March 28, 2015

Missouri caregiver to talk to U.S. Senate committee about Alzheimer’s issues

One St. Louis caregiver is in Washington today to speak to the Senate Special Committee on Aging about the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Caregiver and Chief Financial Officer of Rx Outreach Kim Stemley

Caregiver and Chief Financial Officer of Rx Outreach Kim Stemley

Kim Stemley, whose mother suffers from the disease, was asked by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to speak on behalf of caregivers.  The committee, led by McCaskill and Chairwoman Susan Collins of Maine, will focus on the financial, economic, and emotional challenges facing those with the disease and the individuals and families who care for them.

“I’m going before Capitol Hill to ask for the increase funding and also to ask that the HOPE Act would be passed in this particular Congress,” said Stemley.  “We all share the same pain, we all also share the same hope in that there is an end to this disease and it can happen in our lifetime.”

The ‘Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act’ is legislation designed to improve diagnosis of the disease and increase access to information on care and support for newly diagnosed individuals and their families.  It would also require that individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia be documented on medical records.

“This would have made a big difference in my life, but at the time you get that diagnosis in the doctor’s office you really don’t know what to do, and you walk out the door and you have no idea what’s going to happen next,” said Stemley.  “It was completely foreign to us and foreign to the life that we knew, and our world at that point was turned upside down in many ways.”

Stemley wants to find a cure and has shared stories with caregivers across the country.

“The goal is to cure Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, and if not cure it, to have a pathway to properly treat it and reduce the signs of it,” said Stemley.

Stemley is also the Chief Financial Officer at Rx Outreach, a nonprofit mail order pharmacy that aims to make prescription drugs safer and more affordable for lower-income families.

“We exist to help people who can’t afford their medication, but their life is saying that they need them, so we make them affordable for people,” said Stemley.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in Missouri and the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s association.  The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated at $226 billion in 2015.  By 2050, those costs are estimated to reach as much as $1.1 trillion.  Nearly one in every three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer’s or another dementia and almost two thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.


Medicaid protesters delay start of Missouri Senate (VIDEO)

Protesters have delayed the start of business for the Missouri Senate, parading the halls of the state Capitol calling for expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

The legislature’s spring break, recognized as the halfway point of the year’s session, begins at the close of business today.

Echo Garrett of Cape Girardeau was one of the protesters at the Capitol this morning. She says she falls into the current coverage gap and needs treatment for arthritic knees.

“An 11-minute visit with a specialist was $383-dollars. $383-dollars for somebody that is making $7.50 an hour,” said Garrett.

John Antonich of Pevely says his daughter and her husband fall into the coverage gap, even though their seven children do not.

“A couple of weeks ago I was here and I lobbied some of my legislators from Jefferson County,” said Antonich. “A couple of them told me they’re sympathetic, they’re behind us, they see the need when they go home every weekend, but yet for fear of crossing the party line they’re not going to do anything.”

The Republican supermajority in the state legislature opposes out-and-out expansion of eligibility using federal dollars, saying it would extend the federal debt. Some Republicans in the House have advocated Medicaid reform tied to expansion, but some Senate Republicans said at the beginning of the session they would block any such effort.

Protesters supporting Medicaid expansion have previously disrupted the Missouri legislature, including on the opening day of the session in January.  The Senate pushed back its start of business today while the protests continued in the halls of the Capitol.

Blue Bell issues recall after three die from Listeriosis

Federal officials say three people in Kansas have died from Listeriosis, from bacteria that has been linked to certain Blue Bell ice cream products. The bacteria made two other people in Kansas sick.

Blue Belle provided this image of the products in the recall.

Blue Bell provided this image of the products in the recall.

The company is urging consumers to throw out uneaten products with certain product codes and contact a doctor if they experience fever and muscle aches, diarrhea, or other symptoms after eating those products. Consumers who purchased affected products are also urged to wash and sanitize refrigerators, food preparation surfaces, utensils, and anything else that came in contact with them.

See a list of the products and product codes in the recall

The Food and Drug Administration says Listeriosis can be fatal especially in certain high-risk groups.

The bacteria was traced back to a single product line at Blue Bell Creameries’ facility in Brenham, Texas. The company says all affected products have been removed from the market.

The Administration says those who became sick experienced an onset of symptoms between January 2014 and January 2015.

Find more information about the recall here.

Missouri House gives initial passage to medical malpractice award limits

The Missouri House has given initial passage to a bill that would reinstate limits to how much juries can award in cases of medical malpractice. The bill would not limit economic damages awards that cover things like medical bills or lost wages, but would limit noneconomic damages at $350,000.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) takes to the House floor as the special session begins.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) is the sponsor of the medical malpractice legislation.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Speaker John Diehl, Junior (R-Town and Country) says that limit will allow doctors to stay in or come to Missouri by keeping the cost of malpractice insurance down.

“The more expensive we make it for doctors to practice, those costs are ultimately passed on to the consumers and helps drive up the cost of healthcare,” Diehl told Missourinet. “We need to provide some cost certainty to in the providing, particularly, of critical areas of healthcare that are often subject to these types of claims.”

Opponents say the bill would keep people who have been hurt by negligent doctors from getting fair settlements.

The legislation received 101 votes – not the 109 needed to overturn a governor’s veto if it came to that, but Diehl is satisfied.

“The closer we get to 109 is the best route to get a resolution of it. In the past we were substantially short. I think we’re in striking distance.”

The bill needs another favorable vote to go to the Senate.

Missouri House committee hears testimony on medical marijuana

Whether pot should be legalized for medicinal purposes was discussed by a House committee Monday.

State Representative Dave Hinson presents his bill to the committee.

State Representative Dave Hinson presents his bill to the committee as talk show host Montel Williams and other audience members listen.

Republican lawmaker Dave Hinson presented his bill that would set up the production, prescription, and sale of medical marijuana to patients with debilitating diseases.

“This bill is very regulated, because none of us want the Colorado experience,” said Hinson.

For more than two hours, the committee heard testimony from numerous supporters of the bill.  One of those supporters was talk show host Montel Williams.

“Medical marijuana is not going to work for everybody, but there are those of us that it does work for,” says Willimas.  “How dare you deny someone the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, cause without it, I don’t have that.”

Williams, who suffers from MS, is filming a documentary about Missouri’s legislative marijuana debate.  Williams has traveled around the country lobbying for medical marijuana.  Ten other states are considering legalizing medical marijuana and 23 states already have a medicinal marijuana law in place.

Williams says he does not stand with those who want to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

“I’m only concerned about people who need to have relief with medication,” says Williams.  “The bill that you have before is one of the most comprehensive bills that has been written.”

An item of the bill that was debated much of the night was whether or not patients should be allowed to grow their own plants.  The bill currently states that a patient cannot grow their own plants.  Some argued that it would be too expensive or difficult for those living in rural areas to travel to a care center, but Williams believes it’s best to allow the care centers to grow the plants.

Talk show host Montel Williams testifies in support of Hinson's bill.

Talk show host Montel Williams testifies in support of Hinson’s bill.

“I don’t know of too many people that grow their own individual medicine,” says Williams.  “We can teach people that there is a difference in the weed that’s grown in some of these states.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars state commander Thomas Mundell gave an emotional testimony in support of the bill.  Mundell told members of the committee about his own experience with Post-Traumatic Stress and how marijuana has nearly eliminated all of this medications since adding it to his therapy.

“It really relaxed me,” said Mundell.  “I was on 71 pills a day, I was taking 41 in the morning and 30 and night, and I take 3 now.”

Mundell has traveled to both Colorado and Washington visiting Veterans Affairs Hospitals to study the effects medical marijuana has on patients.  Mundell says based on conversations with fellow veterans and VA doctors, he’s convinced that medical marijuana should be legalized.

Two witnesses testified against Hinson’s bill.  Missouri Narcotics Officers Association spokesman Jason Grellner says lawmakers should support more research for pharmaceuticals that do not present the problems of standardization.

“This is not a prescription,” said Grellner.  “A doctor in the United States of American cannot prescribe a schedule one drug.”

Grellner argued medical marijuana would be regularly abused by casual users.

Last year Missouri legalized the use of CBD oil, a cannabis extract used to treat certain types of epilepsy.  Hinson’s bill seemed to have committee support, but that committee did not take a vote on the bill.