December 25, 2014
City News Service
An 82-year-old Los Angeles physician allegedly wrote multiple prescriptions for the maximum amount of oxycodone permitted by law to a ring of street dealers who would resell the pills, along with anti-anxiety medicine, muscle relaxants and prescription cough syrup. According to the District Attorney’s Office, Dr. Clyde Arnold, who was indicted along with alleged co-conspirators, pleaded not guilty Friday to 31 felony counts, including 27 counts of prescribing without a legitimate medical purpose and four counts of conspiracy.
Also indicted are:
• Margarita Ray, 71, of Los Angeles, indicted on nine felony counts, including possession for sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy
• Fredrick Hagen, 62, of Los Angeles, indicted on six felony counts, including possession for sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy
• Clintessa Williams, 26, of Lakewood, indicted on six felony counts, including possession for sale of a controlled substance and identity theft
• Eric Lemongo, 41, of Los Angeles, indicted on four felony counts of possession for sale of a controlled substance
• McKenelly Peeples, 75, of Hawthorne, indicted on one felony count of possession for sale of a controlled substance
• All five co-defendants also pleaded not guilty.
Arnold was arrested Oct. 15 and posted bail three days later. He was ordered by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Renee Korn not to write any prescriptions. The original criminal complaint filed in October was dismissed Friday December 19 after the indictment — which allows prosecutors to proceed to trial without a preliminary hearing — was unsealed. The indictment alleges that Ray and the other co-defendants picked up multiple prescriptions for oxycodone, Xanax, Valium and codeine cough syrup during visits to Arnold’s clinic at 3756 Santa Rosalia Drive.
After filling them at local pharmacies, members of the alleged drug ring resold the pills on the street between December 2012 and January 2013, prosecutors said. Police seized thousands of pills during raids on the suspects' homes, along with $10,000 in cash and more than 50 stolen identifications, according to prosecutors. At Arnold’s arraignment, his attorney, Jeffrey Rutherford told Korn his client had been a physician since 1966 and had no prior arrests.
The defendants are due back in court Jan. 28 for a pretrial hearing. If convicted, Arnold faces up to 22 years in jail. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the California Medical Board and the Department of Health Care Services.
December 18, 2014
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
While people with diabetes are more likely to develop blinding eye diseases, recent studies have revealed low awareness of the issue among ethnicities at higher risk for diabetes and low uptake of preventive eye exams among affected Medicare beneficiaries.
Although Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely to have diabetes than most other ethnicities, a recent poll commissioned by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research has revealed that only 27 and 32 percent (respectively) report to know about diabetic eye disease. In addition, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people with diabetes have a dilated eye exam every year. A study recently published in the journal Ophthalmology found that, among Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma or diabetes – all conditions that require an annual eye exams – three-quarters of those who did not have an exam in five years were those living with diabetes.
“It’s alarming that so many people with diabetes or at risk for diabetes may be unaware of the damage their condition can do to their eyes and may not be getting exams to check for it,” said Raj K. Maturi, M.D., ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Outside of maintaining good blood glucose levels, having an annual dilated eye exam is the best first line defense against vision loss from diabetic eye disease.”
The term “diabetic eye disease” encompasses a number of diseases and conditions that can cause blindness if left untreated. These include diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels in the eye change by swelling, leaking fluid or closing off completely, blocking blood flow from reaching the retina. A cataract occurs when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, causing vision to become blurry, cloudy or dim. While this happens in many people as they age, those with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts than their peers without diabetes. Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and peripheral vision. The damage to the optic nerve is usually caused by elevated pressure in the eye. Glaucoma can be treated with medication such as prescription eye drops or with surgery, but will result in blindness if left untreated.
The Academy recommends that those with those with type 2 diabetes should get a dilated eye exam at the time of diagnosis and every year following. Those with type 1 diabetes should start receiving annual eye exams five years after their initial diagnosis.
December 11, 2014
By MICHELLE FAUL
When 2-year-old Emile Ouamouno caught a fever, started vomiting, passed blood in his stool and died two days later, nobody knew why.
Nor did anyone really ask. Life is unforgiving in this part of the world, and people often lose their children to cholera, malaria, measles, typhoid, Lassa fever and a host of other illnesses that have no name.
Now Emile is widely recognized by researchers as Patient Zero, the first person to have died in the latest Ebola outbreak back on December 28 last year. And Meliandou, a small village at the top of a forested hill reached by a rutted red earth track, is notorious as the birthplace and crucible of the most deadly incarnation of the virus to date.
Today villagers here are in debt, stigmatized, hungry and still angry and deeply suspicious about who or what brought the disease that has devastated their lives. It is a question scientists have yet to answer conclusively, although they have come to Meliandou to test great apes and bats as possible sources.
In the meantime, Ebola has left Emile’s grandfather, 85-year-old Kissy Dembadouno, without hope. Dembadouno has locked the room in his house where the child died.
“Eight people died in that room. It must remain closed,” he said. “All that is left for me is to wonder why God gives me any more days on this Earth.”
Meliandou is a village of about 400 people — down from 600 last year, after dozens of young men abandoned it in the belief that the Ouamouno family or the entire village was cursed, according to the village chief. The village doctor, Augustin Mamadouno, was among the first to flee, and the clinic is shuttered and shunned as a place of death, not healing.
Those left here are gaunt, skin stretched tightly over their bones, with the only false signs of fat being the cruelly bloated stomachs of malnourished children. Families crowd into two-roomed houses built from home-made mud bricks. Their “kitchens” are open fires outside marked by three blackened stones.
Etienne Ouamouno, Emile’s father, hugs his arms to his chest, as if for comfort, when he talks about the many deaths in his family, especially that of his only son.
“I was so traumatized by the deaths,” said Ouamouno. (pronounced Wah-moo-noh) “I think we still are.”
Like most of the villagers, he’s also broke.
When Ouamouno took his son to the village doctor, he had to pay 20,000 Guinea francs ($2.75) for medication. It did no good. More expensive and useless trips to the clinic followed as Ouamouno’s 4-year-old daughter died, then her mother, eight months’ pregnant, followed quickly by the grandmother, an aunt and the midwife who delivered his wife of a stillborn baby.
Ouamouno had no money to pay for the burials and feed the many mourners who came from other villages to perform a mass funeral rite. So he borrowed 1 ½ bags of rice and 250,000 francs (about $35) — more cash than he sees in a year — and killed his last goat. He says it will take him a year to pay back his debt.
Even the little he had was lost, when everything was burned to avoid contamination. As he complains of the chilly nights, he puts his arm around one of his surviving children, 6-year-old Marie, who snuffled from a cold as snot ran down her nose.
“I don’t own a blanket to cover myself at night,” he said bitterly. “I don't own a goat ... What I carry is a weight of sorrow.”
Before the Ebola outbreak, village treasurer Facine Ouamouno said, everyone contributed to the village coffers to give them a cushion in case of an emergency. But borrowing to pay for all the burials in Meliandou has emptied the communal chest that once held 8 million francs ($1,100).
“This was a catastrophe,” he said. “Now we have nothing.”
Worse than nothing — some of those indebted to the village fund have themselves died of Ebola.
In a tragic irony, the burials that bankrupted the village only helped to spread the disease. When people died, their bodies were washed by relatives, in line with tradition. They found out too late that this is one way to pass on Ebola, which can be caught only by direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person.
Meliandou — whose name in the local Kissi language means “This is as far as we go” — has also been left isolated, as neighbors in other villages turned on it.
“People are very, very angry with us, saying the disease started with us,” said village chief Amadou Kamano.
Mourners who came to Meliandou refused to eat any of the food or drink the water. Eventually they stopped attending village funerals altogether, a slight that cuts deep in African culture.
At one point, they isolated Meliandou for days, Kamano said. They smashed the bridge that leads to town, cutting off access to the only working well and the main road.
People in Meliandou have even lost one of their few sources of protein to Ebola. After the virus was officially recognized in Guinea at the end of March, villagers were warned to stop eating “bush meat” — the fruit bats, cane rats and monkeys that provide protein but that scientists suspect are a reservoir for viruses like Ebola.
Without protein, the villagers are less healthy, said the village’s health assistant Bernard Kamano, in a country where UNICEF estimates 50 percent of child deaths are related to malnutrition. Kamano is the only health worker left from the epidemic that killed the village’s three midwives, known here as “wise women.”
“They were the ones called to care for people when they became ill,” said Suzanne Leno, who speaks for the women of Meliandou. “Who will care for us now?”
In Meliandou, as in many other villages across Ebola country, the disease is shrouded in mystery, surrounded by suspicion and rumors. People here still believe that Ebola was disseminated by white people seeking the deaths of blacks, including through a measles vaccination campaign; by a laboratory testing bats to create a vaccination against the virus; by politicians from a rival tribe bent on killing off the forest people; by white miners looking to exploit a nearby mountain of iron ore.
Fabian Leendertz, a veterinarian specializing in wildlife epidemiology from Berlin’s Robert Koch Institute, said he and a colleague were testing whether the disease may have been transmitted indirectly by great apes, or directly by bats harboring it. Leendertz said findings should be published in a scientific journal in coming weeks.
“My personal opinion is that the virus is probably everywhere from time to time, and it’s just a matter of ecological features and bad luck when someone gets infected,” said Leendertz, who went back to Meliandou twice a day for 10 days to get villagers to cooperate with him.
Meliandou does have one hard-won victory to be proud of — Ebola is gone, at least for now, and the village is still standing. Kamano is thankful, and credits some of the doctors who came.
“(Otherwise) this whole village would be dead,” he said. “It would have disappeared from the maps.”
December 04, 2014
LAWT News Service
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), a Congressional leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, issued the following statement in recognition of World AIDS Day:
“World AIDS Day is a time to reflect on the progress we’ve made in our fight against HIV/AIDS, show support for people living with the disease, honor those who have died, and recommit ourselves to ending this epidemic once and for all. It’s been over 33 years since AIDS was first discovered, yet the AIDS virus continues to infect and kill thousands of Americans and millions of people around the world.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 50,000 new HIV infections every year in the United States. Furthermore, of the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS, only 3 out of 10 have the virus under control. Meanwhile, UNAIDS reports that 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and 1.5 million people died of AIDS in 2013.
In the U.S. Congress, I have fought to make sure the Affordable Care Act enables health coverage for routine HIV testing for all Americans and comprehensive treatment for those who are infected. Now, for the first time, all Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS can purchase affordable health plans without being rejected because of a pre-existing condition.
I have also been a leading proponent of legislation to increase research and funding to combat HIV/AIDS and to help those affected by the disease throughout our society. Earlier this year, I circulated a letter in support of additional funding in fiscal year 2015 for the Minority AIDS Initiative, which I developed in 1998 to expand HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs in minority communities, and the letter was signed by 60 Members of Congress. Last year, I reintroduced the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, which requires the federal Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive plan to provide HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment for inmates in federal prisons. Finally, I introduced a resolution encouraging primary care physicians to become actively involved in HIV/AIDS awareness, testing, treatment, and referral services.
Clearly, there is much more work to be done. We must do everything we can to promote widespread HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, and testing and make treatment more accessible and affordable, both domestically and internationally. Let us rededicate ourselves to stopping the spread of this devastating disease, caring for those who are infected, and finding a cure.”