COMMENTS: Untested & Uninsured

NBC and ABC both offered follow-up healthcare features. For ABC, John McKenzie (subscription required) took A Closer Look at the Food & Drug Administration's approval process for prescription drugs in the wake of last week's revelation that the side effects of Avandia (text link), GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes medicine, may be killing tens of thousands of patients. McKenzie cited a GAO study that 51% of all FDA-approved medicines require label changes after they are already in use and at least 3% are pulled off the market altogether. The problem is that many drugs nowadays "are meant to be taken for a lifetime" yet the clinical trials cannot test for long-term risks. Pharmaceutical companies often use healthier patients in their trials, use too small a sample size and too short a test period. Plus "there are no follow-up studies. The FDA often asks for more data once the drug is on the market but companies usually ignore the request."

NBC anchor Brian Williams was on the road in Boston so he took the opportunity to assign Rehema Ellis to file an In Depth report on the universal healthcare plan that Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney ushered in when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney's scheme made it compulsory for all of the commonwealth's 400,000 uninsured to buy coverage. Ellis' progress report after one year found that just "120,000 of them have signed up. Those who do not will face penalties." The reason for the shortfall, she explained, is that tens of thousands of workers are offered insurance by their employers and are therefore ineligible for state subsidies--but earn too little to afford their boss' coverage.


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