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Sales over science, profit over people, greed over need The great American medicine show, a spectacle of deceit, manipulation, and flimflammery

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Posted 17 May 2012 — by James Street
Category Big Pharma, Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal

Butterflies waft across a beautiful field of spring flowers. A delightful young family bicycles joyously down a country lane. A couple on a park bench leans sensually into each other. A 40-something woman’s face radiates with both perfect beauty and internal happiness. “All’s right with the world,” is the message… as long as you’ve taken your dosages of Lunesta, Celebrex, Cialis, and Botox.

Welcome to medicated America, where the fix for every problem–from incontinence to erectile dysfunction, stiff joints to mood swings, weight gain to wrinkles– is just a prescription away. Thus the beautiful images, stirring music, attractive actors, and soothing words in the omnipresent, multibillion-dollar kaleidoscope of drug advertising by Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, and other giants of Big Pharma–all pitching their particular brand-name nostrum directly at us hoi polloi (the industry spends a fourth of its income on ads and other promotions, nearly double its expenditures on research and development). The corporate come-ons typically conclude with a phrase that has achieved cliche status in America’s vernacular: “Ask your doctor if ‘Suprema Wundercure’ is right for you.”

The better question, though, is one that cartoonist Dan Piraro expressed in one of his “Bizarro” panels: “Ask your doctor if playing into the hands of the pharmaceutical industry is right for you.”

One would assume that in a rich, medically advanced, health-conscious nation like ours, dicey decisions about whether to allow a particular pharmaceutical product into our bodies would be among the most rational we make–as determined by (1) the best science available, (2) the strict moral duty of medical purveyors to “First, do no harm,” (3) good government regulation, and (4) the profession’s fear of public reproach and legal punishment. One would, however, be wrong on all counts:

  • Science has been supplanted by rank hucksterism
  • The strictest “moral duty” of corporate executives has been reduced to maximizing profits
  • A “good” regulation is one that’s good for profit seekers
  • Public reproach is just a momentary embarrassment to be covered over by corporate image makers
  • Legal “punishment” never includes jail time, but only a fine that’s easily absorbed as a necessary cost of doing business by these immensely profitable entities.

In the past three decades, America’s healthcare system has radically metamorphosed from a public service network (largely run by independent physicians and nonprofit hospitals) into a corporate profit machine–one that Dr. Arnold Relman, the renowned former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, calls the Medical-Industrial Complex. Drugmakers have been among the most ambitious, in-your-face pushers of this transmutation of medicine into just another commodity to be sold by hook or crook. In this system, the concept of “care” has been reduced to “caveat emptor,” with the shareholders’ interest in monetary gain overriding all other interests.

 

“Today’s drug ads drive up health care costs, overstate the value of pills, and underplay the dangers of new drugs that have not been proved safe over time. The pharmaceutical industry should stop the hype and give consumers additional and more relevant facts.” –Consumer Reports, September 2006

 

The DTC contagion

A fast-moving, systemic epidemic called DTC has swept across America, endangering public health, jacking up our costs, and weakening the curative connection between health professionals and patients. DTC stands for “Direct-to-Consumer” drug advertising. It’s a plague of marketing, empowering profiteering corporations to short-circuit the judgment of doctors by using all of the tricks of Madison Avenue (including lies) to convince viewers and readers that (first) they’re suffering from a particular malady, (second) the advertiser’s brand-name medicine is the very best cure, and (finally) they must go to their doctors pronto to insist on getting a prescription for that specific drug. The essence of this marketing scheme is to turn consumers into sales representatives for drug peddlers. Brilliant.

Prescribing medicine through the television, radio, print, and internet ads of corporations (whose sole motive is to sell more pills) is so crass, so awash in conflicts of interest, and so inherently dangerous that only two countries have ever legalized it: New Zealand in 1981 and the USA in 1997.

In our country, the corporate-friendly government of Ronald Reagan first okayed DTC drug ads in 1985, but his Food and Drug Administration ruled that pages-long consumer warnings about health risks had to be included, so there were few takers. Then came Bill Clinton’s corporate-friendly government, which issued a revised FDA rule in 1997 allowing drugmakers to dodge the full disclosure provision–as long as their ads met an “adequate” standard for informing consumers about risks.

Such squishy words (slipped into regulations by industry lobbyists) are a corporate wet dream. Thanks to the adequacy loophole, fluffy-puffy, no-worries prescription drug ads quickly mushroomed. In 1997, spending on DTC ads was only $220 million; by 2002, it was $2.8 billion; and it has kept a steady pace of roughly $3 billion a year ever since.

A real reform

What if drug marketers had to tell us the details of every under-the-table payment (aka bribes) that they make to doctors? Well, here’s good news: One of the pluses in Obama’s healthcare reform law, is that they will have to do just that, perhaps as soon as next year. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley added it to ObamaCare, requiring all drug companies to publish on a publicly accessible website (as yet unnamed) every payment that they make to doctors–including the name of recipients and the amount and exact reason for each “gift.” Moreover, this reform has teeth. Federal officials will audit corporate records to assure complete disclosure. Failure to list a payment will result in a $10,000 fine for each deletion ($100,000 for knowingly hiding a payment), and top executives can be liable for omissions, since they must swear to the accuracy of each report.

Of course, industry lobbyists screeched: “Doctors may no longer want to engage in consulting arrangements,” wailed one, “and such reluctance could chill innovation.” Bullstuff. If such “arrangements” are above board, no sweat. The only thing that this breakthrough will chill is corruption. About time, too.

 

Corporations don’t spend that kind of money to dramatize the severity of their products’ nasty side effects. As two ad execs giddily put it in a 1998 report to the industry, “The ultimate goal of DTC advertising is to stimulate consumers to ask their doctors about the advertised drug and then, hopefully, get the prescription.” Obviously, to “get the prescription,” corporate ads don’t stress such unpleasant outcomes as these (taken from the small print of full-page ads for just a half dozen heavily advertised drugs): very high fevers, confusion, uncontrollable bowel movements, trouble swallowing, lower sperm count, prostate cancer, loss of vision, suicidal thoughts… and, of course, death.

Side effects do have to be addressed, but not conspicuously–for example, it’s “adequate” for an off-camera announcer to buzz through them with a muted, fast-paced delivery (usually while cartoon butterflies flutter playfully on-screen to distract viewer attention). It’s a disgusting, dishonorable way to generate sales–but it works. In 2008, the House Commerce Committee found that every $1,000 spent on drug ads produces 24 new patients, and a 2003 research report found that prescription rates for drugs promoted with DTC ads were nearly seven times greater than those without such promos. Ethics aside, these consumer hustles have proven to be profit bonanzas:

  • From 2000 through 2004, Merck & Co. poured more than $500 million into adverts promoting Vioxx, turning the pain pill into one of the “Top 100 Megabrands” listed by Advertising Age. The drug was meant for the relatively few people who can’t stomach aspirin, but the PR push touted it to all arthritis patients, a much larger marketing pool. The campaign promised “everyday victories” over pain and immobility, featuring former Olympic skating champ Dorothy Hamill spinning effortlessly (and pain-free) on the ice. Merck’s ads sold some 20 million Vioxx prescriptions, including to people who paid the ultimate price for buying the hype–a 2005 research report in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, attributed as many as 140,000 sudden cardiac “events” in America to the use of Vioxx. In September of 2004, Merck took the pill off the market over “safety concerns.” As an expert pharmacy consultant told Forbes magazine in 2006, “Vioxx wasn’t a bad drug for everyone, it was a bad drug for certain patients. Unfortunately, people saw the ads and started demanding the drug from their doctors.” That’s the deadly power of mass advertising for drugs.
  • Some ads are simply frauds, including one that Pfizer ran on TV until 2006, hailing the prowess of the company’s cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor. The star of the spot was Robert Jarvik, who was described as the well-known “physician” who was the “inventor” of the artificial heart. In a picturesque outdoorsy setting, he was shown vigorously rowing a boat across a lake–visual “proof” that his own heart was in robust condition thanks to his use of Lipitor. His tagline was: “You don’t have to be a doctor to appreciate that.” Good, because he doesn’t practice medicine, and while he worked on the artificial heart, he did not invent it. Oh, he also wasn’t rowing the boat–a double played that role. Embarrassed, Pfizer had to yank the ad–but it continues to merchandize Lipitor with some $250 million a year in commercials, generating about $11 billion a year in sales, more than any other pharmaceutical in history.
  • Bear in mind that these pitches are being made to consumers who cannot just go purchase the product–only licensed medical professionals can diagnose and prescribe. But, again, the promotions work, as an industry spokesman happily affirmed: “There’s a strong correlation between the amount of money pharmaceutical companies spend on DTC advertising and what drug patients are most often requesting from physicians.” He also noted that the trumpeting of brand-name pills “is definitely driving patients to the doctor’s office.” No surprise, then, that prescription drug use has soared in the past decade, during which spending (by consumers, private health plans, and governments) more than doubled. A 2010 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics not only found that about 35 percent of Americans over 60 take five or more prescription medicines a day (more than twice the intake in 1999), but even 22 percent of children under age 12 are on at least one Rx regimen. “People may be taking too many drugs,” deadpanned the NCHS leader. And in recent years, a whole new market has opened up for DTC hucksters: Medical devices. In 2007, Johnson & Johnson launched the first mass-audience TV commercials for highly specialized, complex therapeutic devices. This is beyond odd; it is dangerous. Only expert practitioners have the knowledge and experience to judge whether one brand-name medical gizmo is superior to another. Yet, here was J&J doing a pitch to us clueless consumers for “Cypher,” a drug-coated coronary stent for opening closed arteries. I’m all for consumers getting more say in health care, but–come on!–how would I know enough about the efficacy of various stents to instruct my doctor to “Make mine Cyphers”?

The DTD contagion

In addition to getting you and me to push particular products on our doctors, the drug and device industry runs a massive, sophisticated, and relentless “Direct-to-Doctor” sales program that skates on the thinnest ethical ice and frequently plunges all the way into illegality. While these efforts, costing more than $6 billion a year, occasionally pretend to be “educational,” they are in fact an elaborate exercise in medical flimflammery–nothing but a door-to-door ploy by each of the major makers to hoodwink your doctor into prescribing their brand-name pill, rather than a competitor’s brand or a generic.

To do this, the biggest of Big Pharma deploy an astonishingly large force of “sales reps” all across the country–90,000 of them! That’s roughly one for every nine physicians, and they swarm non-stop into doctors’ offices–one Virginia physician says his office had to set a quota of three visits in the morning and three visits in the afternoon in order to get any doctoring done. They are highly trained in persuasive arts, motivated to make the sale at all costs, and alarmingly successful (a 2003 Blue Cross survey found that more than half of “high-prescribing” doctors relied on the reps as their main source of information about new drugs).

INTRIGUING QUESTION: What occupational sub-group of Americans are, by far, the most heavily recruited to take jobs as drug reps? You might think pharmacists, marketing consultants, or even used car salesmen. All wrong. THE SURPRISING ANSWER: College cheerleaders.

Hey, the point is to “make the sale,” to entice this mostly male profession to switch from A to B. Solid scientific evidence is one thing, but winks apparently work, too–and who’s twinklier, prettier, more buffed, peppier, or more gregarious than cheerleaders? The University of Kentucky, which boasts champion-level cheerleading squads, has been one of the premier movers of talent from pompoms to Pharma. A UK “cheering advisor” notes that his perky collegians are naturals for sales rep positions: “Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm–they learn those things, and they can get people to do what they want.” He says he routinely receives calls from drugmakers seeking to hire his graduates. “They don’t ask what the major is,” he says.

The demand is so high that an executive of a business that runs cheerleading camps set up a specialized employment firm in 2004 called “Spirited Sales Leaders.” Based in Memphis, it funnels hundreds of former cheerleaders into drug sales.

“There’s a lot of sizzle” in being a sales rep, he explains, and these experienced sizzle-generators can earn six figures a year, counting bonuses, for pep-talking doctors into writing more prescriptions for their companies’ medicines.

Not that these upstanding corporate citizens would stoop to hiring salespeople based on their sex appeal. No, no, explained a top executive of Bristol-Myers Squibb: “[It] has nothing to do with looks, it’s the personality.”

Sex appeal or not, the essence of the job is manipulation, and reps are highly trained and well armed to ingratiate themselves with each individual on their list of doctor-clients. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a doctor and professor at the Georgetown University Medical Center, is a drug company watchdog who has studied the doctor-sales rep relationship. In a 2007 article, she reported that the salespeople play to a doctor’s feeling of being overworked and underappreciated: “Cheerful and charming, bearing food and gifts, drug reps provide respite and sympathy; they appreciate how hard doctors’ lives are and seem only to want to ease their burdens. But every word, every courtesy, every gift, and every piece of information provided is carefully crafted, not to assist doctors or patients, but to increase market share for targeted drugs.” Here are key elements of the DTD operation:

The file. Each doctor is a mark, and drug reps are trained intelligence gatherers who build and constantly update a computerized corporate file on the doc’s personality, preferences, interests, and any personal tidbits that might help them change his or her prescribing habits. The strategic goal of good reps is to become each doctor’s trusted “friend”–not unlike the relationship that lobbyists try to cultivate with lawmakers.

The data. How can pill peddlers know which ones your doctor is prescribing–isn’t that a private matter? Not in today’s bluntly intrusive world of commercial data mining. A majority of pharmacies sell their records of every single prescription written by doctors doing business with them. This vast trove of computerized info is bought by such data hawkers as IMS Health, which procures prescriptions from about 70 percent of US pharmacies. While the names of patients are deleted, the name of the doctor who wrote each prescription is easily discernible, so pharmaceutical giants pay millions a year to buy, slice, and dice the electronic data on exactly which medicines each doctor has ordered and in what quantities. This is regularly fed to the laptops, iPads, and even smartphones of the sales reps on the ground–allowing them to target their daily pitches, and to precisely and carefully track the slightest of changes in a doctor’s prescribing habits.

The gift. Reps don’t go to a physician’s office empty-handed. Gourmet donuts and lunch treats for the entire staff are daily routines, and doctors and key staffers are treated to dinners at fine restaurants, holiday gift baskets, tickets to a game or show, and such nice personal presents as a silk tie or a monogrammed golf bag. A New York Times report in January of this year says that two-thirds of doctors accept such goodies. For the heavy prescribers of a drugmaker’s concoctions, the gifts grow ever-larger–a ski trip to Aspen, an invitation to make weekly paid “lunch and learn” presentations in other doctors’ offices, an honorarium to make brief comments at a conference in some five-star resort (complete with an “educational grant” to cover the bar tabs and other incidentals), big-buck “consulting” contracts that require practically no work, and outright cash payments for prescribing particular drugs. The Times’ January report found “that about a quarter of doctors take cash payments” and “that they are more willing to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways.”

The hoax. Few doctors are experts in the chemistry and biological impacts of particular medicines, so they rely on honest studies and tests (as reported in credible medical journals) to give them an un-hyped, non-sales-rep picture of the pluses and minuses of the drugs they choose to prescribe to you and me. Unfortunately, this process, too, has been corrupted–drugmakers have regularly paid doctors and researchers to conduct studies and publish results without revealing their financial ties. Pfizer, however, sank this sales-over-science approach to new lows when it launched its antidepressant, Zoloft, in the 1990s. It hired an advertising firm to fabricate “studies,” write them up as salutary reports about the drug, pay some big-name psychiatrists a couple of thousand bucks each to put their names on the reports, and convince major journals (read by thousands of doctors) to publish the ghostwritten “findings.” About half of the medical articles about Zoloft at that time were ad agency fakes. Journal editors, embarrassed by being scammed, have since imposed safeguards, but many doctors and observers say that up to 20 percent of major journal articles are still being ghosted.

We can do better

DTC and DTD are just two surging branches of the central stream running through America’s healthcare industry–an out-of-control stream that should be labeled DTP–”Direct-to-Profit.” The very fact that healthcare, an essential human need, has been twisted into an “industry”–a commercial activity for the purpose of maximizing profits–is a damning measure of its moral bankruptcy.

As avaricious and monopolistic drug corporations have demonstrated again and again, “care” is treated, at best, as an externality to their real work of making money–and at worst as an impediment to that corporate imperative. Thus, top executives and boards of directors constantly seek ever more sophisticated forms of deception and manipulation to, at all costs, make the sale. In this ethos, such loathsome products as blatant price gouging, artificial shortages of vital medicines, deliberate promotion of pills that kill, falsification of medical research, and routine corruption of doctors are not merely tolerated, but expected and accepted as normal.

Is this the best that this great, super-rich country can do? Of course not–we Americans can, must, and will create a system that puts public need over private greed. This month’s “Do Something” features some groups leading the way. I’ll give the final word to Dr. Relman, the thoughtful, insistent, and unflagging voice for an ethical and sensible system of care built around the concept of “Medicare for all.” A decade ago, he wrote that “our health policies have failed to meet national needs because they have been heavily influenced by the delusion that medical care is essentially a business… A different kind of approach could solve our problems, but it would mean major reform of the entire system… Since such a reform would threaten the financial interests of investors… the short-term political prospects for such reform are not very good. But I am convinced that a complete overhaul is inevitable, because in the long run nothing else is likely to work.”

Why Aren’t These Fraudulent Papers Retracted?

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Posted 15 May 2012 — by James Street
Category Ethics of Physicians, Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal
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Monday, 14 May 2012 00:00 By Martha Rosenberg, Truthout | News Analysis

Glasses over text(Photo: Elvire.R.)

 

According to Science Times,(1) the Tuesday science section in The New York Times, scientific retractions are on the rise because of a “dysfunctional scientific climate” that has created a “winner-take-all game with perverse incentives that lead scientists to cut corners and, in some cases, commit acts of misconduct.”

But elsewhere, audacious, falsified research stands unretracted – including the work of authors who actually went to prison for fraud!

Richard Borison MD, former psychiatry chief at the Augusta Veterans Affairs medical center and Medical College of Georgia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a $10 million clinical trial fraud,(2) but his 1996 US Seroquel® Study Group research is unretracted.(3) In fact, it is cited in 173 works and medical textbooks, misleading future medical professionals.(4)

Scott Reuben MD, the “Bernie Madoff” of medicine who published research on clinical trials that never existed, was sentenced to six months in prison in 2010.(5) But his “research” on popular pain killers like Celebrex and Lyrica is unretracted.(6) If going to prison for research fraud is not enough reason for retraction, what is?

Wayne MacFadden MD, resigned as US medical director for Seroquel in 2006, after sexual affairs with two coworker women researchers surfaced,(7) but the related work is unretracted and was even part of Seroquel’s FDA approval package for bipolar disorder.(8)

More than 50 ghostwritten papers about hormone therapy (HT) written by Pfizer’s marketing firm, Designwrite, ran in medical journals, according to unsealed court documents on the University of California – San Francisco’s Drug Industry Document Archive.(9) Though the papers claimed no link between HT and breast cancer and false cardiac and cognitive benefits and were ghostwritten by marketing professionals not doctors, none has been retracted.

For example, a paper written by DesignWrite’s Karen Mittleman,(10) according to court-obtained documents, titled “Is there an association between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer?” in the Journal of Women’s Health(11) finds, “these data fail to provide definitive evidence that the use of postmenopausal HRT is associated with an increased incidence of breast cancer,” and is unretracted.

Pfizer/Parke-Davis placed 13 ghostwritten articles(12) in medical journals promoting Neurontin for off-label uses, including a supplement to the Cleveland Clinic,(13) but only Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols has retracted the specious articles.(14)

Since 2008, when Pharma-slanted science forced Congressional investigation,(15) major journals have instituted systems to obviate fraud and financial corruption and implemented stronger disclosure policies. One of the key figures investigated in 2008 for Pharma financial links was Alan F. Schatzberg MD, former American Psychiatric Association president, in whose co-written textbook the Borison research still appears! Researchers and doctor authors also have a new awareness of the dangers of working from second-hand data that they have not personally collected or analyzed.

Nor is the phony science just a product of “Big Pharma.” In 2008, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) was forced to print a correction stating that authors of an article arguing for a higher recommended dietary allowance of protein were, in fact, industry operatives.(16) Sharon L. Miller was “formerly employed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” and author Robert R. Wolfe PhD, received money from the Egg Nutrition Center, the National Dairy Council, the National Pork Board and the Beef Checkoff through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the clarification. Miller’s email address, in fact was smiller@beef.org, which should might have been the JAMA editors’ first tip-off.(17) The article has also not been retracted.

Footnotes:

1. See here.

2. Steve Stecklow and Laura Johannes, “Test Case: Drug Makers Relied on Two Researchers Who Now Await Trial,” Wall Street Journal, August 8, 1997.

3. Richard Borison et al., “ICI 204,636, an Atypical Antipsychotic: Efficacy and Safety in a Multicenter, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Patients with Schizophrenia,” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 16, no. 2 (April 1996): 158–69.

4. Alan F. Schatzberg and Charles B. Nemeroff, Textbook of Psychopharmacology (New York: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2009) p. 609.

5. See here.

6. Scott Reuben et al., “The Analgesic Efficacy of Celecoxib, Pregabalin and Their Combination for Spinal Fusion Surgery,” Anesthesia & Analgesia 103, no. 5 (November 2006): 1271–77.

7. See here.

8. See here. (BOLDER study.)

9. Martha Rosenberg, “Flash Back. The Troubling Revival of Hormone Therapy. Consumers Digest, November 2010.

10. See here.

11. 1998 December; 7(10):1231-46.

12. Kristina Fiore, “Journals Aided in Marketing of Gabapentin,” MedPage Today, September 11, 2009.

13. United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, Report on the Use of Neurontin for Bipolar and Other Mood Disorders.

14. P. J. Wiffen et al., “WITHDRAWN: Gabapentin for Acute and Chronic Pain,” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols 16, no. 3 (March 16, 2011); P. J. Wiffen et al., “WITHDRAWN: Anticonvulsant Drugs for Acute and Chronic Pain,” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols no. 1 (January 20, 2010).

15. See here.

16. See here.

17. See here.

Obama betrays the left; cheers continued expansion of drug war, criminalization of plant-based medicine

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Posted 16 Apr 2012 — by James Street
Category Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal, Marijuana

 

 

(NaturalNews) If you happen to need even more evidence that President Obama has gutted his campaign promises and betrayed not only the left but also African Americans who enthusiastically supported his election, he has just gone public with his support for the continued war on drugs. Keeping marijuana criminalized, it seems — and keeping more African Americans in prison — is a top priority for the Obama administration.

This means Obama supports the midnight DEA raids on our citizenry; the filling of prisons with small-time pot smokers; the disproportionately punitive sentences handed down to black men and women across America who aren’t really criminals at all… they merely suffer from a chemical addiction that would more rightly be considered a medical issue.

Nearly every country in Latin America has now openly and publicize recognized that the so-called “war on drugs” is a complete and total failure. But Obama thinks it’s just great! Fill the prisons! Prosecute more blacks! Buy more guns and night vision gear for the DEA! That’s what Obama’s America stands for, it seems.

“I personally and my administration’s position is that legalization is not the answer,” Obama said just hours before the meeting of Latin American leaders at the Convention Centre in Cartagena, Colombia, for the Americas Summit (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17716926). Meanwhile, Obama’s top Secret Service agents and military commanders were banging Colombian whores in the background, then refusing to pay them their $47 prostitution fee. (http://www.naturalnews.com/035580_Secret_Service_Colombia_prostitutes…) Obama had “no comment” on that particular issue.

Let’s get real about all this. Marijuana prohibition simply doesn’t work. At least not for reducing crime and drug addiction. Anyone who thinks prohibition works is completely delusional. But it does work for certain special interests. What are those special interests, anyway?

Who BENEFITS from the continued criminalization of marijuana?

If you really want to know why prohibition remains in place with marijuana, it’s simple to find out why. Just ask yourself “Who benefits?”

• The DEA. Without a drug “problem,” the DEA won’t get hundreds of millions of dollars worth of increases in operating budgets from the federal purse strings. If drugs were decriminalized, the DEA would have to be sharply downsized (which would be a great thing for liberty and safety but a terrible thing for the DEA honchos).

• Private prisons. Thanks to illegal agreements between prison operators and state governments, prisons can put prisoners to work at slave labor wages — just a few cents an hour — manufacturing goods that the corporate prison owners sell for pure profit. If you thought the Nike sweatshops in Asia were bad, go visit a prison in the USA some time and watch the slave labor taking place right here at home.

• Local police. The “drug war” is the excuse that local police departments use to receive more grant money for weapons, assault gear and now even armored assault vehicles to be used against the citizens. Without the drug war excuse, all this grant money disappears and these cops have to go back to actually serving the community instead of bashing in doors like a bunch of cocaine cowboys.

• The government drug runners! It’s now a well-known fact that the ATF, DEA and other government agencies are all heavily involved in running drugs across America. Just Google any of these terms if you want to check it out for yourself. The ATF is even engaged in money laundering through the globalist banks. This is why government crackdowns on drugs are highly selectively — drug raids are really just a way to eliminate the competition so that the biggest drug dealer of all — the government itself — can continue to rake in the maximum profits. Legalizing drugs would obviously cause street prices to collapse, sucking all the profits out of the government-run drug business.

• Local District Attorneys and prosecutors. Without the drug war to give them a juicy field of easy targets to prosecute, their careers would take a huge hit. It’s so much harder to arrest real criminals than to go after pot smokers and raw milk farmers, isn’t it? Gee, imagine the difficulty of actually fighting REAL crime for a change?

• Big Government. The entire government benefits from the continued criminalization of drugs. For starters, it establishes the outrageous precedent that government can outlaw a native plant — even a plant that has grown wild across North America for hundreds of years. This alone is an outrageous encroachment on fundamental human freedom. Beyond that, the government can always point to “drug violence” as another excuse to squash our freedoms and put in place a tyrannical police state. It’s all “for your own good,” of course. Isn’t it always?

• Big Pharma and the hospital industry. Because recreational drugs are illegal, they’re often cut with dangerous chemicals that cause liver damage and kidney damage. This results in yet more repeat business for hospitals and the drug industry. If street drugs were legalized, they would be standardized and regulated, and adulteration of those products would be extremely rare. They would be safer to use, in other words, which is exactly what the pharmaceutical industry is dead set against. They only make money when people are damaged or sick from using street drugs concocted in somebody’s trailer.

Who LOSES from the drug war? You!

So we’ve covered the beneficiaries of the drug war, but who loses from it? You do, of course: Your liberties, freedoms, tax dollars and personal safety are all threatened by the existence of the war on drugs. Decriminalizing and regulating these drugs would have an enormously positive impact on you and your life.

If drugs were decriminalized, here’s what would happen:

• Drug gangs would vanish as their source of revenues (illegal drugs at black market prices) dry up.

• Drug-related crime would sharply fall.

• State revenues would skyrocket from the regulated sale of legalized marijuana.

• The corrupt prison industry would collapse to perhaps only 25% of its current size.

• Your personal safety and security would be greatly enhanced due to the lack of drug violence, shootings, home invasions and more.

• Mexican drug gangs would lose their power base, resulting in a sharp drop in crime along the border.

• Former “criminal” pot smokers would once again become taxpaying members of the workforce, contributing to the financial upkeep of society rather than draining it as prisoners.

• The happiness index across society would sharply rise.

Even the Red Cross says decriminalize marijuana

It’s all pure economics, my friends. Cause and effect. Legalize recreational drugs and you end the violence, the crime, the prison system overload and the entire underground market for the stuff.

It’s all so obvious that even the Red Cross has called for decriminalization (http://copssaylegalize.blogspot.com/2012/03/red-cross-calls-for-drug….).

At the same time, countless members of the FBI, DEA and active-duty police organizations are also openly calling for decriminalization (http://www.leap.cc/).

The rational argument for ending prohibition is further detailed at www.Norml.org

There are no rational reasons for keeping marijuana criminalized. There are only political reasons for doing so. That’s why Obama continues to support the irrational war on drugs — because it’s a political issue.

Obama, the betrayer of the political left

Obama, of course, is a teleprompter-reading puppet of the global elite. He does what they tell him to do, and right now they’re telling him to keep pushing Drug War propaganda because it’s a highly effective way to expand the police state and keep people living in fear while denying them access to plant-based medicine.

Obama, it turns out, has betrayed the left so many times I can hardly keep count: He supports the GMO industry, he signed the NDAA which expands secret arrests and secret Gitmo-style prisons, he’s an opponent of farm and food freedom (http://www.naturalnews.com/035301_Obama_executive_orders_food_supply….) and he has proven himself to be nothing more than a big business operative who defends the status quo while preaching “hope and change” that he never delivers.

Obama has assaulted free speech, due process (http://www.naturalnews.com/034537_NDAA_Bill_of_Rights_Obama.html), medical freedom and parental rights. In doing so, he has betrayed many of the top priorities of the very people who once put him into office.

He wants to keep marijuana criminalized because that’s what the police state fascist system of corporate control wants.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the alternatives we’re given are going to be any better. This is not some pitch for Romney, for God’s sake. That guy is just as much of a corporate sellout as Obama (and Bush before him). Elections are created to present the illusion that the People have a choice when, in reality, all they’re voting for is which color of puppet they want to see on television while we’re all being imprisoned, exploited, enslaved and oppressed by a growing fascist state.

Care to guess which candidate would have decriminalized marijuana from the get-go? His name is Ron Paul, and the ideas of freedom and liberty that he espouses are the real answer for the future of our nation. No matter who shows up in the ballot box this November, Ron Paul is my President, because he’s the only candidate who is deeply committed to legalizing freedom in America.

Woman with brain tumor says she was kicked out of hospital for using medical marijuana

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Posted 14 Mar 2012 — by James Street
Category Cannabis, Ethics of Physicians, Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

By Cheryl Hurd, NBCBayArea.com

SAN FRANCISCO — A medical marijuana celebrity with a brain condition said a local hospital kicked her out after she attempted to use medical marijuana inside.

Angel Raich, who fought for the right to use medical cannabis in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 and 2005, talked to us outside of UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco moments after she said they booted her out.

“The pharmacist says ‘you’re not allowed to have cannabis in this hospital,’” Raich said. “‘And if you’re gonna try to have cannabis in this hospital we’re going to call the feds.’”

Raich said she checked into the hospital Monday morning for doctor-ordered tests on her brain. She suffers from chronic pain and seizures from an inoperable brain tumor and doctors didn’t give her very long to live, she said.

“You’re basically saying if I stay it’s like giving me a death sentence ’cause I’d have to be without my cannabis,’” Raich said she told a hospital employee.

Raich said she had no choice but to leave the hospital.

“I’m in a state university hospital in the state of California,” Raich said. “I have the right to have the same medical care as any other patient does.”

UCSF Medical Center released the following statement:

“UCSF is a smoke-free campus and this includes medical marijuana. Several members of the media have asked if UCSF allows the use of a vaporized form of marijuana. It does not. Even a vaporized form of medical marijuana releases particles in the air that are damaging to the lung. Any particles from vapor and odor could have an impact on other patients and hospital employees.

Under federal and state law, a physician is at legal risk related to any activity that could be construed as prescribing medical marijuana to a patient.”

During our interview with Raich, she appeared to have a seizure. When the fire department and paramedics arrived, Raich refused to return to UCSF. Instead, they took her to St. Mary’s Hospital.

Harm in Hospitals Seldom Reported, OIG Says

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Posted 07 Jan 2012 — by James Street
Category Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Hospital Safety, Legal

By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
Published: January 06, 2012

WASHINGTON — Most hospital errors that result in harm to Medicare patients go unreported, and even when they are, hospitals rarely change the way they operate in order to prevent similar errors in the future, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG found that hospital staff did not report 86% of adverse events, whether errors or accidents. Hospital administrators interviewed for the report suggested that doctors and nurses are unclear about what constitutes a reportable adverse event.

For their report, investigators selected 420 adverse events from an earlier OIG review on hospital errors and had physicians review the medical records on those cases.

The doctors identified 302 events of preventable harm to patients, 128 of which were considered serious, including a death from septic shock and four deaths from excessive bleeding after administration of anticoagulants.

To determine which of the 302 events were actually reported in hospital error-reporting systems, the OIG requested error reporting data from the hospitals where the selected adverse events occurred.

The OIG investigators also interviewed hospital administrators about the specific events and why they weren’t reported. All of the hospitals involved had reporting systems in place and said they expected staff to report errors that resulted in patient harm, but none had a standardized list of which events should be reported.

The administrators told OIG investigators that the most common reasons that errors went unreported were that no clear error occurred leading up to the adverse event, that the event was thought to be a common side effect to the treatment, and that the event occurred so frequently that it was considered too common to report.

For instance, only one of 17 catheter-related infections — a common event in Medicare beneficiaries — was reported.

In his conclusion, report author Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote that it is crucial that the adverse event reporting systems do what they’re supposed to and said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) are in the best position to provide hospitals with guidance and incentives to better use reporting systems.

Specifically, AHRQ and CMS should create and promote an adverse event list to be used by hospitals, other healthcare providers, and medical and nursing schools. The list would detail the full range of patient harm that can occur in hospitals so hospital workers would have a clearer idea of what events should be reported.

CMS and AHRQ agreed with the recommendations, according to OIG.

Levinson also recommended that CMS provide guidance to accreditors on how to better assess hospital efforts to track and analyze adverse events. As a condition of participation in Medicare, hospitals must go through an accreditation process that proves they are tracking events that result in patients being harmed.

The OIG report on which the current analysis was based was done in 2010. It found that nearly 14% of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced a preventable adverse event that resulted in extended hospitalization, required life-sustaining intervention, caused permanent disability, or resulted in death.

An additional 13.5% experienced events that required some sort of additional treatment, but were not life-threatening, the 2010 report showed.

The idea of doing a better job of tracking patient harm as a result of medical treatment gained popularity after the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 landmark report “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.” That report argued that hospitals can only address patient safety problems if adverse events are identified and adequately described.

Federal Judge Tosses Medical Marijuana Case

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Posted 07 Jan 2012 — by James Street
Category Cannabis, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal, Marijuana

By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
Published: January 06, 2012

A federal judge has thrown out Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s complaint against the state’s medical marijuana law.

The law, passed in 2010, created a system of marijuana dispensaries that are regulated by the state’s health department. Patients are banned from growing their own marijuana if they live within a 25-mile radius of a dispensary.

Brewer and the state’s attorney general filed the lawsuit just days before the state was scheduled to accept applications from potential dispensary operators. The suit asked for a judgment on whether state officials who administer Arizona’s medical marijuana programs could be at risk for federal prosecution, since marijuana is illegal under federal law.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton of Arizona on Wednesday dismissed the complaint, ruling that the Arizona officials failed to show that an imminent threat of prosecution exists for state employees, or that state employees in any of the 16 states with medical marijuana laws have faced prosecution for violating federal laws that make marijuana use and dispensing illegal.

Recently, federal authorities in California began cracking down on the state’s medical marijuana industry, but they are targeting those who are dispensing the drug illegally, and have said those who need marijuana for medical purposes — such as to help ease the effects of cancer or AIDS — will still be able to get it.

Even if the threat of prosecution for state employees in Arizona were imminent, Brewer and the other plaintiffs in the case — the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety — didn’t show they would suffer direct harm or immediate hardship if the case wasn’t immediately decided, Bolton wrote, so the case is “not appropriate for judicial review.”

Matthew Benson, director of communications for Brewer’s office, called the ruling a disappointment.

“What this federal court has essentially said is, it won’t hear the state’s lawsuit until a state employee is prosecuted or notified that they imminently face federal prosecution for their part in administering Proposition 203,” he said in an email to MedPage Today.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the decision.

“It is unconscionable for Governor Brewer to continue to force very sick people to needlessly suffer by stripping them of the legal avenue through which to obtain their vital medicine,” Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, said in a press release. “[The] ruling underscores the need for state officials to stop playing politics and implement the law as approved by a majority of Arizona voters so that thousands of patients can access the medicine their doctors believe is most effective for them.”

In addition to Arizona, 15 other states have medical marijuana laws — Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Medical marijuana also is legal in District of Columbia.

‘You want opiates with that?’ Doctor ‘made $4,000-a-night illegally selling prescription drugs from Starbucks’

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Posted 04 Nov 2011 — by James Street
Category Drugs, Ethics, Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Fraud, Legal

By Rachel Quigley

Last updated at 5:17 PM on 27th October 2011

A doctor is accused of making up to $4,000-a-night illegally prescribing addictive opiate painkillers to people he barely knew at Starbucks cafes.

Alvin Ming-Czech Yee, 43, of Mission Viejo, California, was arrested on Tuesday but pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A 56-count grand jury indictment charges Yee with prescribing drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, ‘outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose’. 

Scroll down for video

Doctor: Alvin Ming-Czech Yee is accused of illegally selling prescription drugs at Starbucks on a daily basis Doctor: Alvin Ming-Czech Yee is accused of illegally selling prescription drugs at Starbucks on a daily basis

 

Scene: This was just one of the Starbucks across the county that Dr Yee allegedly prescribed opiates to people he rarely knew Scene: This was just one of the Starbucks across the county that Dr Yee allegedly prescribed opiates to people he rarely knew

Yee also allegedly ran a makeshift clinic out of a Starbucks.

Undercover operatives were served by Yee during evening Starbucks clinics across the county.

 

He was said to have written prescription drugs for countless of people including OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, Adderall and Suxoxone.

Investigators traced the sale of painkillers to people in Seattle, Phoenix and Detroit.

Family: Dr Yee with attorney Lily Allen, who appears to be his wife from pictures on Facebook. She refused to answer questions from reportersFamily: Dr Yee with attorney Lily Allen, who appears to be his wife from pictures on Facebook. She refused to answer questions from reporters

 

Home: His wife refused to answer questions about the allegations at their Californian homeHome: His wife refused to answer questions about the allegations at their Californian home

Pharmacists in the area said in interviews that they refused to honour Yee’s prescriptions because ‘they considered them outside the scope of a professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose’, wrote Mark Nomady, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

One ‘young adult’ who was receiving opiates from Yee has died, and the case is under review by the Orange County coroner’s office, Mr Nomady wrote.

Graph: Most of the 'patients' Dr Yee allegedly sold the drugs to were under 25 and the most common was OxycodoneGraph: Most of the ‘patients’ Dr Yee allegedly sold the drugs to were under 25 and the most common was Oxycodone

 

A third of the prescriptions Yee wrote were for people age 25 and younger, prosecutors alleged.

According to KTLA, authorities are also investigating the death of Krista Davis, who died from a drug overdose and is thought to have got prescriptions from Yee.

Abuse of prescription opiate painkillers is at record levels in many parts of the country, according to law enforcement and public health officials.

Addicts and public health workers say many of those who abuse the expensive painkillers later switch to cheaper heroin to supply their habits.

He was freed on $250,000 bail and if convicted faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

NY organ trafficker admits buying kidneys in Israel for $10,000… and selling them in U.S. for $120,000

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Posted 04 Nov 2011 — by James Street
Category Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Fraud, Legal, Legal Issues
  • First ever U.S. federal conviction for organ trafficking
  • His lawyers claimed he was providing life-saving service

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 12:45 AM on 28th October 2011

Lawyers for a man who pleaded guilty Thursday in the first ever federal conviction for illegal organ trafficking say he was performing life-saving services for severely ill people.

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, from New York, admitted in a Trenton federal court to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for desperate New Jersey-based customers in exchange for payments of $120,000 or more.

He also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count for brokering an illegal kidney sale.

Convicted trafficker: Levy Izhak Rosenbaum , 60, before entering the courthouse in Trenton, New Jersey, on Thursday Convicted trafficker: Levy Izhak Rosenbaum , 60, before entering the courthouse in Trenton, New Jersey, on Thursday

Attorneys Ronald Kleinberg and Richard Finkel say Rosenbaum never solicited clients.

He simply agreed to help desperately ill people by finding them kidney donors, they said.

The lawyers claim the surgeries occurred in prestigious American hospitals and were performed by experienced transplant experts.

They did not, however, name the hospitals involved, the Associated Press reports.

 

 

The lawyers claimed that the donors he arranged to give up kidneys were fully aware of what they were doing. 

But anthropologist and organ trade expert Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who described Israel as a ‘pariah’ in the organ transplant world, has said in the past that many of the donors were desperately poor immigrants from eastern European countries such as Moldova, Romania and Russia.

They say the recipients are leading healthy lives thanks to Rosenbaum.

The 60-year-old was arrested two years ago following a huge investigation into corruption in New Jersey.

The probe led to 46 arrests, including several rabbis, the New York Daily News reports.

‘I am what you call a matchmaker … I’ve never had a failure.’

He was nabbed after an FBI informant who was pretending to be a businessman told him he was looking for a new kidney for a sick uncle

Rosenbaum was caught on tape boasting that he had brokered ‘quite a lot’ of illegal transplants.

He told the informant: ‘I am what you call a matchmaker.’

‘I bring a guy what I believe, he’s suitable for your uncle … I’ve never had a failure.’

Prosecutors said he bought the organs from vulnerable people in Israel for as little as $10,000, then sold them here for a minimum of $120,000.

New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said: ‘A black market in human organs is not only a grave threat to public health, it reserves lifesaving treatment for those who can best afford it at the expense of those who cannot. We will not tolerate such an affront to human dignity.’

Caught in a sting: Rosenbaum is handcuffed and arrested in 2009 after a huge probe intro corruption in New Jersey Caught in a sting: Rosenbaum is handcuffed and arrested in 2009 after a huge probe intro corruption in New Jersey

Rosenbaum faces a maximum five-year prison sentence on each count, plus a fine of up to $250,000. He also agreed to forfeit $420,000 in property that came from the kidney sales.

He is a member of the Orthodox Jewish community in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, where he had told neighbors he was in the construction business.

Under 1984 federal law, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly buy or sell organs for transplant.

The practice is illegal just about everywhere else in the world, too.
But demand for kidneys far outstrips the supply, with 4,540 people dying in the U.S. last year while waiting for a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Evil plan: Rosenbaum's home in Brooklyn where the matchmaking was mastermindedEvil plan: Rosenbaum’s home in Brooklyn where the matchmaking was masterminded

As a result, there is a thriving black market for kidneys around the world.

Art Caplan, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-chairman of a United Nations task force on organ trafficking, said kidneys are the most common of all trafficked organs because they can be harvested from live donors, unlike other organs.

He said Rosenbaum had pleaded guilty to one of the ‘most heinous crimes against another human being.’

Mr Caplan said: ‘Internationally, about one quarter of all kidneys appear to be trafficked.

‘But until this case, it had not been a crime recognized as reaching the United States.’

Clearing the Smoke: Lost Chances to Study Marijuana’s Potential

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Posted 19 Oct 2011 — by James Street
Category Cannabis, Ethics of Science, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal

Cover Image: October 2011 Scientific American Magazine See Inside

Clearing the Smoke: Lost Chances to Study Marijuana’s Potential

Marijuana remains tightly controlled, even though its compounds show promise

By Francie Diep  | Friday, October 14, 2011 | 25

Image: Illustrations by Thomas Fuchs

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Preliminary clinical trials show marijuana might be useful for pain, nausea and weight loss in cancer and HIV/AIDS and for muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis. Medical marijuana studies in the U.S. are dwindling fast, however, as funding for research in California—the only state to support research on the whole cannabis plant—comes to an end this year and federal regulations on obtaining marijuana for study remain tight.

In July the Drug Enforcement Administration denied a petition, first filed in 2002 and supported by the American Medical Association, to change marijuana’s current classification. So marijuana remains in the administration’s most tightly controlled category, Schedule I, defined as drugs that “have a high potential for abuse” and “have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.” Many medical cannabis proponents see a catch-22 in the U.S.’s marijuana control. One of the DEA’s reasons for keeping marijuana in Schedule I is that the drug does not have enough clinical trials showing its benefits. Yet the classification may limit research by making marijuana difficult for investigators to obtain.

Even as prospects for whole-plant marijuana research dim, those who study isolated compounds from marijuana—which incorporates more than 400 different types of molecules—have an easier time. The drug’s main active chemical, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is already FDA-approved for nausea and weight loss in cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. The Mayo Clinic​ is investigating the compound, trade-named Marinol, as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston are studying Marinol for chronic pain.

Compared with smoked or vaporized marijuana, isolated cannabis compounds are more likely to reach federal approval, experts say. Pharmaceutical companies are more likely to develop individual compounds because they are easier to standardize and patent. The results should be similar to inhaled marijuana, says Mahmoud ElSohly, a marijuana chemistry researcher at the University of Mississippi, whose lab grows the nation’s only research-grade marijuana.

Other investigators say a turn away from whole-plant research would shortchange patients because the many compounds in marijuana work together to produce a better effect than any one compound alone. Inhaling plant material may also provide a faster-acting therapy than taking Marinol by mouth. While ElSohly agrees that other marijuana compounds can enhance THC, he thinks just a few chemicals should re-create most of marijuana’s benefits.

9/11 ten years later: For many, the battle still continues

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Posted 21 Aug 2011 — by James Street
Category Carcinogens, Finance and Politics of cancer research and treatment, Legal, Life Death and Dying

BY Rocco Parascandola

DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF

Sunday, August 21st 2011, 4:00 AM

The official tally is that 23 NYPD officers lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terror attacks — but 45 cops have died of cancer since then, and hundreds more are battling the disease.

Because doctors have not linked their cases to their time spent at Ground Zero, they are not eligible for federal compensation under the Zadroga Law.

“We know with absolute certainty that our members were exposed to unprecedented levels of cancer-causing materials when they responded to the call without concern for their own well-being,” said Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

“Logic and common sense dictates that cancer should be included under the Zadroga Law. These men and women are sick and dying today. They cannot wait for science to catch up with common sense.”

These are the stories of four of them.

DAVID HOWLEY

Retired cop David Howley can’t laugh without coughing,  and he carries a water bottle everywhere he goes because radiation treatments destroyed his salivary glands.

He was enjoying a bacon-and-eggs breakfast with a friend when terrorists struck the World Trade Center. He rushed to Police Headquarters, where he worked in the Operations Unit, and helped coordinate the response to Ground Zero.

Howley, 51, blew out his sinuses the first day and soon had breathing problems. In 2007, he was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer and later suffered two strokes.

Now he’s cancer-free, and strong enough to advocate for cancer-stricken Ground Zero responders cut out of the Zadroga
9/11 Health and Compensation fund.

“It’s disturbing that 10 years later we’re still going around in circles about this,” said Howley, who lives in Edison, N.J., with his wife and daughter.

“Whatever monies I may get, it’s not going to change our lives, but for others it’s going to make a big difference and I’ll do whatever I can to help make that happen.”

Although he’s in remission, Howley said his long-term prognosis is unclear.

“My doctor and I seldom have that conversation,” he said. “At this point I can’t have any more radiation. There’s only so much you can do to your body.”

ROBERT NICOSIA

Officer Robert Nicosia arrived at his Wantagh, L.I., home in the wee hours of Sept. 12, covered in ash.

“I think he had no idea this could make him sick,” said his widow, Louise, 65, a retired nurse. “He just wanted to get the guys out.”

A year later, Nicosia, who was assigned to the technical assistance and response unit, retired from the force. Soon after, a tumor was found on his pancreas, and the cancer spread to his liver.

Thick and broad-shouldered, Nicosia put up a fight, riding a bike to a part-time job at a gun shop and continuing to volunteer with the Wantagh Fire Department.

The cancer eventually destroyed his body, though. In his last days, he was thin, frail and unable to walk without assistance.

Nicosia died in 2008. His son, Joseph, a three-year veteran of the NYPD, wears his dad’s shield number.

His widow says the refusal to link cancer and Ground Zero is a slap at her husband’s efforts.

“I just don’t want them to say all these guys got cancer and it has nothing to do with the World Trade Center,” she says.

SCOTT RABINER

 

When Officer Scott Rabiner���s back started hurting in 2004, he assumed kidney stones he’d battled three years earlier were back — and headed right to the doctor.

“It’s not kidney stones,” he was told. “It’s cancer.”

Rabiner, a cop since 1993, was on patrol in the 122nd Precinct on Sept. 11. He rushed to Ground Zero and stayed for weeks.

His service is documented in “The Thousand-Mile Stare: Images from Ground Zero,” a photo book that shows him, leg bandaged and arm in a sling, after he ran from the Liberty One building amid fears it was about to collapse.

Little thought was given to the carcinogens floating in the air at the time. Today, he has no doubt those toxins caused a rare form of testicular cancer that struck his lymph nodes, liver, aorta and kidney.

“They gave me a 40% chance to live,” he said.

Intense chemotherapy five days a week and a strong will helped Rabiner pull through and return to work.
“I was lucky,” he said. “They caught it early, and for some reason, God didn’t want me.”

Rabiner was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2009 and twice had additional tumors removed.

Now 44, he’s still out on patrol but must get tested every three months.

“It’s hard,” he admits. “Just the stress the week I’m going for the test and not knowing what the test is going to show.”

PAUL GERASIMCZYK

Retired officer Paul Gerasimczyk spent 382 hours at Ground Zero and was diagnosed with kidney cancer six years later. He’s cancer-free now, and is trying to get other 9/11 cops to be proactive about their health.

“There are a lot of sick people out there that aren’t getting help,” Gerasimczyk said. “A lot of cops don’t want to know what’s wrong. They feel that if they get sick they want to die right away.”

Gerasimczyk said it would help if cops knew they wouldn’t have to battle their insurance companies to cover certain procedures and medications.

“Soldiers risk their lives to go into battle,” the 52-year-old said. “If they get injured they expect they’re going to get care. The police officers and the firefighters who went down there that day expected the same thing.”Gerasimczyk lost a third of his kidney to cancer and suffers from asthma, acid reflux and damaged sinuses. He tires easily when climbing stairs or lifting packages.

He retired from the force in 2005, but hasn’t stopped working. He does security at Aqueduct — a job made necessary by the possibility his medical bills might one day outpace his benefits.