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Archive for July, 2011

Prescription drugs: They can hurt you as well as help you

Here are some of the things you need to know to protect your legal rights

Prescription drugs can be lifesavers, helping millions of people live with all kinds of medical conditions from high cholesterol to thyroid problems to liver ailments. They’re also used in treatment therapies for patients suffering from cancer, high blood pressure and even AIDS.

But there are real risks from prescription drugs as well, especially if they are improperly given, if they are not properly tested before being used or if their manufacturers are careless or deceptive.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/catenarymedia

Prescription pills cascade out of a pill bottle in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/catenarymedia

Legal cases involving prescription drugs are common.

Earlier this month, a story in The New York Times reported on a study that linked the use of the smoking cessation drug, Chantix, to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes or other serious cardiovascular problems in smokers who didn’t have a history of heart disease.

“The finding added to previous warnings about the pill’s connection to psychiatric problems and cardiovascular risks for people with a history of heart disease,” the Times reported. “It posed a new challenge to a product that has been prescribed to 13 million people and had $755 million in sales last year. Officials of Pfizer, the manufacturer of Chantix, and the Food and Drug Administration responded that they had been planning to conduct a joint analysis of clinical trials on whether Chantix posed heart risks, due next year.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety announcement in June notifying the public that Chantrix “may be associated with a small, increased risk of certain cardiovascular adverse events in patients who have cardiovascular disease. That information was based on a randomized clinical trial of 700 smokers with cardiovascular disease who were treated with Chantix or placebo, according to the agency.

As a consumer, there are lots of things to watch for when it comes to ensuring that the prescription drugs consumed by yourself and members of your family are safe.

The FDA maintains a drug recall Web site where consumers can check to see if a drug has been removed from the market due to defects or potential harm to patients.

The FDA also maintains a site for MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program, where important safety information is logged about drugs and medical products sold in the U.S.

For consumers, the life cycle of a drug doesn’t end when it is sold in the U.S. In fact, all during their product lives on the marketplace, drugs are monitored and tracked to ensure that they continue to be safe for consumers, according to an FDA guide to drug safety terms.

To be an aware consumer, there are several other FDA Web sites to monitor for drug safety information.

The agency releases Public Health Advisories which provide important drug safety information and recommendations that can be taken by patients or caregivers to avoid or minimize harm from a drug. The advisories are issued when the FDA has information that would help doctors and patients make better treatment choices, according to the agency.

Also kept up to date is the FDA Index to Drug-Specific Information, which features an alphabetical listing of drugs that have been the subject of a Public Health Advisory or other safety notice.

The Drugs@FDA database is a Web site where consumers and others can search for information about FDA approved brand name and generic drugs and therapeutic biological products.

An FDA Consumer Health Information site is also available to provide timely and easy-to-read articles on product approvals, safety warnings, and other health information

To best protect your family members, you must be vigilant about drugs that are taken and be sure to watch for any warning signs of medical problems that can arise.

If you or someone you love becomes seriously ill from taking prescription or non-prescription medicines, be sure to seek immediate medical attention for the victim. Then you can begin the task of exploring your legal rights in such a case.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to help you in such cases, from investigating what happened to researching all the FDA and other pertinent records to get to the bottom of the situation.

Drug manufacturers have a legal obligation to produce safe, well-tested products for consumers based on existing laws in the U.S. If they fail in that responsibility, that’s where the legal system becomes your recourse for justice and damages.

If you need us, MyPhillyLawyer will be there every step of the way.

When Winning Matters Most, call the legal team at MPL.

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Celebrate July 4, but be extra careful of the dangers that lurk on this holiday

July 4th is the deadliest date annually on the nation’s highways, and accidents and injuries involving fireworks, cookouts and swimming abound – let’s be careful out there.

On this July 4th holiday weekend we here at MyPhillyLawyer hope that you have a glorious time with family and friends as you remember our nation’s history, but we want to remind you to be careful as you travel and enjoy your time off.

Did you know that July 4th is historically the deadliest day each year on the nation’s highways, with the highest number of fatalities than on any other date? That statistic, based on accident data from 2000 to 2009 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS), is very sobering and should be kept in mind by all of us as we drive on this holiday weekend.

A July 4th fireworks display. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/PapaBear

A July 4th fireworks display. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/PapaBear

“Independence Day is the second deadliest day for drunk driving deaths, just behind New Year’s Day,” according to a press release from the AAAFTS. “Between 2000 and 2009, an average of 40% of traffic fatalities on July 4 involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit (.08 or higher), according to the AAAFTS’ analysis of fatal crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

The numbers should be a critical reminder to all of us that consuming alcoholic beverages on the holiday is a poor decision if you are driving. You are literally putting yourself and others in danger if you drive while intoxicated and creating huge liability risks for yourself and your family if you hurt someone else when you are drinking and driving.

According to the AAAFTS, an average of one drunk driving death occurs every 45 minutes in the U.S.

But drinking and driving and other highway dangers aren’t the only risks this holiday weekend. There are dangers and personal liability issues surrounding a wide variety of activities this weekend that you at least should keep in mind.

Cookout safety:

Even barbecue grills can cause injuries if they are used improperly or mixed with the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Improper equipment, poor safety rules, carelessness and other factors can cause injuries to adults and children who come near hot grills and outdoor cooking areas.

To prevent injuries and potential legal liability, be sure to follow these grilling safety tips from the Hearst Burn Center of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City:

*If you’re using a propane gas grill, inspect your propane tank and hoses for leaks, dents, cracks or corrosion.

*Always light the match before turning on the propane gas.

*Never use your grill indoors or under any structures that may catch fire, such as patio covers.

*Never smoke cigarettes or use matches or lighters near the grill.

*If you’re using a charcoal grill, use water to make sure that coals are extinguished and be careful never to dispose of briquettes that are still hot.

*Avoid loose clothing while grilling, especially long sleeves.

*Parental supervision is essential—keep all children away from the grill.

And don’t forget about the potential dangers of food poisoning when dining outdoors in the heat of summer. Be extra careful to make sure that foods made with mayonnaise, including coleslaw and potato salad, are kept chilled and out of direct sunlight so they don’t spoil and cause illnesses to guests, and don’t leave uncooked meats out in the summer heat for long periods of time before that are cooked. Many a holiday has been ruined at private parties, restaurants and other facilities due to food that has spoiled and caused serious illnesses for guests, while raising serious legal claims that you certainly want to avoid.

Fireworks safety:

Children and adults love to watch fireworks on the July 4th holiday, but the serious dangers of these holiday traditions cannot be stressed enough. Every year, hundreds of people are injured and several people die from fireworks accidents in the days before and after July 4, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The latest annual report from the CPSC report found that there were three fireworks-related deaths and an estimated 8,600 hospital emergency room treated injuries across the nation during all of 2010. In 2009, the CPSC reported two deaths and an estimated 8,800 injuries. In 2008, CPSC had reports of seven deaths and an estimated 7,000 injuries.

“Consumers need to heed our warning: fireworks related incidents, especially those involving illegal fireworks, can be fatal,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, in a statement. “Only use legal fireworks and follow CPSC’s tips to ensure your holiday remains festive and safe.”

The CPSC has issued the following reminders for improving fireworks safety:

*Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

*Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

*Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

*Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

*Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

*Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

*Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

*Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

*Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

*After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

*Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

*Swimming pool safety:

We here at MyPhillyLawyer have been writing here on this blog a lot lately about swimming pool safety and your rights and responsibilities as a pool owner or guest. Recently, we published a blog post about pool safety which is a great guide to ensuring that your family and pool guests are safe while swimming on your property.

MyPhillyLawyer managing partner Dean I. Weitzman has even appeared on several local Philadelphia television programs in the last month to remind parents, homeowners and families about the importance of pool safety across the Delaware Valley and to share his legal insights and a collection of swimming pool safety tips.

Here are five key swimming pool safety tips for you to remember this holiday weekend:

*Completely Fence The Perimeter Around Your Pool – by closing off the pool to children who could wander into your yard, you can prevent accidental drownings and protect yourself from liability.

*Be Sure That All Young Children Playing Near Pools Are Wearing Life Vests – if a child should accidentally fall into a pool, they will be better protected by wearing an approved life vest.

*Never, Ever Leave Children Unsupervised Near A Pool – that means NEVER. If children are to be around or in a pool, they MUST be properly and adequately supervised by an adult who can swim and is trained in rescue techniques.

*Keep Rescue Equipment By The Pool At All Times – including a life ring and rope, a first aid kit and flotation devices.

*Parents Must Be Encouraged to Learn CPR – by knowing how to save a life in the event of an emergency, homeowners can protect their guests and themselves before rescue workers ever arrive.

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drownings are the second leading cause of death among young children.

An average of 385 children under 15 years of age died annually in the U.S. due to pool or spa drownings from 2005 through 2007, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and its Pool Safely safety campaign. Of those, 78%, or 299, were under the age of five.

As a homeowner, you must be vigilant, pro-active and firm about setting safety rules and enforcing them so that guests and family members aren’t accidentally injured or worse.

Tragically, another area child drowned last week when a 20-month-old boy wandered away from his family and fell into an indoor pool in Bensalem, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

*Have Fun and Be Safe:

Remember this holiday weekend to enjoy yourself with friends and family, but also use caution to prevent tragedies and legal liability from accidents and injuries that can occur in a wide variety of ways.

Don’t drink and drive, be sure to drive safely, use caution when cooking out, watch your children and guests in your swimming pool and be extra careful around fireworks.

From all of us here at MyPhillyLawyer, we send you our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.

When Winning Matters Most, call us to discuss any legal matters that arise. If you need us, we will be there to help you with compassionate, professional and highly-skilled legal services.

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