Doc Gets Jail for COVID ‘Cure’; Gold rush in proton therapy; Blackfoot Opioid Crisis


Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, highlighting some of the best investigative healthcare reporting each week.

Doctor Who Promised COVID Cure Gets Jail Time

A California doctor who prescribed hydroxychloroquine as part of a ‘covid treatment kit’ which he guaranteed would cure the disease was sentenced last week to 30 days in jail and a year of home confinement , Washington Post reported.

Jennings Ryan Staley, MD, previously pleaded guilty to one count of illegally importing, admitting he tried to smuggle hydroxychloroquine into the United States by working with a Chinese supplier who would label at wrong 26 pounds of hydroxychloroquine as “yam extract”, according to the United States. Department of Justice.

After people alerted the FBI to promotional emails from Staley’s Skinny Beach Med spa, an undercover agent posed as a customer. The agent asked about the treatment kit and was assured by Staley that hydroxychloroquine was a “quick fix” and an “incredible cure”. He added that COVID-19 “literally disappears within hours” after taking the drug.

Staley also offered the FBI agent prescriptions for Xanax and Viagra, though he didn’t assess it. Staley later admitted that he lied to federal agents. He also admitted, as part of a plea deal, that he obtained hydroxychloroquine by posing as one of his employees and filling a prescription. His medical license is now suspended.

Inside the Proton Therapy Gold Rush

Proton therapy centers are booming in the world of cancer treatment, but the benefits of the therapy remain unclear and its financial burden can be significant, according to STAT.

Proton therapy is a type of targeted radiation that may have an advantage over traditional radiation for tumors near the spine and brain. But research has yet to show it’s more effective at treating tumors in other parts of the body, STAT reported.

However, after a Medicare decision to cover proton therapy regardless of tumor type, investors and healthcare systems have been racing to build facilities and machines that will deliver it. The centers are often used as a marketing tool for healthcare systems and cancer programs in general, and attract patients, according to STAT.

“There’s something that gives health systems prestige when they can say they have the latest technology,” said Steven Ullmann, PhD, of the University of Miami. STAT. Patients who are ineligible for proton therapy also tend to stay in this healthcare system for cancer treatment.

However, proton therapy centers run up huge debts and do not always accept enough patients to compensate for it. Facilities and equipment can cost millions of dollars, and a number of centers are losing money or going bankrupt.

That hasn’t stopped Yale New Haven Health, Penn Medicine and companies like Proton International from betting on the future of treatment and the research to support it, “because they expect proton therapy to become the standard for cancer treatment,” the report said. .

Blackfeet Nation disproportionately affected by opioid crisis

In parts of Mountain West, fentanyl overdoses are increasing and Native Americans are disproportionately affected, according to Kaiser Health News.

The opioid overdose rate among Native Americans in Montana from 2019 to 2021 was double that of whites, and resources for treatment are scarce, KHN reported.

A mother, Marla Ollinger, lost her son, Justin Lee Littledog, to a fentanyl overdose shortly after he moved in with her and started working at a local casino. His death was one of four in a week on the Blackfeet reservation in March 2020, leading tribal leaders to declare a state of emergency.

The Blackfeets have assembled a task force to address the opioid crisis, and the tribes of Montana and Wyoming have partnered with the Montana Healthcare Foundation to conduct a feasibility study to open their own treatment center. But communities like Blackfeet Nation remain underfunded and India’s federal health service severely underfunded, the report says.

Only two rehab beds were available at the nearest IHS hospital in the Blackfeet Nation, and a local treatment center had no people trained to deal with opioid withdrawal, KHN reported. Buprenorphine and methadone clinics are 30 to 100 miles away, which may prevent patients seeking drug treatment from obtaining the drug on a daily or weekly basis.

“You can connect historical trauma, unresolved trauma in general, and grief to what makes our community vulnerable,” said Blackfeet Tribal Police investigator Misty LaPlant. KHN. “If you look at the impact of colonialism and Indigenous communities and peoples, there’s a correlation there.”

  • Sophie Putka is a business and investigative writer for MedPage Today. His work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Discover, Business Insider, Inverse, Cannabis Wire, and more. She joined MedPage Today in August 2021. Follow


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