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Kelley Weiss, a health care reporter at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, is one of this year's California Broadcast fellows. For her report, L.A. Takes On Prescription Drug Swaps, she reported on a thriving black market for prescription drugs from abroad and accompanied a team from the multi-department Health Authority Law Enforcement (HALT) Task Force to collect illegal pharmaceuticals.

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Those of us lucky enough to attend New York Medicaid Inspector General Jim Sheehan's talk Saturday at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Seattle heard him make reference to Dr. Jayam Krishna-Iyer. I was curious about the back story. Here it is:

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Even the most curious of Dr. Barbara Philipp's patients probably didn't notice that she had a drug problem.

That's because her patients were kids.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine wrote in its disciplinary report that the 55-year-old Boston pediatrician wrote fake prescriptions for family members and friends just to get painkillers and sleeping pills for herself.

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Foodborne illness refers to any sickness that results from consuming a solid food, milk, water or other beverage, generally because it has been contaminated. The Centers for Disease Control estimated in 1999 that there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the United States, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. This is the most recent estimate available as of March 2010. The total impact of foodborne illness, however, is likely underestimated because many cases are not reported.

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The therapeutic use of cannabis (marijuana) is a hot topic in some parts of the United States. The National Institutes of Health do not recommend its use for treatment of any illness, though some physicians prescribe it for pain, glaucoma, nausea and anorexia associated with chemotherapy, and, less commonly, for epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, migraine, and asthma. Laws on medical usage vary by state, with 13 states, as of July 2009, permitting medical usage under certain conditions. The majority of Web sites on medical marijuana have a bias one way or another.

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William Fenical is a professor of oceanography at UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps. His research involves the isolation and identification of active chemical materials from marine plants and animals that may have potential pharmaceutical or agricultural uses. His research involves marine organic chemistry with a focus on chemical defense mechanisms in marine organisms and the chemistry of marine microorganisms.

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Dr. Marjorie Kagawa-Singer is a professor at the UCLA School of Public Health and Department of Asian American Studies. Her clinical work and research have been in oncology, focusing upon the disparities in physical and mental health care outcomes of ethnic minority populations with cancer -- primarily with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.

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Dr. Igor Grant is a professor and executive vice chairman of the psychiatry department at the UCSD School of Medicine. He also serves as director of two important research programs at UCSD: the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center (HNRC), a clinical research center designated and funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health; and the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), headquartered at UCSD and a collaborative effort of UCSD and UCLA to rigorously study the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis to treat certain diseases.

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In 2002, health care costs, particularly for cancer treatments, were soaring for seniors in some Medicare HMOs. After negative publicity about one HMO's drastic increase in chemotherapy copayments, the HMO agreed to reduce the cost to make it more affordable for patients.

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The pandemic is far from over but crucial COVID-19 protections and benefits are gone. In our next webinar, we'll explore the end of renter protections, unemployment benefits and other emergency relief, and what it means for the nation’s pandemic recovery and the health and well-being of low-income people and their communities. Glean story ideas and crucial context. Sign-up here!

Are you passionate about helping journalists understand and illuminate the social factors that contribute to health and health disparities at a time when COVID-19 has highlighted the costs of such inequities? Looking to play a big role in shaping journalism today in the United States?  Apply now for one of our positions. 

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