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"Let the Crime Spree Begin": How Fraud Flourishes in Medicare's Drug Plan

Medicare prescription drug fraudToday, credit card companies routinely scan their records for fraud, flagging or blocking suspicious charges as they happen. Yet Medicare’s massive drug program has a process so convoluted and poorly managed that fraud flourishes, giving rise to elaborate schemes that quickly siphon away millions of dollars.

Frustrated investigators for law enforcement, insurers and pharmacy chains say they don’t see evidence that Medicare officials are doing much to stop it.

“It’s kind of a black hole,” said Alanna Lavelle, director of investigations for WellPoint Inc., which provides drug coverage to about 1.4 million people in the program, known as Part D.

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Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found At Fracking Sites Linked To Cancer, Infertility: Study

fracking linked to cancerHormone-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and a slew of other health problems have been found in water samples collected at and near hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," sites in Colorado, according to a new study published in the journal Endocrinology this week.

Researchers say they found elevated levels of these chemicals -- known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) -- in surface water and groundwater samples collected in the state's Garfield County, a fracking hotspot with more than 10,000 natural gas wells.

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States spend 2% of tobacco settlement money on cessation

tobacco settlementFifteen years after the $246 billion tobacco legal settlements were reached most states are not spending much on tobacco cessation, U.S. researchers say.

Tobacco use is the top cause of preventable U.S. death, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing the nation $96 billion in healthcare bills each year and most states involved in the settlements promised a significant portion of the money would be spent on programs to prevent children and teens from smoking and help smokers quit.

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Report: Louisiana policies help fuel HIV epidemic

Louisiana policies help fuel HIVTela Love, a 36-year-old transgender woman who used to work the streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter as a prostitute, has been HIV-positive for nearly 10 years. When she started exchanging sex for food and drugs, she said, local police arrested her after finding condoms in her bag. She was subsequently incarcerated at Orleans Parish Prison, where another inmate forced her to have unprotected sex with him. She later heard he was HIV-positive, she told Al Jazeera.

Love’s experiences with police harassment and sexual violence in prison partly explain why Louisiana’s death rate from AIDS is nearly double the national average and the New Orleans metropolitan area has the second-highest rate of new HIV infections in the United States, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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FDA to crack down on antibiotics in meat

fdaThe Food and Drug Administration will issue two major proposals Wednesday in an effort to cut back on antibiotics used on farms that can spur drug-resistant superbugs, making a final push to limit drugs fed to animals before they’re turned into steaks and pork chops.

The move — just the latest by the agency to tighten regulation of the American food supply — puts drug companies on notice and starts the clock on the Obama administration’s three-year strategy to rein in the use of antibiotics. It comes on the heels of a recent effort to ban trans fats and a handful of other sweeping new food safety regulations.

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An effective eye drug is available for $50. But many doctors choose a $2,000 alternative.

lucentisThe two drugs have been declared equivalently miraculous. Tested side by side in six major trials, both prevent blindness in a common old-age affliction. Biologically, they are cousins. They’re even made by the same company.

But one holds a clear price advantage.

Avastin costs about $50 per injection. Lucentis costs about $2,000 per injection.

Doctors choose the more expensive drug more than half a million times every year, a choice that costs the Medicare program, the largest single customer, an extra $1 billion or more annually.

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Immune system may play crucial role in mental health

mental healthA growing body of research on conditions from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to depression is starting to suggest a tighter link than was previously realized between ailments of the mind and body. Activation of the immune system seems to play a crucial role in both.

"We just didn't understand how much of a role the immune system plays in how we think and feel and act," says Andrew Miller, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University. "An overactive immune system or when there's something going on in the immune system, it can have consequences on the brain."

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