extreme cold was “a scary situation,” because much of the housing is of poor quality, said Chris Fairbanks, energy assistance program manager for the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota.
The cold weather was even affecting beer deliveries, with a pair of western Wisconsin distributors saying they would delay or suspend shipments for fear that beer would freeze in their trucks.
But it wasn’t stopping one of America’s most formidable endurance tests, however — the three-day Arrowhead 135 was going on as scheduled in northeastern Minnesota. Competitors can cover the race route by bicycle, cross-country skis or just running.
The cold is attributed to a sudden warming far above the North Pole. A blast of warm air from misplaced Moroccan heat last month made the normally super chilly air temperatures above the North Pole rapidly increase. That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research.
One of those polar vortex pieces is responsible for the subzero temperatures across the Midwest this week.
Associated Press reporters Caryn Rousseau and Don Babwin in Chicago; Corey Williams, David Runk and Mike Householder in Detroit; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; and Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis contributed to this report. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein also contributed.