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We have taken a bit of a summer sabbatical in updating this blog, but it’s time to get back in the thick of things. There is so much to report with health care reform making front page news and other health law issues exerting a quieter influence. We are back from our break and more excited than ever to report on all the news that’s fit to print.
Thanks for sticking with us! Now let’s get to it…
The verdict is in on the landmark “Racketeering” Appeals Court case- US v Philip Morris. The US Appeals Court has unanimously upheld a 2006 landmark federal court ruling that found tobacco companies including Philip Morris USA (Altria) guilty of fraud, deceit and violated civil racketeering laws by falsely denying the dangers and addictiveness of cigarette smoking, falsely denying that they marketed their deadly products to children and misrepresenting that “low tar” and “light” cigarettes had fewer health risks.
According to the Appeals court ruling: “Defendants knew of their falsity at the time and made the statements with the intent to deceive.”
The tobacco companies implicated were Philip Morris USA (and Altria), British American Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp and Lorillard Tobacco.
Liggett was excluded from the ruling after admitting in the 1990’s that smoking causes disease and is addictive and cooperating with investigative authorities. Also excluded from the judgement were the Council for Tobacco Research-USA and Tobacco Institute as they had not made or sold tobacco products.
The 2006 ruling banned deceptive labels such as “mild”, “low tar,” and “light” and required the companies to publish “corrective statements”, however, this was not put into effect due to the appeals process.
At a global meeting in China, of health ministers from 27 countries affected by the rise of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB, Bill Gates and the Chinese Minister of Health Chen Zhu announced an innovative partnership to help fight a serious tuberculosis epidemic in China. The 5 year initiative will be led by the Chinese Ministry of Health and funded by a grant of $33million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates, co- chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that the rise of drug-resistant TB worldwide has created a new urgency to combat the disease, while scientific innovation is leading to new technologies. He explained in his speech, the foundation’s choice of China for this partnership:
“China is taking the threat of TB very seriously, and we’re excited to support its efforts.” He added, “Because of its skill, its scale, its TB burden, its love of innovation and its political commitment to public health, China is a perfect laboratory for large-scale testing of new tools and delivery techniques to fight TB.”
“If China leads in the fight against TB – developing new approaches here in China and demonstrating them to the world – we can see a dramatic drop in the number of TB deaths in the next decade.”
According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the goal of the partnership was “to improve detection and treatment of the estimated 1.5 million TB cases that occur each year in China, drawing on the latest innovations in TB control.”
The Chinese Minister of Health, Chen said that the new tuberculosis prevention and control program was a continuation of the successful cooperation between the Chinese Ministry of Health and the Gates Foundation that began on the issue of HIV/AIDS.
Minister Chen added, “It aims to establish an effective TB prevention model through the exploration of new diagnostic tools and methods. This will not only benefit TB prevention and control efforts both in China and throughout the world, but it also sets an excellent example of the partnership between government and private sectors that is widely promoted by the international community, and we hope it will accelerate the progress of reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.”
Funding from the Gates Foundation will help China introduce new TB diagnostic tests, patient monitoring strategies, drug regimens and health delivery approaches that could significantly improve the effectiveness of TB diagnosis and treatment across the country.
The initiative will be implemented in 6 provinces in China. During the first two-and-a-half years, innovative tools and delivery approaches will be pilot-tested to determine their effectiveness and feasibility. Following the completion of the first two-and-a-half years of this partnership, China will determine how to progressively expand the innovations that have been proven to be effective into 20 cities, diagnosing and treating 50,000 TB patients each year.
The new technologies and innovative delivery methods to be piloted include:
A Chinese court has upheld the sentences of the people held responsible for the melamine milk contamination scandal that killed 6 babies and sickened more than 300,000 children in China late last year.
The trials which began late December last year handed out a death sentence to Zhang Yujun, convicted of producing and selling the tainted milk, and a life sentence against Zhang Yanzhang, who acted as a middle man in supplying the toxic product to dairies. Both these sentences have been upheld. The ruling also affirmed a death sentence for Geng Jinping and an eight-year-jail term for Geng Jinzhu, convicted in January of producing and selling poisoned food by adding the chemical melamine to milk, which made its way into baby milk formula and other products.
The former chief executive of the now defunct Sanlu Group, China’s largest milk firm lost her appeal against a life sentence for selling hundreds of tonnes melanine laced milk products. Tian Wenhua (66) was the highest-ranking executive charged over the scandal.
In a separate case, a Chinese court has agreed to hear the first civil claim for compensation against Sanlu. A number of parents have rejected a government-sponsored compensation scheme, saying it is inadequate, and does not address the long-term health risks resulting from the poisoning.
There have been reports of victims’ parents complaining of harassment by Chinese local authorities pressurizing them to drop lawsuits demanding compensation from the dairies.
In December Sanlu and 21 other dairy companies offered 200,000 yuan ($29,000) to each family whose child had died, 30,000 yuan ($4,400) for serious illnesses such as kidney stones and acute kidney failure, and 2,000 yuan ($293) in less severe cases.
The Chinese melamine contaminated milk scandal led to the recent enactment of a law consolidating hundreds of disparate regulations covering the country’s 500,000 food processing companies.
The Chinese government has since fired eight senior regulators (in the country’s major food supervisory agencies, including the ministries of health and agriculture and the top food safety watchdog) for “slack supervision”.