Obama Addresses Drug Shortages

How much of this shortage is corporations trying to limit supply to hike prices?  Sorry but these days I’m increasingly cynical about corporate America.  From the White House:

President Obama today will sign an Executive Order directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to help further prevent and reduce prescription drug shortages, protect consumers and prevent price gouging. The President’s order directs FDA to broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs and to further expedite regulatory reviews that can help prevent or respond to shortages. Under the President’s order, FDA will also work with to the Department of Justice, which will examine whether potential shortages have led to illegal price gouging or stockpiling of life-saving medications.

In addition to signing the Executive Order, the White House announced the President’s support for bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2245 and S. 296) that will build on today’s actions to strengthen the FDA’s ability to prevent prescription drug shortages.

A small number of drugs in the U.S. experience a shortage in any given year, but the number of reported prescription drug shortages in the United States nearly tripled between 2005 and 2010. While FDA successfully prevented 137 drug shortages between January 1, 2010 and September 26, 2011, prescription drug shortages continue to threaten the health and safety of the American people.

These shortages could lead to price gouging, which has raised serious concerns. For example, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms, when announcing his investigation into so-called gray markets, expressed concerns about a report that a leukemia drug whose typical contract price is about $12 per vial was being sold at $990 per vial – 80 times higher.  A Premier healthcare alliance report released in August estimated that the typical gray market vendor marks up prices by an averaged 650 percent.  At the extreme, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that was normally priced at $25.90 was being sold at $1,200 due to a drug shortage.

“The shortage of prescription drugs drives up costs, leaves consumers vulnerable to price gouging and threatens our health and safety,” said President Obama. “This is a problem we can’t wait to fix.  That’s why today, I am directing my administration to take steps to protect consumers from drug shortages, and I’m committed to working with Congress and industry to keep tackling this problem going forward.”

Early notification of potential drug shortages can help prevent a shortage from becoming a crisis by allowing hospitals, doctors and manufacturers to take action to ensure medications remain available. Currently, the FDA can only require drug manufacturers to disclose the discontinuation of a critical drug when the drug is available through a single manufacturer. The President’s Executive Order directs the FDA to take additional steps to require drug manufacturers to provide adequate advance notice of manufacturing discontinuances or other actions that could lead to critical shortages. These additional steps to increase early notification will help achieve some of the goals of bipartisan legislation supported by the President that would require all prescription drug shortages to be disclosed to the FDA in advance and give the FDA new authority to enforce these requirements.

The Executive Order also requires FDA to expand its current efforts to expedite review of new manufacturing sites, drug suppliers, and manufacturing changes to help prevent shortages.

These actions are just some of the steps the Obama Administration is taking to ensure patients have access to the lifesaving medicines they need. Today, the Obama Administration also:

   * Sent a letter to drug manufacturers reminding them of their responsibility to report the discontinuation of certain drugs to the FDA. The letter also encourages companies to voluntarily disclose to FDA potential prescription drug shortages in cases where disclosure is not currently required by law.

   * Increased staffing resources for the FDA’s Drug Shortages Program to address the increased workload that will result from additional early notification of potential shortages by manufacturers.

   * Released a report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) that assesses the underlying factors that lead to drug shortages, and an FDA report on their role in monitoring, preventing, and responding to these shortages.

While the causes and many of the solutions are outside of the FDA’s authority, including the need for additional manufacturing capacity in the private sector, the Administration will continue its ongoing work with manufacturers and other stakeholders to help address drug shortages.

Bob Scheiffer Takes Cain to Task

Yesterday on CBS News “This Morning” host Bob Scheiffer took Herman Cain down for his internet ad featuring a smoking campaign manager.  The ad is being mocked and spoofed everywhere but the news host, a lung cancer survivor due to smoking, was clearly offended by the ad.  Calling it irresponsible he repeatedly admonished Cain for trying to make smoking seem “cool.”  Cain finally promised to remove the ad after much badgering.

Scheiffer then got on to issues such as the electrified border fence and Cain’s allegations that Planned Parenthood engages in genocide.  The GOP presidential frontrunner keeps flip flopping on whether he’d electrocute those trying to cross the border illegally.  No arrest, no trial but straight to an execution.  Yes, that’s the American way in Tea Party terms isn’t it?

As for the abortion issue Cain insists that because many Planned Parenthood clinics are located in urban areas we’re engaging in the genocide of the Black race.  If that’s the case you should also say it about any merchant who sells cigarettes, booze or drugs in urban areas.  We’re in urban areas because that’s where we can serve the most numbers of poor women.  95% of what we do at Planned Parenthood is routine ob gyn medical care, cancer screenings, family planning and education.  Does he think educating women, poor, middle class, white, Black, Asian or Hispanic, about reproduction is genocide?  Does he think providing cancer screenings is genocide?  Just because we also do abortions doesn’t mean we’re trying to wipe out the African-American race and illustrates his penchant for extreme positions and running off at his mouth.

Herman Cain has a serious problem with diarrhea of the mouth and should always carry bathroom tissue to clean up after he utters one of his outrageous statements.  The shit which flows from his brain to his mouth is shocking and he’s constantly backtracking on his public statements.  Not only he is “not ready for prime time” he’s a potentially dangerous person to put in the Oval Office.  Every statement uttered by a President has the capacity to move markets, instigate wars, engage enemies in economic or cyber warfare and other threats to our national security.  We cannot afford to elect someone with who doesn’t think before opening his mouth.

What the 99% Are About One More Time: The Social Impact of Inequality

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

This past week, in a response to U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, this blog addressed the gap between the myth of equal opportunity in America and the reality of increasing immobility. New York Times columnist Charles Blow was on a similar theme this past weekend in a column called “America’s Exploding Pipe Dream.

“Blow’s column summarizes the results of a new study that ranks the 31 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on eight indicators of social well-being. As well as the affluent European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, the OECD includes a dozen countries that have average income and wealth levels far below the U.S., sometimes a small fraction of U.S. levels: Chile, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey.

Yet the U.S. overall Social Justice ranking is 27th.

The U.S. ranking on the eight individual measures is listed below:

  • Overall Poverty Prevention Rating: 29
  • Overall Poverty Rate: 29
  • Child Poverty Rate: 28
  • Senior Citizen Poverty Rate: 25
  • Income Inequality (low ranking means high inequality): 28
  • Pre-primary education (share of GDP invested in public pre-primary education): 22
  • Health rating: 23
  • Inter-generational justice rating (family, pension, environmental, and other policies that impact well-being of future generations): 20

This is completely unnecessary. If the United States had a mind to, it could be ranking in the top five within five years. And our economy could be stronger as a result if we were smart about it. So let’s get going.

The Trick or Treat Storm

The nor’easter which roared through Saturday knocked out our internet which remains down.  We’r elucky because we didn’t lose power but trees are down everywhere.  Our Fleetwood place is a disaster zone with major branches down all over and no power.  I’m using a local library today but can’t be here all day (I can’t very well do conference calls here).  I apologize for not being able to bannish all the spammers who took advantage and left their comments.  They’re gone now.  We’ll be back to our regular work as soon as things get ramped back up.

A Patch of Pumpkin Heads

by Rosemary and Walter Brasch

                In a few days, millions of children will put on costumes, go door to door, and shout “trick or treat.” By Nov. 1, it’ll be over.

           But, it won’t be over for Americans who will face presidential candidates for the next year. The candidates will continue to try to mask their true selves, while luring us with treats that disguise tricks. Let’s see what each of the candidates might be wearing for the coming year.

            President Obama could dress as a stable boy. Since his first day on the job, he’s had to shovel whatever it is that was left for him in the stable. His opponents, however, think he should dress up as Pinocchio, with an exceptionally long wooden nose, and carrying a hammer and sickle.

           Rick Santorum had begun fading away after he was trounced in a Senate re-election campaign in Pennsylvania, too reactionary even for the Republicans. Wrap him in bandages as the Invisible Candidate.

           The other Rick in the race is Perry. For awhile, he was the leader of the pack until the other candidates ganged up on him. Moderates thought he was too reactionary; the extreme right-wing thought he was too liberal. Dress him in a helmet, black leather jacket, and jeans, etch a few tattoos onto his body, and have him encased by a sandwich board. For a few brief shiny moments, he was everything that Camelot wasn’t.

The current front-runner is Herman Cain, whose mask is a cloth pizza slice, cut to the 9’s. But since he’ll be a passing pizza, as the Republican voters love and unlove their front runners, perhaps he could also wear a half-eaten slice with a red bull’s eye on his back.

           Michele Bachmann has become one-with-a-teapot. Every voting citizen is likely to see her during the coming year spewing scalding steam, but unable to make quality tea.

Dr. Ron Paul could wear a surgeon’s scrubs, with a lot of fringe, able to leap onto any patient to cut fat and some muscle.

           Jon Huntsman, perhaps the most intelligent and most civil of the candidates, could dress in a three-piece striped pants suit of the diplomat he once was. But, since civility isn’t a trait among this year’s Republican crop, the other candidates will probably throw a potato sack over him and bury him in the dirt.

           The cast from The Wizard of Oz always presents good costume possibilities.

           Mitt Romney, once standing straight, is now leaning so far right that he is likely to be kissing the floor soon. Perhaps he could dress as the Cowardly Lion and hope to find some courage.

           It’s too obvious to dress Newt Gingrich as a salamander, none of whom have monogamous relationships. But, it is possible that this incarnation of the former House speaker could wear the mask as Dick Cheney, the man without a heart, who dresses as the Tin Man.

Dorothy, the sweet Innocent with intelligence and compassion, isn’t in the running for the Republican nomination. Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, and Lisa Murkowski are all possible Dorothies but have no reason to dress up since the Republican party doesn’t like anything sweet and moderate.

           The Wizard manipulating everyone might be Roger Ailes, the brilliant president of Fox News. But, since we are writing the story, we’ll make this wizard evil, blustery, and dense. Cerberus, the three-headed vicious dog who prevents souls condemned to Hell from ever escaping, could be the disguise that best identifies Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity.

           And, of course that leaves just one main character from the Oz saga, the Scarecrow without a brain. Need anyone look farther than the Alaskan Tundra for the one most likely to seize all the treats she can and still trick the people?

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is Before the First Snow, a look at America between 1964 and 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War. Rosemary Brasch is a retired labor grievance officer and Red Cross family services specialist.]

Making the Case for Better Marcellus Shale Protections and a Drilling Tax

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

Before this busy week slips by, I wanted to highlight two things of note related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

First, on Monday, the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission released its final report and recommendations. It couldn’t have come soon enough, as the state Senate began moving Marcellus Shale legislation this week.

Over the last three months, more than 500 people have weighed in with the Commission on their concerns and suggestions to better protect local communities and the environment from the negative impacts of drilling. Many citizens testified that Marcellus Shale drilling has moved too quickly and that public officials entrusted to protect their constitutional right to clean air and water have let them down.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center was one of the eight civic and environmental organization that came together to form the Citizens Commission. You can read more about the report at our web site.

On Tuesday, PBPC also participated in a press conference with Representatives Gene DiGirolamo, Tom Murt and Mike Sturla, along with advocates for the environment, education and working families, to call for drillers to pay their fair share.

Several speakers observed that there is strong public support for a drilling tax in Pennsylvania that protects the environment and invests in Pennsylvania’s future, including the education of our next generation.

Representative Murt put it best when he explained why he is sponsoring a Marcellus Shale tax bill in the state House with Representative DiGirolamo and a long list of co-sponsors from both parties: “I was motivated not only by a desire to make sure our gas drillers pay their fair share but to make sure this thriving industry contributes to making Pennsylvania a better place.”

“Almost every other state that is taking Marcellus Shale gas out of the ground does already have some type of tax,” said Representative DiGirolamo. “We in Pennsylvania do not as of yet. … We’re trying to figure out what’s best for Pennsylvania.”

Things will start to move fast next week as the Senate votes on its Marcellus bill. Check out the Better Choices for Pennsylvania web site to see how you can help.

News & Notes October 28, 2011

I stayed up late watching that classic World Series game.  Prying my eyes open in spite of the late hour (why must they start these games so late???) I managed to see David Freese’s home run live.  This game was like two heavyweight prize fighters going toe to toe trading punches until one finally falls.

Canada has decided not to arrest George W. Bush on international arrest warrants for war crimes.  He is due to visit our northern neighbor.  How can we support the prosecution of Serbian and other war criminals and not turn over our own?

Speaking of which Henry Kissinger was in Pittsburgh and reminded of his own war crimes.

The State legislature is debating an expansion of the red light camera program.  I have some mixed feelings about this.  While the prevalence of Pennsylvania motorists to completely ignore red light laws is downright dangerous (because of the idiotic and unenforced right on red law) is a source of concern this brings Big Brother to our street corners.  Outsourced to private companies with an incentive to make money I believe a driver can challenge these in court.  Simply citing the profit motive undermines any charge.

While on the subject of red lights I’m fed up with the right on red law.  No one obeys its requirements that a driver must come to a full stop and wait for oncoming traffic before turning.  Worse, no one enforces it.  I’ve several very close calls due to people flying through red lights directly in front of me when have green.  They don’t seem to think they even have to look.  I also see drivers routinely passing five to six cars in front of them, sometimes through people’s lawns, to turn.  This law is dangerous and should be repealed.

We’re number 3!  Pennsylvania has the third highest cost for four year public higher education in the country.  The state has steadily reduced its financial support for higher education for decades resulting in this sorry performance.

The ACLU of PA has an analysis of why the voucher program is unconstitutional here.  The evening news already is citing examples of people using these to go to Catholic schools.  Most of the voucher funds will go to parochial religious schools because the church subsidizes them.  The vouchers wouldn’t otherwise be enough to cover tuition at private schools.  Any public monies going to non-sectarian schools is unconstitutional.  Any legislator who voted for them should be impeached for violating their oath of office.

Tom Corbett’s record as Governor is that so far in his tenure Pennsylvania has lost jobs every month.  September saw a loss of another 15,000 jobs.  Didn’t he run on an agenda of job creation?  He lied.

On the federal front the House’s demands for spending cuts has now cost us 370,000 jobs.  I sort of recall them campaigning in 2010 on a platform of job creation.  Why then do they keep killing them?

Economist Jared Bernstein, who used to work for VP Biden, has created a graph showing how Herman Cain’s regressive 9-9-9 tax plan would hurt the poor and working classes and greatly benefit the rich.  I’d publish it here but the graph lines for how much the rich save is extreeeeeemly long.

Income Inequality on the Rise

( – promoted by John Morgan)

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette runs with a story this morning on the latest data from the Congressional Budget Office on income inequality in America (PDF).  

If you thought it took millions to land in the top 1 percent of earners targeted by demonstrators, you should know the actual threshold is $343,927, according to IRS statistics for the calendar year 2009, the latest available …

After-tax income for the richest 1 percent of Americans almost tripled from 1979 to 2007, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, people in the middle of the scale saw their incomes grow by just under 40 percent and those in the bottom 20 percent saw a gain of about 18 percent.

“The distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979,” the CBO said.

For some additional context, a household income of $349,850 or higher will land you in the top 1% of Pennsylvania tax filers, according to 2009 tax data from the state Department of Revenue. 

Fair warning, Sabatini only interviews a researcher from the Tax Foundation for her story and even provides a link to some Tax Foundation analysis. To quote Paul Krugman, “knowledgeable people don’t trust the Tax Foundation.”

Jared Bernstein at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides a more concise and focused summary of the latest data.

The share of the nation’s total income accruing to the middle 60 percent of households fell from around half in 1979 to a bit above 40 percent in 2007. Virtually all of this decline (and the decline in the share of income held by the bottom 20 percent of households) is reflected in the increase for the top 1 percent, whose share of the nation’s total income more than doubled.

Tea Party Nations Job Plan: Boycott hiring

The Tea Party Nation has released their job plan, don’t hire until we beat Obama. I know, I have to be kidding, unfortunately it’s serious. The Tea Party Nation, in a release to various members have called on a “boycott” of creating jobs until Obama is defeated.

According to the article “tea party nation asks businesses to stop hiring to show solidarity for the tea party” by daily kos staff writer Hunter, tea party nation activist Melissa Brookstone, sent out calls for members operating small businesses not to create jobs until Obama is defeated.

With one press release, the tea party nation proves claims on the left are in fact true. They are not right wing populist, but economic terrorist hell bent at nothing more then the defeat of President Obama. The hatred of the President permeates the tea party more then love of their country.

With approximately 14,000,000 Americans out of work, millions more underemployed, poverty casting a darker shadow on our landscape the tea party wants nothing to do with the solution. They speak to divide, divide, divide the populace.

I can see tea party members claiming unions and civil rights groups call for strikes and boycotts all the time. However, unions and civil rights groups fight for progress, equality and the rights of society. This boycott furthers a agenda that would create economic tyranny and a doctrine of indifference for the people.

Usually the Tea Party Nation dances around their indifference to the American people. Fox News and the GOP deflects the charges from the left of economic terrorism with claims that tea party represent American patriots fighting for American values. Yet, I would strongly disagree, a view that I believe was shared by the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln.

In a letter to a friend, Abraham Lincoln wrote in regards to the know nothing party, a nativist party that conservative writer William Kristol of the weekly standard has accused such populist republicans of turning the GOP into Lincoln stated: ” When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read: “All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

Paul Ryan’s misguided attempt to assign blame for the class warfare in this country

Paul Ryan’s assertion on Class Warfare

In a time when we need solutions and governance, Paul Ryan offers blame and talking points. In his speech “Saving the American Idea: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division” given October 26th, 2011 presented by the Heritage Foundation gives more of the same old tactics of division from one of the GOP house leaders, that he claims the Democrats are all about.

Poll, after poll taken throughout the country on real solutions for a frustrated populace show, however, the legislatures, especially the Republican controlled House and Minority obstructing Senate has grinded legislative wheel to a halt. According to a Bloomsberg/Washington Post national poll conducted from Oct 6-9 2011, shows 2/3rd of all Americans polled want higher taxes on the wealthy, even 53% of those responding as Republicans to the poll takers want higher taxes on those earning over 250,000.

   Rep. Ryan’s claims that his attempt to “Modestly income adjust social security and Medicare has been met with sheer demagoguery by leading member of the President’s party.”

This is not demagoguery sir; this is the American people not wanting to give up a cherished program.

Rep. Ryan claims that the President refuses to work with his party on “common sense reforms”. The representative from Wisconsin is confusing the ones who are refusing to work with each other. Through their majority in the house and filibustering minority in the Senate, Republicans have grinded the whole entire legislative process to a halt. Refusing to compromise on anything, from the debt ceiling to jobs the republican’s goal of governance is to wait the storm and pray they gain power in 2012.

I would like to take a moment to agree with Paul Ryan on his statement that we are an

   “upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.”

You only have to see the wage inequality in our nation to see this. The top 1% has seen wages rise by 287% from 1979-2007; more of Mr. Ryan’s mobility can be seen in the fact the middle 60% has seen a 51.1%-43.5% drop in control of total wealth in the nation. Rep. Ryan goes further claiming that the class warfare we are seeing is

   “A class of bureaucrats and connected capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us.”

The same Representative who voted for TARP, the so called failed Auto Bailouts and led the charge on the yay vote for TARP is launching attacks that should be aimed at him.

Paul Ryan and other conservatives have spiritedly followed the statement of 19th century financier Jay Gould when threatened with a railroad strike “I can always pay one half of the working class to kill the other” With misleading data, ignorance to the populace and sheer obstruction the Republicans plan of dividing and conquering the middle class for their corporate and ideological masters is in full swing. Anyone who stands in their way will be portrayed as demagogues and naysayers of the American Capitalistic Ideal.