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May 2, 2007

The Downside of Free Drug Samples

Many hospitals and clinics have started banning free drug samples and stopped inviting drug company sales representatives because they say that free drug samples create more harm than good.

According to a feature article in the New York Times: "“The doctor will say, ‘Here, start on this, and let’s see how it works,’ ? said David J. Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, a research group at Columbia. “The question to the doctor is: If you didn’t have it in your drawer, would that have been your drug of choice??

Some medical groups and solo practitioners have also changed their policies. Dr. Jonathan Mohrer, an internist in Forest Hills, Queens, said he closed his sample cabinet in part because his office was overrun with sales representatives. “It was totally spinning out of control,? Dr. Mohrer said. “They were meeting each other and schmoozing in the waiting room — it was like a party.?

His office staff had to spend time arranging the cabinet, throwing out expired medications and rummaging around for the right drug. Patients were kept waiting while sales representatives were whisked in.

But there’s an upside to the samples. Using samples, a doctor can see if a patient can tolerate a new medication before the patient goes out and buys a 30-day supply. Physicians who treat poor people like to have samples on hand for them, and for uninsured patients.

Samples also provide patients with the convenience of one-stop shopping, said Dr. Hema A. Sundaram, a dermatologist in suburban Washington. “Usually a patient has waited some time to see a doctor and rearranged their whole working schedule, and then it may be another four or five days before they can fill a prescription,? she said. “They’re often busy, working people, with family responsibilities. I feel there shouldn’t be any further delay.? (Dr. Sundaram acknowledges that she is paid for speaking on behalf of drug companies.)

A 1995 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 11 percent of the statements drug company representatives made during presentations were inaccurate, and all of the inaccuracies were skewed in favor of their products."

Moral of the story from this article: ask your physician about the nature of the drug and why they're giving it to you as a free sample.

Bush Vetoes Iraq Exit Bill, His First Veto of the Year

After Congress passed an Iraq spending bill for $124 billion, with a timetable for pullout of overseas troops, last week, it reached President Bush's desk on Tuesday. He vetoed the bill, only the second of his presidency and the first of this year.

In a televised speech, he called the bill a "prescription for chaos and confusion," and said he had to veto the bill due to the timetable element.

According to a New York Times article that was printed in both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press: "Democrats concede they do not have enough votes to override the veto. But, speaking in the Capitol shortly after Mr. Bush’s remarks, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, and the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said they would not be deterred from pushing the president as hard as they could to bring the troops home.

“If the president thinks by vetoing this bill he will stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken,? Mr. Reid said. He added, “Now he has an obligation to explain his plan to responsibly end this war.?

The fight has been brewing for nearly three months, ever since Mr. Bush sent Congress his request for emergency financing for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including money to support his troop buildup. The next chapter begins Wednesday, when Congressional leaders are expected to meet Mr. Bush at the White House to open negotiations on a new bill. They are expected to look for ways to preserve the benchmarks for Iraqi progress that were included in the initial bill while eliminating the timetables for troop withdrawal that Mr. Bush has emphatically rejected."

Continuing ... "The veto, announced by Mr. Bush at 6:10 p.m., just before the network news broadcasts began, was quickly seized on by Democratic groups.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a group financed, in part, through labor union money, presented a television advertisement criticizing the White House and Congressional Republicans. The group also planned a series of rallies across the country. In the Capitol, several Democrats and Republicans said they were eager to find common ground on the Iraq spending bill and bring an end to the bitter fight.

“Unfortunately, people are getting locked down in their respective positions,? said Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine. “The White House wants to have open-ended latitude on how to conduct a war, but I don’t think that is simply an option at this point.?

Its Official: Prince Harry Will Serve in Iraq

Amid speculation regarding Price Harry's viability as a likely target to Muslim warmongers, he is now set to be deployed to Iraq this month with the rest of his Blues and Royals regiment as a lieutenant. Rumors are circulating that the prince's picture had been downloaded and sent to numerous militia groups, making his an easier target, especially concerning along with the string of attacks on British forces in southern Iraq as of late. Prince Harry's unit will be sent to southern Iraq.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (and printed in the Pioneer Press): "A Sunni insurgent leader told the newspaper that his group had people "planted" inside British military bases who were under orders to track Harry's movements.

But London-based defense analyst Tim Ripley said the level of the specific threat against the prince has been exaggerated.

"Once he's got his uniform on, his helmet on and he's in a tank, how do they know it's him?" he said.

Ripley said a decision not to send him would be a much harder order.

"It would be a devastating blow to the morale of the British Army in Iraq if, as a result of a huge amount of media froth, he didn't go on account of it's too dangerous," he said. "What do you tell the thousands of other troops, along with their families, who have to go?"

According to an AP Wire story printed in the Star Tribune: "
Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt said the decision would be kept under review, but he hoped his statement would end media speculation on Harry's deployment.

"The decision has been taken by myself that he will deploy in due course,'' Dannatt said. "I would urge that the somewhat frenzied media activity surrounding this particular story should cease in the interests of the overall security of all our people deployed in Iraq.''

He spoke after newspaper reports cited unidentified senior military officials as saying an army review was likely to lead to Harry being banned from the battlefield, although he could still do a desk job."

Harry is a recent graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and has been enthusiastic about serving his country. He will be the first royal to serve in military combat since his uncle, Prince Andrew, flew as a helicopter pilot in Britain's conflict with Argentina over the Fakland Islands in 1982.

The two stories were basically the same, the LA Times piece being slightly shorter, and a little more confusing about the nature of the threats toward Harry. The AP story, however, cleared up my confusion.

Despite Rumors of Chaos, Closing of Highway 36 Goes Smoothly on First Day

A section of Highway 36 closed on Tuesday for construction between White Bear Avenue and Century Avenue. After being publicized for months in newspapers, on the radio, and on television, most people thought that the morning and afternoon commutes on Tuesday would be chaotic. Surprisingly, it went smoothly, according to morning and afternoon articles in both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Reported and posted online after the morning rush hour, the Pioneer Press said "Motorists met today's challenge of getting around a partially closed Minnesota 36, and found that traffic on some alternate routes were chugging along." While many people were still skeptical about the afternoon rush hour, convinced that it would be "backed up forever," an evening post on the Star Tribune's website painted a different picture.

According to the Star Tribune article: "MnDOT's Regional Transportation Management Center in Roseville watched traffic behavior with freeway cameras during the morning and evening rush hours and concluded that most motorists were taking the posted detours onto Interstate Hwys. 694 and 94, judging by traffic volumes.

Todd Fairbanks, a dispatcher for the traffic center who watched evening rush hour via camera, was pleasantly surprised.

"I wasn't sure what to expect," he said. "The word got out there, well in advance, so people were aware of the closure. We'll be fine."

While many residents said they had steered free of the work zone, motorists passing through found themselves backed up for a mile or two on eastbound Hwy. 36. They detoured onto side streets, backing up traffic for blocks at some Maplewood intersections."

Still, many commuters anticipate the delays to get longer as the summer continues. From the Strib: "Rachel Franco, of Oakdale, predicted that the worst is yet to come, as people stop leaving early or later.

Meanwhile, John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory at the University of Minnesota, said it typically takes three to four weeks for people to settle into a pattern. In the first few days, people may leave early and try their new routes and then gradually try their old departure times on their new routes until they can't improve their travel time by making different choices.

During that time, Hourdos would not expect things to go "boink" and break down. "If that doesn't happen the first few days, the learning process is gradual and it will not produce crazy results," he said."

The section of road will be closed until November, a length of time that was (interestingly) reported differently in the two news stories. The Star Tribune said it would be closed for "months" while the Pioneer Press said "until November." Other reports have said "five months" or "six months," creating a disparity as to exactly how long the road will be under construction.

May 1, 2007

Mike Hatch Resigns

Former Attorney General Mike Hatch announced today that he is stepping down from his position. This occurs after a flurry of rumors regarding the policies put forth by Hatch in recent months. Since January 1, three dozen staffers at the Attorney General's office have left, complaining of harsh policies.

In a letter to his successor, Lori Swanson, Hatch wrote, "It is apparent that changes I made during my administration are unfairly being attributed to you. It is not appropriate that you should become the target of complaints involving my administration."

According to the article in the Star Tribune: "Swanson placed Hatch, who was accused during his years as Attorney General of being rough on his staff, in a top position with a salary of nearly $107,000 when she took office in January."

According to the shorter article by the Pioneer Press: "Hatch, a Democrat, was attorney general from 1999 through last year, when he ran for governor and lost. Swanson was Hatch's longtime protege and became his solicitor general, the No. 2 slot in the office. She was his hand-picked successor for the DFL nomination for attorney general last year."

Interesting about the coverage of these two stories is that they reported the numbers differently comparing the amount of people who have left since January. The Star Tribune reported it as "three dozen" while the Pioneer Press reported "more than 30."

Whats confusing is that, and maybe it is just me, but I wasn't aware that Mike Hatch was still working for the Attorney General's office, or exactly what position he resigned from. Is the general public just as confused?