Archive for the ‘Medical Tests’ Category

Service of Uncommunicative Left and Right Hands: Counterintuitive Marketing

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Photo: latimerapplyby.com

I am baffled by the gap between reality and the vigorous marketing and promotion of two crucial initiatives that impact millions. Marketers deliberately caused pressure on insufficient supply boosting demand making things worse.

I’m speaking about write-in ballots in the New York State primary and Covid-19 testing around the country. Neither was/is able to meet expectations yet both continued/continue to be promoted.

Will My Vote Count?

I already covered the disgraceful New York write-in ballot snafus in “Service of Uneven Performances During a Pandemic.” I ended up voting in person because my write-in ballot came the day after I voted. Yet the Mayor and commercials urged citizens to request ballots until deadline. A friend’s mother never received hers.

Photo: gothamist.com

And that is just half this sad story. Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote last week in theatlantic.com: “More than a month after New York’s June 23 primary elections, state election officials are still counting votes. In some legislative districts, they haven’t even started counting absentee votes. In the best-case scenario, election officials hope to declare winners by the first Tuesday in August—six weeks after Election Day. It might take a lot longer than that. Election officials in New York City have already invalidated upwards of 100,000 absentee ballots—about one of every five that were mailed in from the five boroughs. And furious candidates are already filing lawsuits charging discrimination and disenfranchisement.”

Failing the Test

The Covid-19 testing scenario is a disaster and yet every day the public–in New York at least–is urged to be tested even if they aren’t sick or have no reason to be. Backlogs have created inconceivable delays and who knows why there are so many inaccurate results.

Some examples:

  • One couple was thrown into a tizzy when the wife, whose husband was recovering from open heart surgery, came down with a sore throat and tested “presumptive positive.” She had a second test elsewhere and it was negative. A week later the original lab informed her that the  test was faulty–no virus. Were others who had the virus told they were OK?
  • An acquaintance missed a long-scheduled procedure because the results of her required Covid-19 test, taken six days prior, didn’t come in time. Did you know it’s recommended that patients quarantine themselves after being tested until the operation? How many people can afford to quarantine in addition to potential recovery time from an operation?
  • Others, such as the son of WOR 710 radio morning show producer Natalie Vacca, get their results in two days. Her husband’s took 11. Morning show co-host Len Berman’s son’s test came back in 10.

Standardization? Ha. It’s every man or woman–or State–for him/her or itself. Sady Swanson in the Fort Collins Coloradoan wrote: “With a national backlog of COVID-19 tests causing delayed results, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has announced plans to expand lab capacity within the state to get Coloradans results quicker.”

She reported that some Coloradans waited 10 to 12 days for results. Governor Polis won’t count on national testing. Swanson reported: “The national labs have been receiving ‘tens of thousands’ of tests to process per day from states currently seeing COVID-19 case spikes, like Arizona, Texas and Florida, Polis said.

“With no national testing strategy, Polis said the state is moving forward with purchasing additional testing supplies, expanding state lab capacity and securing more private partners to meet the state’s testing needs.”

So many questions:

  • If an initiative can’t fulfill current requests why prime the pump?
  • Are you planning to vote by write-in ballot in November?
  • Are you concerned that you won’t get your ballot in time or if you do, that your vote won’t count?
  • Should there be a national testing strategy or standardized test for Covid-19?
  • If you had the test, did you trust the result?
  • What good does it do if it takes more than two days to learn that you are a carrier or that you have Covid-19?

 

 

Photo: medscape.com

Service of Too Good to be True II

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Photo: depositphotos.com

I’ve followed highlights of the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos criminal case for a while in newspaper and radio coverage and a few things nag at me:

  • How did high profile investors, partners and board members get duped by a machine and service that never worked?
  • Even though “Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes and the blood-testing company’s former No. 2 executive,” news focus brushes over life-changing damage done to patients who think they are OK when they’re not.

The charges allege “that they defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and also defrauded doctors and patients.” This quote and the one above made up the lead to John Carreyrou’s recent Wall Street Journal article.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

“The blood test machine her company created doesn’t work — and never has,” Scott Simon wrote recently, capturing an interview with Carreyrou on NPR’s Morning Edition that he hosts. “She raised almost a billion dollars from investors, including Rupert Murdoch, Carlos Slim Helú, and the family of Betsy DeVos, and signed contracts with Walgreens and Safeway, by lying to them.” Carreyrou’s original coverage led to the 2½ year investigation.

He also wrote a book about the scandal, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” and the test that was expected to revolutionize the industry by costing less and using blood drops from a finger pin prick.

Simon continued quoting Carreyrou: Holmes and “Sunny Balwani, who was the number two of the company, knew as they were rolling out the blood testing services in Walgreens stores in California and Arizona that the blood tests were faulty, and yet they still went ahead with the rollout. And there were, I came across personally in my reporting more than a dozen patients who had health scares because they received bad results from Theranos.”

Photo: pehub.com

This was the most in-depth comment I could find about the patient victims of the scandal. Others mostly referred to them though in his New York Times coverage, Reed Abelson wrote that the so-called tests endangered lives.

So how did Holmes get away with bamboozling five star board members along with all the rest? Carreyrou told Simon “she capitalized on this yearning there was, in Silicon Valley and beyond, to see a woman break through in this man’s world in Silicon Valley.” In addition, he said, the investors based their decision on the Walgreens contract, figuring the company had confirmed the accuracy of the tests. This was a false assumption. Holmes refused to show the equipment claiming she was afraid the competition would discover the secret sauce.

About venture capitalists Abelson shared the prediction of Lakshman Ramamurthy, a former FDA official, now with Foundation Medicine, who “is not certain investors have learned their lesson. Companies like Theranos, which offered little hard evidence that its tests worked to its investors, ‘have their own rules,’ he said. ‘That hasn’t changed. The Silicon Valley hubris remains.’”

According to Ken Sweet’s AP article, referring to Holmes and Balwani: “If convicted, they could face prison sentences that would keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives, and total fines of $2.75 million each.” At one point the company, built on lies, was worth $10 billion +. I wonder if the fine covers the damage to investors sufficiently.

Surely lawsuits will follow should patients prove they were harmed either because they weren’t properly diagnosed or were damaged because they were given harmful medicines they didn’t need. Are you surprised that such high profile businesses, canny investors and high profile board members were deceived by the old “I can’t show you the goods” trick so soon after Bernie Madoff played the same card?

Photo: harp-onthis.com

Service of Genetic Tests: Do You Want to Know or Not?

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Photo Brockpress.com

Photo Brockpress.com

Most of my friends and colleagues present themselves for medical tests and checkups when they should while I drag my feet attending to only the most essential. My philosophy: Who wants to know?

So it would be very unlikely for me to send away to 23andMe at any time in my life to learn whether one or more of the 10 diseases the company tests for, such as late-onset Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, will afflict me.

There are many chomping at the bit to find out and now the FDA says that they can: No more need to pass by a genetic counselor or through a doctor for the privilege. Spit into a receptacle to provide a sample of saliva; send $199 and voila—you’ll soon know about how or if you relate to any of the 10.

Jessica Boddy, NPR summarized info on an FDA press release: “The testsBlood pressure test assess genetic risk for the conditions but don’t diagnose them, the FDA says. The agency urges consumers to use their results to ‘help to make decisions about lifestyle choices or to inform discussions with a health care professional.’”

The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health director Jeffrey Shuren said “‘it is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle, it does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.’ Other known factors that can play into the development of disease include diet, environment and tobacco use.” 

Photo: thefactfile.org

Photo: thefactfile.org

We already know about the importance of a healthy diet and the risks of tobacco use as they relate to all sorts of diseases–so nothing new here–and I can’t do much about my environment. Loosening regulations on power plants and reducing fuel efficiency standards for cars is going to impact everyone in a bad way. I wonder if people in 45’s administration realize that they, their children and grandchildren might suffer as a result?

Referring to test results Boddy quoted a Harvard Medical School professor who warned that the “information is complicated.”

Nobody in the article spoke up for those who don’t want to know. Do you want to learn what your genetic makeup indicates might happen? Would you be irritated if at 68 you sold your house and all your belongings to move into an adult care facility and found yourself at 95 in great form still with no signs of late-onset Alzheimer’s? Would knowing spoil what’s left of your life be it 20 or 70 years? Would you cancel your marriage plans if you wanted to have children and you learned that both you and your intended had similar genetic indicators for a nasty disease?

 

Photo: reference.com

Photo: reference.com

 

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