So it was interesting to read in yesterday's Tennessean that Tennessee is one of a handful of states refusing to give Sen. Chuck Grassley the names of the doctors who prescribe the highest amounts of the most commonly abused medications. Grassley, a former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is also the legislator who's been on point in Senate investigations of conflicts of interest between medical researchers and Big Pharma.
Grassley surmises (correctly) that over-prescribing is fueling runaway health-care spending. What he's likely interested in is why certain docs are such high prescribers? Do they have a bunch of patients who need a bunch of drugs, or are they being incentivized?
In any case, last year 14 Tennessee doctors wrote more than 1,000 prescriptions of the drugs Grassley is curious about, The Tennessean reports. It'd be interesting to know who they are, and if their names can be found in the available industry disclosures. Pharm League might shed a little light on why that's a likelihood.
And Sen. Lamar Alexander totally "gets it," in the political parlance of the moment. So he's pushing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to quit dawdling about the "administrative completeness" of Gov. Phil Bredesen's request to demarcate the ridgelines of the Northern Cumberland Plateau as unsuitable for surface mining and get right on down to the official review of his petition.
The area in question is anything within 600 feet on either side of the ridgeline in the designated lands upstream from the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which includes Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties. This will protect some 67,000 acres along a 1,200-foot corridor.
"The Great Smoky Mountains and other conservation areas and national parks in Tennessee have not only preserved pristine parts of the Great American Outdoors, but they bring millions of people to visit them every year and hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state," Alexander wrote in his letter to Salazar. "The governor's request is not only a good way to save our mountaintops and preserve these areas for the future but is also a good way to create new jobs in an area of our state that urgently needs them."
Jobs and the Great American Outdoors: A bipartisan proposal we can get behind.
The complaint alleges Andrew, a licensed chiropractor, "advertised and provided services outside the scope of practice for a chiropractic physician." It goes on to say that since 2007, he has also published a book and appeared on a regular radio show "without disclosing the fact that he was a chiropractic physician and purported to provide medical advice, misleading the public about his true qualifications or lack thereof."
Pending a Nov. 4 public hearing before the board, Andrew could be penalized $21,000, the complaint says. The board will also discuss whether it should suspend or revoke his license.
If you've read the cover story, none of this is surprising. In fact, to find evidence of this, just tune into his radio show, Dr. Asa On Call, weeknights on WLAC-AM, or read his book, Empowering Your Health. He dishes medical advice as a matter of course, but you'll never hear that he isn't, in fact, a medical doctor. But former employees interviewed by the Scene for the story also allege he runs his clinic, The Center for Natural Medicine, like any other medical clinic, and that employees are actively discouraged from discussing his credentials with inquisitive patients.
Update: As of 7:28 p.m., Sept. 24, Andrew's website, www.drasa.com is offline.
Update: The site is back online, though it appears as if some of the supplements have been removed, along with some of the product descriptions discussed in the story that claim the supplements help with the symptoms of Parkinson's and other incurable diseases.
Pith thinks it's worth noting that in just about every case, groundwater that was upgradient (or upstream) from the power plants was found to contain contaminants that were below detectable levels. If drinking water quality is the standard used in the report, as TVA claims, then the groundwater is generally safe before it reaches the coal ash ponds. Yet somehow the TVA spin doctors expect us to believe that the metric is unfair when, downgradient (or downstream) from the same power plants, the concentrations of arsenic were, in one case, 52 times more than acceptable limits.
Clearly, it's simply too much to expect that our groundwater be remotely drinkable. What's terrifying about this report is that it's unknown how many groundwater wells exist around these power plants, and whether or not they're filtering the water. Apparently, neither TVA nor the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation would release this information. Either they didn't have it, they claimed, or they couldn't release it due to the Tennessee Terrorism Prevention Act — you know, since obviously Osama bin Laden has rural Tennessee's water supply in his crosshairs. Allahu Akbar, New Johnsonville!
Here are some highlights:
At a rate of 16.9 prescriptions filled per capita, we might as well be named honorary apothecaries and begin running pharmacies out of our bathrooms. The only problem is we need our drugs. Desperately. Because 65.9 percent of us are obese. The national average is 60. The heart disease death rate in Tennessee is 220 per 100,000 of us versus 190 nationally. Ten percent of us have diabetes. Eight percent is the average.
In just 10 years, the number of prescriptions filled in this country has risen nearly 40 percent. Spending on prescriptions is six times what it was in 1990. Are we really that much fatter, that much more sedentary, more diseased than we were in the ’90s? Probably not. Are prescription drug sales reps sweetening the pot for some doctors to push their company's scripts? Are prescription drug companies spending untold billions pushing drugs on us using gauzy pastoral scenes and earnest-looking faces — which, really, is the mass-market equivalent of a tranquilized-looking club rat with too much hair gel hawking Xanax bars in the bathroom? (After all, the strobe lights and the sweaty bodies make you anxious, so maybe you need it.)
Anyway, rounding out the list of over-prescribed states are the usual Southern/Appalachian suspects: West Virginia took first place, followed by us, Alabama, Kentucky, etc.
They're refusing to obey the new Draconian dress code which bans — the humanity! — flip flops. Truly, flip flops are the "cornerstone," as The Tennessean reports, of every slovenly high school student's wardrobe ... along with frayed ball caps and khaki cargo shorts.
"I always wear flip flops," junior Gabrielle Lamay told Jennifer Brooks of The Tennessean. "I just kind of think (the ban) is dumb." Powerful stuff.
Some 200 students have signed onto a Facebook campaign to flout the dictatorial decree.
Pith's verdict: Civil disobedience FAIL...
His attorney, Luvell L. Glanton, tells Pith that Goins entered the bathroom and sat down on a toilet seat that wasn't properly bolted down. The seat slipped and Goins braced himself, in the process allegedly injuring his neck and left rotator cuff. Worst of all, he claims, he sat back down on an exposed bolt, impacting his perineum and damaging his prostate.
Glanton says his client has been treated by a urologist since then but has permanent problems with urine retention and pain. "It messed him up pretty bad," Glanton says. "This was an older man ... see, he's in his 70s."
Pith left a message at a number listed in Brentwood for Delek. We'll update you if we hear back from them.
Update: A representative from Delek said they would not comment on ongoing litigation.
James Wright, a 35-year-old former nurse aide, was sentenced to 60 years in prison today on four counts of aggravated sexual battery of elderly residents in his charge at Murfreesboro-headquartered National Health Care Corp.'s Bristol faclity, a source close to the case told Pith minutes ago.
According to a Bristol Herald Courier report, the circuit court judge presiding over the case said Wright's crime was "undescribable, despicable." As a testament to just how batshit crazy Wright is, a psychological assessment indicated he blamed his victims for being "overly affectionate."
Wright entered an Alford plea, waiving his right to a trial and putting himself at the mercy of the court without actually admitting guilt. According to the Pith source, he must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence — or 51 years — which would make him roughly 86 years old by the time he's released. (Nursing-home age?)
For background on the serial abuser's sordid case, see the Scene article from last year.
If you missed the first part of the story, which covers Gaile's troubled childhood, her allegedly abusive marriage to Ron Owens, her record of compulsive embezzlement and the incidents leading up to the murder, you'll find it here. Many thanks to our art director, Elizabeth Jones, for fitting some 14,000 words of copy in this week's cover story. And special thanks to Liz Garrigan, who was instrumental in putting Brantley's and Kay's stories together. Her name isn't on the story, but it wouldn't have happened without her counsel.
From Scene reporter Brantley Hargrove:
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