Posts Tagged ‘science’

Drug consumers seek relief as PBM’s make money hand over fist

February 2, 2018

I stumbled across this article and I thought it would be VERY helpful for anyone who takes meds monthly!  I’m going to sign-up and see what’s going on too!

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A few taps on Carol Shoemaker’s phone saves her hundreds of dollars in the pharmacy.

“It’s crazy, it’s distressing,” Shoemaker says, “the amount of money you pay for insurance. I pay between $600 and $700 a month for a premium because I’m a single person, I don’t have a company, you know, getting any discounts with big group insurance policies. So, it’s very distressing – you’re already spending a ton of money on insurance, but you still have to pay for, you know, all of the extra.”

Shoemaker almost paid a lot more for one drug; it cost $613 with her insurance. But instead of using that insurance, Shoemaker logged on to one of those cost-saving prescription apps – in this case, GoodRx – and paid just $272 for the medication.

“For me, that’s just too much money to be throwing out the window,” Shoemaker tells us.

She shows us a printout – her family’s medications, with the savings she found online. Shoemaker says those annual savings add up. “It could be a thousand bucks,” she says.

And last year she could have saved even more: She used her insurance for a $277 cream, but only later found out she could have paid just $11.72 via an app.

“My husband’s going to kill me for that,” she jokes, noting the $260 in missed savings would have bought “a nice pair of shoes.”

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBM’s, control these costs for your prescription drugs.

“The PBM’s in everyone’s pocket,” warns Doug Hoey, who heads National Community Pharmacists Association. “I mean that literally and figuratively because, in every wallet or purse, that prescription drug card that people carry around, somewhere in the fine print, it’ll usually say the name of the PBM, the pharmacy benefits manager.”

The three biggest PBM’s are CVS/Caremark, Express Scripts and Optum, which is owned by United Healthcare.

“They’re huge,” Hoey says. “They’re probably companies you’ve never heard of. But they’re bigger than the drug manufacturers.”

Here at WVUE/FOX 8, Caremark manages our prescription medication. We compared some of the prices our colleagues were being charged.

We found one antibiotic, Ciprofloxacin that costs $15 through our insurance at the Walmart pharmacy. Using GoodRx, the same medication can be bought for just $4. And we found similar savings on an arthritis drug, Meloxicam.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Hoey says. “It’s counterintuitive. I mean, you stroke a check each month to pay your premium and you expect that to give you some value. And the reality is that, in increasing numbers of cases, if you just did it the good old-fashioned way of paying cash, you might pay less for your prescription.”

FOX 8 investigators reached out to Caremark for comment on this report. They sent us this statement:

Without knowing who the CVS Caremark members are or the details of their prescription transactions, it is not possible for us to look into their situations in order to either explain their experience under their specific coverage plan, or clarify any incorrect or incomplete information you may have been provided.

CVS Caremark is committed to ensuring that our PBM clients and members have access to affordable medications to improve health outcomes.  To that end, our PBM plan members receive the lower price when covered prescriptions are filled by a pharmacy that participates in their plan’s applicable pharmacy network. For example, we set a negotiated rate for generic medications with pharmacies, but if a pharmacy in our network has a cash price for a medication that is less expensive than our negotiated rate, the pharmacy is required to submit that lower price when it processes the prescription claim through Caremark.

We found plenty instances where drug costs on insurance were cheaper than those without. But the lesson remains: A smart consumer needs to shop around, ask for the cash prices on their medications, look online and on apps, and ask the insurance prices, too.

A big case in point: We received a list of medications for employees of the Orleans Parish School Board. In 2016, employees paid $28 for a high blood pressure drug, Lisinopril. But through GoodRx, it would have cost them just $8.

“It does not make sense and it happens a lot,” says Gerald Michel. He runs two pharmacies and he says customers frequently come in and save money paying cash for medication.

Michel wonders if there’s more savings out there.

Take the Orleans Parish School Board – all of those prescriptions add up. Just like your employer may do, taxpayers subsidize part of school employees’ prescription expenses. In 2016, they cost taxpayers $1.5 million.

But savings exist by bypassing those high-priced pharmacy benefit managers or PBM’s. Michel also sits on the Terrebonne Parish Council. Two years ago, he urged the council to dump its PBM and search for a new one.

They found one right here in Louisiana, in Natchitoches. Terrebonne dumped its PBM, Optum; Southern Scripts signed a deal with the parish and saved taxpayers $1.2 million on pharmacy costs last year.

“Ultimately, it’s the person getting the insurance that’s going to be saving the money,” Michel says.

“When you think about $1.2 million for… 3,000 people in that county, or 3,000 employees, and if you extrapolate that over 200 million workers in the United States… I’m not that good a whiz to figure out what that number is, but it has a lot of zeroes,” Hoey says. “It starts at least with a ‘b’, as in billions. And that’s the type of potential savings that’s out there, that’s right under our counties’, employees’, school districts’… That’s right under their noses right now, by not using transparent PBM.”

The head of the pharmacists group says he knows another story of a company saving even more on prescription costs. “They saved 30 percent,” Hoey tells us, “30 percent off their prescription drug spend, which is a lot of money.”

In the meantime, PBM’s are raking in lots of cash; Americans are spending about $400 billion on prescription drugs every year.

“These are very profitable companies,” Hoey notes. “They’re all traded on Wall Street, they have shareholders they have obligations to. And so, yes, they’re going to make sure they’re profitable and are rewarding those shareholders.”

Unless consumers start shopping around, experts warn, those growing profits will come at the expense of pharmacies, consumers and taxpayers.

If you do pay cash for a medication…. It could impact whether you reach your deductible.  so be sure to investigate that.

http://www.fox8live.com/story/37406869/zurik-drug-consumers-seek-relief-as-pbms-make-money-hand-over-fist

  You can read much more in our “Medical Waste” investigation at this link

Medical Waste

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Seed Lists

January 31, 2018

I’ve been prepping on an off for several years and at 50 I’ve come to several conclusions:

1) There are TONS of people selling “Seed Kits.”

Yes, but honestly do you eat everything in the kit?  And their price of $50!! WOW!  That is outrageous!  Lowe’s and Home Depot has their seeds out in February and March and guess what?!?  They’re in Mylar!!

So JUST get the veggies you WILL eat.  We’ll go through the list later to help you!

2) They are non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds.

What does that mean?  Non-hybrid?  This means it is the ORIGINAL plant, when you see it in catalogs, online or even look at the package you’ll see a F1.  This means it’s a hybrid.  These are seeds that are cross-pollinated for the aspects and features wanted; ie, juicer, blossom rot resistant, etc.

You cannot save those seeds and re-use them next season, why? They will go back to the characteristic of their parent plant.  You might not like what you get, also sometimes they are sterile!

3) Stick with proven producers.

True, you may not get a s many veggies or they may not be perfectly red but they will grow EVERY year!

4) You need to practice NOW! 

Don’t expect the STHTF and suddenly grow an amazing garden on your first try!  It takes practice and a learning curve.  Even if you only have a window, put a cheap shelf up and practice with herbs.

5) Save your own seeds!

I would recommend marking every 5th plant as a seed plant.  Harvest ONLY for seeds.  That way you’re assured of a viable seed for next years harvest.

Everything in moderation including moderation!

One list pushes the Ark Institute seed list.  Their starter set for $47.  I personally wouldn’t buy it why?  Lets go through the list:

200 – 2 Dry Bean Varieties, 100 Green Beans, 100 Sweet Corn, 100 Snap Peas, 50 Butternut Squash, 25 Zucchini Squash, 100 Sugar Baby Watermelon, 25 Bell Pepper, 300 Parsnips, 200 Beets, 100 Yellow Onions, 200 Spinach, 200 Radishes, 100 Pickling Cucumbers, 200 Kale, 1000 Lettuce, 500 Arugula, 500 Broccoli, 500 Cabbage, 1000 Carrots, 100 Swiss Chard, 100 Brussel Sprouts, 300 – 2 Tomato Varieties

6000 TOTAL SEEDS!

What bean varieties?  I actually have grown seeds from the bags I’ve purchased in the grocery store.  Guess what?  I’m already eating them!!

Green Beans – I loathe green beans.  I can ONLY eat them fresh or pickled for Bloody Mary’s!  When I do make them I only make ONE dish: Saute bacon, remove bacon and in grease cook chopped onions, garlic and small diced red or waxy potatoes (Don’t use baking potateoes as they turn to mush!); I usually add 1/2 cup water, cover and let water cook off which cooks potatoes.  I then remove lid and start to brown potatoes, I then add green beans cut into 1″ segments.  Cook until bright green.  Remove from heat, S&P when you server on plate.  DONE!

Sweet Corn is a misnomer.  IF you pick corn when they are still young then it will be sweet but if you let it mature it becomes field corn. That is the only difference.  I would also get strawberry corn,  It’s an Indian corn which makes amazing popcorn!

Snap Peas is great for snacking, I’d also add snow peas.  Stir fry is quick filling and can use a variety of veggies!

Butternut Squash, I have one word…YUCK!!!  I cannot stand butternut, but I do love Acorn and Blue Hubbard.  Now Blue Hubbard are bland as heck but they can be baked into a pie!!

Zucchini Squash again another I don’t care for.  I prefer Yellow or Crook Neck Squash.  Mum used to stuff them with shrimp (it’s a New Orleans thing!!) dressing and they were tolerable.  I will warn you they are PROLIFIC!  So only start with one or two!  You will ALWAYS find a HUGE one under leaves.  I have shredded them and used them for filler for Banana Walnut Bread. Otherwise not too fond of them.  I also love Mirliton!  The spanish call them Chayote.  In Louisiana we grow them along back fences, they are prolific and wonderful!  Very bland so they’re great at taking on the flavors they’re cooked with!

Sugar Baby Watermelon, nope!  Not a fruit I will EVERY eat.  Can’t stand the smell of them either.  I do like casaba and honeydew though.  Go figure!

Here is from the above list I WILL NOT EAT: Parsnips, Beets, Swiss Chard.  Can’t stand them!

Bell Pepper don’t care for them but I do cook with them because they’re part of the Cajun Trinity.  I dehydrate them and use a tbsp in my gumbo’s.  I just don’t like their flavor.

Yellow Onions are a staple but I love Cipollini onions they are very mild.  I love Red onions and Vidalia onions so I would grow several varieties.  I also love green onion, leeks, and shallots.  So I would have lots of these!

Spinach is awesome but I would go with Malabar spinach.  It’s a perennial that may be “eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. … Since red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose a lot of its red color when cooked, perhaps it is best utilized (visually speaking) in raw dishes.” Talk about a versatile veggie!

Radishes not too often.  I can have a couple in salads but not a fan.

Pickling Cucumbers you should actually have a couple varieties.  Eating and pickling.  I also love gherkins so gotta have my baby sweet pickles!

Kale is a good staple.  There are varieties you can use in your garden around your walkway an it does’t look like you’re pepping!  I mix with spinach to make a quickie breakie quiche for us during the winter!

Lettuce – I have several varieties as I also do sprouts.

Arugula I don’t care for the bitterness but hubby loves it.  I make a quickie salad for him with arugula (rocket in the UK), shaved pecerino cheese, lemon juice, truffle oil and fresh cracked pepper.

Broccoli is difficult to grow.  Be warned.  It is awesome and amazing.  I also grow cauliflower.  I roast it for sandwiches and use the immersion blender with a leek and make cauliflower and leek soup!

Cabbage there are several varieties love the red.  great salad blend!

Carrots try several varieties.

Brussel Sprouts are VERY difficult to grow and have a loooooong growing season!

2 Tomato Varieties we have Mom’s Paste, Black Cherokee, a cherry and Roma.  good varieties and lots of veggies.

SO, as you can see not everyone will eat what’s in those seed kits.  Think about what YOU will actually eat, what do you like? What can you trade with? Do you even like veggies! These are some questions only you can answer!  Be honest and then get what YOU will eat.

 

Stop the Bleed

January 27, 2018

Several years ago I was dating a New Orleans Fireman.  We were caught in traffic due to an accident.  He looked at me and asked if I had any tampons or maxi-pads.  I replied yes to both.  I said I worked in a bar and had lots of young ladies who were never prepared so I kept a box of each in my trunk.  I popped the trunk and he rummaged, then ran to help.  He used two tampons in the cut and bandaged them into the wound.  They also contain a clotting agent that helped slow the blood drainage.

I learned several things that day 1) in Louisiana ALL EMS, Fire, Police personnel are required to offer/render aid they are LEGALLY liable and 2) always keep feminine products with you.  What is their main purpose….absorb blood.  While menstrual blood is thicker than arterial blood, these products still do their job.

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Bleeding can be caused by a wide variety of issues. Minor injuries such as a scraped knee will need to be cleaned and bandaged. More major injuries could lead to hemorrhaging or massive blood loss. These wounds will need to be treated immediately if the person is going to survive. If possible head to a hospital right away. Call 911 for help, especially if you suspect internal bleeding. It is vital to stop the bleeding as much as possible while you wait for professional medical assistance. Hemorrhaging can cause death in a matter of minutes if not controlled.

Bombings and shootings are sadly becoming the norm. Having a bleeding control kit on the wall near the fire extinguisher or other well-marked areas will save lives. The kit should have a bleeding control dressing, trauma sheers, a permanent marker, tourniquet, gloves, gauze, CPR mask, and an instruction card.

  • Call 911
  • Find a first aid kit or bleeding control kit
  • Keep pressure on the wound
  • Place a tourniquet above the wound to stop the bleeding
  • Maintain pressure until help arrives

You won’t always have a bleeding control kit with you. Jeff Bauman was injured during the Boston Marathon bombing. Someone used a shoelace to tie a tourniquet around his leg and it saved his life. Tourniquets have been used to control bleeding since Alexander the Great. In 1785 Sir Gilbert Blane insisted that all members of the Royal Navy carry a tourniquet with them. Tourniquets control blood loss and save lives. 

How to Make a Tourniquet 

  1. Make sure the area is safe
  2. Put on gloves if available
  3. Clear the wound of clothes or debris
  4. Place firm constant pressure on the wound with gauze or clothes
  5. Use a belt, shoelace, or even a bra to make a tourniquet
  6. Find a stick, flashlight, or pencil to tighten the tourniquet
  7. Wrap the tourniquet above the wound, never on a joint
  8. Tie the stick to the tourniquet and turn it once the bleeding stops tie it in place
  9. Treat the injured person for shock until help arrives
  10. Never move a person with an injury to head, neck, back, or leg

Photo Credit: https://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/09/21/make-use-tourniquet/

Source: https://www.healthline.com/symptom/hemorrhag

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/sd-me-stopthebleed-vegas-20171002-story.html

https://www.thereadystore.com/food-storage/18162/stop-the-bleed/

GMO apples that never brown could hit stores soon

January 22, 2017

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/health/apples-genetically-modified-on-sale-soon/index.html

Story highlights

  • The USDA approved the GMO apples nearly two years ago
  • Non-browning apples will only be available in Midwest stores for now, company says

(CNN)For a select few apple lovers in the US, a Golden Delicious slice will no longer turn brown as the first genetically modified apples are expected to go on sale early next month.

A small amount of Arctic brand sliced and packaged Golden Delicious apples, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in British Columbia, Canada, will hit the shelves of 10 stores in the Midwest in February and March, Neal Carter, the company’s founder and president, told the agricultural news website Capital Press. Arctic’s website lists the apples as being available early this year in some test markets.
Carter said Midwestern stores were the first choice because they seemed like a good fit demographically and in size. He wouldn’t name the stores, stating it’s up to retailers to announce that they’ll be selling the non-browning apples.
“We’re very optimistic with respect to this product because people love it at trade shows,” he said earlier this month. “It’s a great product and the eating quality is excellent.”
Along with not turning brown, the apples should also be crispier in texture — possibly winning over some picky eaters.
Nearly two years ago, the US Department of Agriculture approved the US’s first genetically modified apples.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service granted its approval based on “a final plant pest risk assessment that finds the GE (genetically engineered) apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States … [and] deregulation is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment,” as stated in their report.
The Food and Drug Administration is not required to approve genetically engineered crops for consumption. Most companies engage in a voluntary safety review process with the FDA, and Okanagan did that.
The US Apple Association was wary of Arctic’s apple after the USDA approval, but the group has since taken a more neutral stance.
“US Apple supports consumer choice in the apples and apple products they select. Consumers will be able to decide whether to try the new, “non-browning” apples, and ultimately, the marketplace will determine whether there is a demand for them,” state the association on their website.

Browning is natural, but…

There’s nothing technically wrong with an apple that browns.
It all comes down to oxygen being introduced into plant tissue when an apple is sliced, bruised or bitten.
The US Apple association explains: “The degree to which an apple browns depends upon that variety’s natural levels of polyphenoloxydase (PPL) and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The lower the level of PPL, the less the variety will brown.
But Okanagan Specialty Fruits describes the process a bit differently: “Polyphenol oxidase (PPO) found in one part of the cell mixes with polyphenolics found in another part of the cell. (PPO is a plant enzyme. Polyphenolics are one of the many types of chemical substrate that serve various purposes, including supplying apples with their aroma and flavor.) When PPO and polyphenolics mix, brown-toned melanin is left behind,” they state on their website.
When brown, an apple isn’t necessarily rotten, but Okanagan claim the benefits of non-browning apples go beyond the visual appeal and a reduction in waste. The company says stores or producers often use expensive chemicals to delay the browning of apples and many shoppers frown at the idea of chemicals or pesticides on their produce.
The consensus among scientists and nutritionists is that GMOs are safe, but some consumers are still turned off by GMO labels.
Though the apples are only being trialed in the Midwest, the company have faith they will soon become a welcome option elsewhere.

SCHS Craft Show & Herndon Craft Show this weekend!

December 2, 2016

SCHS’s hours are 9am to 3pm.

Herndon’s hours are 10am to 4pm.

We are rolling out our NEW

Essential Oil Starter Kit

Set of 5 of the most useful oils

Lavender, Rosemary, Tea Tree,

Eucalyptus & Peppermint

Remember every purchase of $49.99 or more receives a free bar of soap!

Meet the teenager who designed a safer nuclear power plant

May 16, 2013

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/05/15/teenager-designs-safer-nuclear-power-plants/

Do nuclear power plants need a redesign? Critics of nuclear energy seem to think so, and so does nuclear energy advocate, Taylor Wilson. A physics wunderkind, Wilson became the youngest person to ever create fusion at age 14. And since graduating from high school last year, he’s devoted himself to finding innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

The now nineteen-year-old Wilson recently spoke to a TED audience about his design for a small, modular fission reactor that is both less expensive and much safer to operate than today’s nuclear reactors.

Its assembly-line construction, 30-year fuel life and low usage cost make Wilson’s reactor an ideal source of electricity for both developing nations and space explorers, according to the young scientist.

To get an idea of how today’s nuclear reactors work, Wilson first explained to his listeners at TED how electricity is produced using a steam turbine. In a steam turbine system, water boils and turns to steam, which turns the turbine and creates electricity.

Nuclear fission, Wilson said, is really just a fancy tool for getting the water in a steam turbine system to boil quickly and steadily.

Today’s nuclear power plants produce steam for their turbines using pressurized-water reactors — or big pots of water under high pressure — which are heated up with help from uranium dioxide fuel rods encased in zirconium. These rods control and maintain the nuclear fission reaction.

When nuclear power was first used to heat water in a turbine system, it was a big advancement in existing technology. But Wilson said his idea for a redesign stemmed from the suspicion that it wasn’t really the best way to do it.

“Is fission kind of played out, or is there something left to innovate here?” Wilson said he asked himself. “And I realized that I had hit upon something that I think has this huge potential to change the world.”

Instead of finding a new way to boil water, Wilson’s compact, molten salt reactor found a way to heat up gas. That is, really heat it up.

Wilson’s fission reactor operates at 600 to 700 degrees Celsius. And because the laws of thermodynamics say that high temperatures lead to high efficiencies, this reactor is 45 to 50 percent efficient.

Traditional steam turbine systems are only 30 to 35 percent efficient because their reactors run at low temperatures of about 200 to 300 degrees Celsius.

And Wilson’s reactor isn’t just hot, it’s also powerful. Despite its small size, the reactor generates between 50 and 100 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 homes, according to Wilson.

Another innovative component of Wilson’s take on nuclear fission is its source of fuel. The molten salt reactor runs off of “down-blended weapons pits.” In other words, all the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium collecting dust since the Cold War could be put to use for peaceful purposes.

And unlike traditional nuclear power plants, Wilson’s miniature power plants would be buried below ground, making them a boon for security advocates.

According to Wilson, his reactor only needs to be refueled every 30 years, compared to the 18-month fuel cycle of most power plants. This means they can be sealed up underground for a long time, decreasing the risk of proliferation.

Wilson’s reactor is also less prone to proliferation because it doesn’t operate at high pressure like today’s pressurized-water reactors or use ceramic control rods, which release hydrogen when heated and lead to explosions during nuclear power plant accidents, like the one at Fukushima in 2011.

In the event of an accident in one of Wilson’s reactors, the fuel from the core would drain into a “sub-critical” setting- or tank- underneath the reactor, which neutralizes the reaction. The worst that could happen, according to Wilson, is that the reactor is destroyed.

“But we’re not going to contaminate large quantities of land,” said Wilson. “So I really think that in the, say, 20 years it’s going to take us to get fusion and make fusion a reality, this could be the source of energy that provides carbon-free electricity.”

Wilson said his idea could help combat climate change, bring affordable power to the developing world and power rockets to explore space.

“There’s something really poetic about using nuclear power to propel us to the stars,” Wilson said, “Because the stars are giant fusion reactors. They’re giant nuclear cauldrons in the sky … there’s something poetic about perfecting nuclear fission and using it as a future source of innovative energy.”