CT Center for Patient Safety Newsletter
December 1, 2010

Federal database for consumer complaints approved - BUT do not think for a moment the database has anything to do with problems with healthcare delivery.

Beginning in March of 2010, consumers will be able for the first time   to check a government database that will compile safety complaints about a wide array of products such as toys and electrical appliances - but not healthcare.   The  hiding of medical mistakes continues.  The consumer, even though his life and death can depend on how he chooses his doctor, a hospital, or health plan, continues, for the most part, to be unable to file a complaint or a concern with anyone other than the established entities that seem to be part of the problem and not the solution.


The power of the industries that make up healthcare is awesome indeed.  That we have managed to shine some light on these industries reveals the very deep need the consumer has for accurate information.  When hospitals market their new technology, or their leadership in surgery, consumers want and need  to know what their infection rate is following the surgery or whether the staff has been trained to operate the new technology properly.


Our work continues.  Thank you for your help in making in possible.


Jean Rexford

203 247 5757

$3.1 Billion Recovered Through the False Claims Act During Fiscal Year 2010: Largest Recoveries From Pharmaceutical Manufacturers


The group Taxpayers Against Fraud reports that the Department of Justice recovered $3.1 billion through the False Claims Act (FCA) during the fiscal year of 2010. A deeply troubling 80% of that amount  was from the healthcare industry. Among the biggest recoveries for 2010 have been $600 million from Allergan, $520 million from AstraZeneca, and $422.5 million from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.As debates over controlling healthcare costs continue to rage, the FCA is showing itself to be a cost-effective method for recovering inappropriate payments, and for maintaining order and control over healthcare liabilities. In addition to its enormous success against fraud perpetrated by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, the FCA also plays a critical role in enforcing standards for appropriate Medicare reimbursement. Under the FCA, a person who knowingly submits, or causes another person or entity to submit a false claim for government funds, is liable for three times the government's damages in addition to civil penalties ranging from $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim. The FCA's qui tam provisions incentivize and protect whistleblowers possessing evidence of fraudulent activity including for example,  the performance of inappropriate or unnecessary medical procedures, billing for brand-name medications when generics were actually used, billing at physician rates for work performed by a nurse or resident , and other phantom costs passed to the government that would otherwise go unrecognized but for the whistleblowers.

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Gus picture 

Dear Members,


In October of this year, I was elected to serve as President of the CT Center for Patient Safety.   I am honored to do so.  I have served on the board for the past five years as an avid supporter of our mission: CTCPS works in our communities, within our healthcare systems, and with elected officials to improve the quality of healthcare and to protect the rights and interests of patients through education, accountability, transparency and advocacy.  Working for and toward a safer environment for the consumer drives what we do.


I bring to the organization a strong business and financial background.  This year we celebrate our fifth anniversary - a milestone for not for profits.  If a newly formed organization lasts five years, the likelihood is that we can move the organization into the future.  I am working closely with Jean Rexford on our 2011 business plan.  The landscape around what is happening in healthcare changes daily.  We must remain flexible to respond and at the same time continue to build a firm foundation.  We are up to the task.




Gus Velez




Study Finds No Progress in Safety at Hospitals
Two weeks ago the Office of Inspector General issued a new report that was one of the most rigorous efforts to collect data about patient safety since the Institute of Medicine's 1999 report that announced that medical mistakes caused as many as 98,000 deaths and more than one million injuries.

This latest study is horrific.  Instead of improvements, the researchers found a high rate of problems.  About 18% of patients were harmed by medical care, some more than once, and 63.1% of the injuries were judged to be preventable. 2.4% of these "problems" were serious and contributed to a patient's death.

In 2.9% of the cases, patients suffered permanent injury.  A little more than 8% of the problems were life-threatening.  And 2.45% cause death.

We all need to do more - and to do it quickly.  This has to do with lives lost needlessly.  The handwringing is infuriating. There was a tepid response from those who are part of the problem to this new study that warrants outrage. Typical was a nonchalant comment that the study made clear the difficulty in improving the safety of patients: "Process changes, like a new computer system or the use of a checklist, may help a bit. But...progress may be painfully slow." Painfully? No, lethally.

A recent article talked about the growing consumer movement toward demanding that the patient be the purpose of healthcare - not the bottom line.  "Painfully slow"  is simply not good enough when it involves our bodies, or our loved ones who might die a preventable death while receiving "healthcare."

Consumer Reports Insights: Get the facts about drugs that are recalled


In perhaps the largest related series of drug recalls in U.S. history, Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare subsidiary has pulled millions of bottles of over-the-counter drugs, including some Tylenol, Benadryl and Motrin, from pharmacy shelves since September 2009. (These drugs may have manufacturing-quality problems or may have been contaminated  by a chemical.) However, useful consumer information about this recall and others can go unreported.

What's lacking?

Numbers. The Food and Drug Administration can't force a company to disclose to the public specifics about the number of tablets, bottles or people affected in a recall. The FDA also lacks the power of that the Consumer Product Safety Commission and National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, have to force a recall. 

Location. The manufacturer is not required to tell the public which retail stores sold the drugs, although announcements often reveal the state and county.

Timeliness. When a prescription drug is recalled, many pharmacies and membership stores can contact each affected customer. But for over-the-counter drugs, consumers often have to rely on media reports, dig through FDA or manufacturer Web sites, or ask a pharmacist. For the recent recalls, Johnson & Johnson provides information at 888-222-6036 and at www.mcneilproductrecall.com.