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Civilians put their lives on the line, too

Date published: 1/16/2011 Fredericksburg.com

Civilians put their lives on the line, too

While shopping in Wegmans a few weeks ago, my son called. My husband and I quickly ended our shopping trip so we could talk to him without dropping the call.

My husband took the call, and I stayed to pay for our groceries. Phone calls from our son are precious, as he is in Afghanistan for the second Christmas in a row.

I mentioned it to the cashier, and the gentleman in line behind me thanked me for my son’s service. I told him that my son was not military, but a civilian contractor who volunteered to go for his company.

The gentleman again told me to “thank him for his service.” It touched my heart so very much, and I told my son as soon as I got on the phone with him.

Ryan really appreciated that man’s kindness, as do I. You see, I think people forget that along with our military there are many civilian contractors who have volunteered to put their lives in danger for this country. They, too, have families here that went through the holidays without their loved ones.

So for all who serve this country, the military, the contractors, and their families, I ask you to keep them all in your prayers. May God comfort them, and may they come home safely.

Mary Tibbatts

Spotsylvania

January 16, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors | , , , , | Leave a comment

Veterans Day 2010

posted by Michael Leon at Veterans Today

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Veterans | , , | Leave a comment

Departing for Home One Last Time

Sometimes civilian contractors die in accidents, have heart attacks or are killed by enemy fire. I guess it didn’t matter. In the eerie green light of the darkened aircraft sitting on my web seating, I glanced back to see the glow off the stainless steel “transfer case” and wondered who back home was at this moment trying to cope as they were notified of their loss, tears streaming with cries of anguish desperately hoping, praying that it is somehow a mistake. In my thoughts, it no longer mattered if “HR” was a civilian or Soldier. Death had come to whoever was lying before us in that C-130.

By Col Lance Kittleson My Army Reserve

They stood silently, not for HR, but for a human being, a fellow American, a child of God who had departed this world all too soon in wartime, and whose remains were now about to depart for home one final time.

In our unit’s flight from Kuwait to Iraq a few months ago in the worst of the desert’s summer heat, we filed into the back of a C-130, crammed cheek to jowl along with a couple pallets of cargo. The sweltering aircraft opens up in the rear of the airframe for cargo, which means that the heat floods inside. That day in June it was nearly 125 degrees, and with the addition of the four engines whining away and spewing forth heated drafts of Kuwaiti air, it was much hotter inside. Needless to say, it was pretty close to miserable, but then again that is what the Army, I believe, exist to do and do very well: teach people to live with and thrive in tough conditions.

Now months later, I was headed back to Kuwait to visit some of our troops, and that called for a nighttime flight. Same aircraft, same conditions, only this time it was much more bearable temperature-wise. Plus, there was a somewhat different clientele on board.

There was one passenger. I didn’t know the name by anything other than “HR.” The civilian loading us on the plane said, as we loaded our bags and donned our helmets and protective “Improved Outer Tactical Vests” (“Flak Vest” in Old Vietnam parlance), that anyone who was uncomfortable with HR aboard the aircraft could request to fly on another plane. No one did, as they had waited long enough for a flight out and knew the uncertainty of the military transport system. Someone asked the inevitable question: “What is HR?” As a Chaplain, I had it figured out, but many didn’t. “HR,” he replied, “means ‘Human Remains.'” We were flying with a casket aboard. As a pastor, I’ve seen a lot of death and a multitude of caskets. I’ve ridden in too many hearses to count on the way to the cemetery. But this time was unique. I didn’t know if it was a Soldier or not.
Because of the HR, we didn’t land at our final destination. We first stopped at the Kuwait City Airport where the casket would be transferred to the military mortuary affairs personnel for processing on their final flight across the oceans to home.

An American flag hung from the ceiling of the aircraft as everyone, civilian and Soldier alike, were asked by the crew to file off the aircraft and form an honor guard for movement to the awaiting cargo truck set to receive the body. In the 3:30 a.m. darkness of the runway parking ramp, a young Airman called everyone to attention as six Airmen and Soldiers lifted the casket and moved from the C-130 to the truck. There was no fidgeting, no complaining at the delay in the flight, just Americans standing in silent respect, civilians with hands over their hearts, Soldiers at attention.

They stood silently, not for HR, but for a human being, a fellow American, a child of God who had departed this world all too soon in wartime, and whose remains were now about to depart for home one final time.

If there is a lesson in that early morning flight, it is in the dignity and respect those young troops showed for the HR, that this was no mere “job” for them. These are Americans, and no matter who they were in life or where they were from in death, they would be treated with the greatest and utmost respect as the fallen deserve. Strangely, that is a comfort for Soldiers, knowing that if their time comes, “No Soldier will be left behind,” as one of the most important core values of the Army states— that somehow, in some way, sometime, someone will see that they get home one last time.

May God bless that flight crew in that early morning, those young mortuary affairs troops doing a hard, solemn job with the greatest of dignity and respect, and those Soldiers and civilians who stood at attention in the early morning darkness to render the respect of Americans for an American ‘HR’ whose name is known to God and a grieving family back home.

Please See the Original Post at My Army Reserve– Col. Lance Kittelson is the Chaplain for the Army Reserve’s 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC). Currently, many of the Soldiers from the 103rd are deployed in support Operation Iraqi Freedom across Iraq. The 103rd is comprised of almost 75 units and has command and control of more than 6,000 Army Reserve Soldiers.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties | , , , | Leave a comment

WARNING: TO ALL CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS ON FACEBOOK

From Death Valley Magazine by James G Posted November 8

The following Facebook Group “Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order” is an Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization using Facebook to target Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are using Facebook to gather Intel on Contractors and their Families – including location [CONUS and OCONUS] and movement Intel.

Below is the Facebook page for their Facebook Group:

Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order

I have received dozens of emails about this from my buddies in Iraq and Afghanistan warning me of this group. Please remember to maintain OPSEC and check your privacy settings on your Facebook Page. For people like myself who are pretty public already there is not much I can do, but for everyone else lock down your Facebook profile and be aware of whose friend requests you accept.

If you are a contractor like I am one of the easiest things you can do is blur out your face on any pictures you post. And for fucks sake do not have your email, state where you live, phone number or any other identifying info visible to anyone including your friends.

Please see Norm W.’s Article on Facebook Privacy 101 for more detailed information on how to secure your Facebook Profile

Facebook Privacy 101

Additional Intel on Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order:

Name: Army Men Naqshbandi
Category: Organizations – Religious Organizations
Description: In the name of God the Merciful

(We shall test you until We, and the patient ll tell)

Surah Muhammad verse: 31

Our jihad

Praise be to God, prayer and peace upon our beloved Muhammad and his family and companions and allies

1 – we started in our blessed jihad in terms of the fact that a legitimate jihad of religious duties, a duty and even the imposition of time applicant for the Iraqis after Jeict the forces of infidelity and was able to armies under the known circumstances of the occupation of Iraq (and the command of Allah dictated by fate).

2 – the goal of our jihad infidel occupier (individuals and machinery and equipment and equipment) wherever it is found on the land of Iraq at any time.

3 – we did not target any of the Iraqis of different nationalities, religions and denominations has blood on our hands the blood of any Iraqi would not be as well that God is only present himself before the Jund al-Suh disbelief in the battle for the assault on the Iraqis and protects the chest was master infidel.

4 – Do not disbelieve any of the Muslim people of the Qiblah (the people is no god but Allah) except in accordance with the legitimate parameters (outright disbelief) and the consensus of the Muslims and not the suspicions and prejudices, and wherein they differ.

5 – does not and will not Ntqata with any of the jihadist factions unlocked but sincere cooperation and cooperate with many of them as long as all the guns went to the issuance of long-standing enemies and these factions parameters of legitimacy and the national agenda.

6 – Thanks to God we relied on our own capabilities and our personal insurance requirements of the work jihadist since the days of jihad First, we still, in addition to what can be obtained from the support of Muslims and true believers did not extend our hands to any source of financial support suspicious or conditional terms inconsistent with our established legal and national, although the internal arena and filled with such external sources.

7 – adopt the principle of confidentiality and secrecy, one of the years the beloved prophet (peace be upon him) in the planning and implementation of jihad operations with documented in writing and a figurehead since the days of Jihad, the first in 2003 and has not announce it, which led to the adoption of some factions, some of our jihadist quality with a view to a project or not project because of its echo in the arena of jihad.

8 – may not be dealing with the occupier, whether the job or buy or sell, directly or indirectly, to the fact that it falls under the subsidy infidel occupier and improve its image in the eyes of the ugly people.

9 – not to engage in a game the political process because it is invalid by law and under the occupation may not be any dialogue or meeting or appease or negotiate with the occupier only by the Sultan of the legitimate or authorized.

10 – We will fight for the unity of Iraqi land and people to preserve the Arab and Islamic identity and we will be on the lookout for projects division under various names, both federal malicious or other labels failing.

11 – We will fight until the last inch of the land of Iraq and return to his family and Omteh Arab and Islamic countries have promised God and His Messenger, and promise all true believers and all honest we will not take up arms will not stop our jihad until the blessed God recognizing us in one of two goals: victory or martyrdom.

12 – older students minimum transient and do not seek positions of false and ephemeral and chairs when recognizing us victory by God, and the expulsion of the occupiers and requires the interest of religion and our homeland, we want a legitimate policy (according to the legitimate parameters) do not want a political law.

The last prayer is praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and blessings of Allah and peace upon His slave and lover and Mustafah Muhammad and his family and his companions

Council Operations Command

Army Men Naqshbandi (read less)

Please see the original post here

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Safety and Security | , , , | Leave a comment

Overseas Contractor Count For Third Quarter 2010

From:  Danger Zone Jobs

In 3rd quarter FY 2010, USCENTCOM reported approximately 224,433 contractor personnel working for the DoD in the USCENTCOM AOR. There was a decrease in contractors AOR wide of ~10% this quarter (from 250K to 224K), with significant decreases in Iraq and a steady state in Afghanistan.

A breakdown of those personnel is provided here. This update reports DoD contractor personnel numbers in theater. It covers DoD contractor personnel deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).

 

 

IRAQ SUMMARY

The main categories of contracts in Iraq and the percentages of contractors working on them are displayed below:

Base Support 49,256 (61.8%)
Security 11,413 (14.3%)
Translator / Interpreter 5,165 (6.4%)
Logistics / Maintenance 488 (.6%)
Construction 1,336 (1.7%)
Transportation 1,782 (2%)
Communication Support 603 (.7%)
Training 574 (.7%)
Other 9,004 (11.3%)
Total 79,621

OIF Contractor Posture Highlights:

  • There was a ~17% decrease (from 95K to 79K) in contractors in Iraq compared to the 2nd quarter FY 2010 census due to ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq.
  • USF-I remains on track to reduce the contractor footprint to 50K-75K by Sep 30, 2010.
  • The military to contractor ratio in Iraq is 1 to 1.14
  • We expect a steeper decrease in the number of overall contractors as FOBs close and military footprint is reduced throughout FY 11
  • DoD and DoS are planning for post-2011 contract support

 

AFGHANISTAN SUMMARY

The main categories of contracts in Afghanistan are similar to those shown in the Iraq summary. We are working to present a similar detailed breakout for Afghanistan. We are currently capturing data by contracting activity as follows:

Joint Contracting Command- Afghanistan 19,181 (18%)
LOGCAP 27,491 (25.5%)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 26,191 (24.5%)
DLA 6,791 (6%)
INSCOM 5,371 (5%)
Other* 22,454 (21%)
Total 107,479

*Includes Army Materiel Command, Air Force External and Systems Support contracts, Special Operations Command.

OEF Contractor Posture Highlights:

  • The total number of contractor personnel in Afghanistan has remained constant in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010.
  • The military to contractor ratio in Afghanistan is 1 to 1.07.
  • The number of local nationals employed on DoD contracts in Afghanistan is 68% of the overall contractor mix, just below the commander’s goal of 70%; CENTCOM is analyzing methods to enhance LN percentage to support COIN goals.

General Data on DoD Private Security Contractor Personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan

USCENTCOM reports, as of 3rd quarter FY 2010, the following distribution of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan:

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Jobs in Afghanistan, Jobs in Iraq | , , , , , | Leave a comment

LETTER: ‘Our disposable army’

A thoughtful letter to the Editor by Elizabeth Dawson

All our best to you and your son

To the Editor,

As we enter the 10th anniversary of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one group is never mentioned. That group, of course, are the private contractors assigned to Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding countries. If we are to truly understand the continuation of these senseless wars, we must educate ourselves on the “Disposable Army.”

Private corporations are not required to broadcast the number of private contractors currently working in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reliable resources estimate it at 200,000-250,000 personnel, although it may be more. The number of deaths to private contractors is not known, but estimated to be at 1,753 as of December 2009. The number of injured requiring evacuation, again estimated, is over 39,000 contractors. Private contractors are subject to the same injuries and illnesses as military personnel.

When people think of private contractors, they assume most are security personnel. In actuality, most perform duties once performed exclusively by the military. Mechanics, electricians, building contractors, interpreters, computer programmers, food and laundry service members are some of the jobs that are provided by American private contractors in these areas. The private corporations often pay their employees in excess of six figures to work in these areas.

When interviewed, many private contractors are simply family members trying to make a living wage. Many are military veterans who have been unable to find work in the United States at all, let alone a living wage. They have had to encounter war zone dangers overseas, and problems with health and disability insurance when they return home.

It is time that we admit that our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is against our and their best interests. We need to invest in rebuilding our own crumbling infrastructure, putting our own citizens back to work at living wages, and advancing our country in a positive direction.

If you have a family member in Iraq or Afghanistan,this website has invaluable information on many of the concerns of the “Disposable Army” at http://www.americancontractorsiniraq.org /

If you can find it in your heart, send a prayer my son’s way. He leaves for Afghanistan in two weeks, unable to find a job in the U.S.A. that pays a living wage. I will pray for him and his co-workers 24/7 until they are all home safely.

Elizabeth Dawson,

Red Oak

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Jobs in Afghanistan | , , | Leave a comment

Officer Failed to Warn CIA before Khost Bombing killed 8 Civilians

Officer Failed to Warn CIA Before Attack

Jeremy Wise

Dane Clark Paresi

Harold Brown Jr.

Scott Michael Roberson

WASHINGTON — Three weeks before a Jordanian double agent set off a bomb at a remote Central Intelligence Agency base in eastern Afghanistan last December, a C.I.A. officer in Jordan received warnings that the man might be working for Al Qaeda, according to an investigation into the deadly attack.

But the C.I.A. officer did not tell his bosses of suspicions — brought to the Americans by a Jordanian intelligence officer — that the man might be planning to lure Americans into a trap, according to the recently completed investigation by the agency. Later that month the Qaeda operative, a Jordanian doctor, detonated a suicide vest as he stood among a group of C.I.A. officers at the base.

The internal investigation documents a litany of breakdowns leading to the Dec. 30 attack at the Khost base that killed seven C.I.A. employees, the deadliest day for the spy agency since the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut. Besides the failure to pass on warnings about the bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the C.I.A. investigation chronicled major security lapses at the base in Afghanistan, a lack of war zone experience among the agency’s personnel at the base, insufficient vetting of the alleged defector and a murky chain of command with different branches of the intelligence agency competing for control over the operation.

Some of these failures mirror other lapses that have bedeviled the sprawling intelligence and antiterrorism community in the past several years, despite numerous efforts at reform.  Read more here

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dollars for Docs What Drug Companies are Paying Your Doctor

Docs on Pharma Payroll Have Blemished Records, Limited Credentials

Hundreds of doctors paid by pharmaceutical companies to promote their drugs have been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists, ProPublica has found. We compiled data from seven companies, covering $257.8 million in payouts since 2009 for speaking, consulting and other duties.

The Ohio medical board concluded [1] that pain physician William D. Leak had performed “unnecessary” nerve tests on 20 patients and subjected some to “an excessive number of invasive procedures,” including injections of agents that destroy nerve tissue.

Yet the finding, posted on the board’s public website, didn’t prevent Eli Lilly and Co. from using him as a promotional speaker and adviser. The company has paid him $85,450 since 2009.

In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered [2] Pennsylvania doctor James I. McMillen to stop “false or misleading” promotions of the painkiller Celebrex, saying he minimized risks and touted it for unapproved uses.

Still, three other leading drug makers paid the rheumatologist $224,163 over 18 months to deliver talks to other physicians about their drugs.

And in Georgia, a state appeals court in 2004 upheld [3] a hospital’s decision to kick Dr. Donald Ray Taylor off its staff. The anesthesiologist had admitted giving young female patients rectal and vaginal exams without documenting why. He’d also been accused of exposing women’s breasts during medical procedures. When confronted by a hospital official, Taylor said, “Maybe I am a pervert, I honestly don’t know,” according to the appellate court ruling.

Last year, Taylor was Cephalon’s third-highest-paid speaker out of more than 900. He received $142,050 in 2009 and another $52,400 through June.

Leak, McMillen and Taylor are part of the pharmaceutical industry’s white-coat sales force, doctors paid to promote brand-name drugs to their peers — and if they’re convincing enough, get more physicians to prescribe them.

Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs.

But an investigation by ProPublica uncovered hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists.

This story is the first of several planned by ProPublica examining the high-stakes pursuit of the nation’s physicians and their prescription pads. The implications are great for patients, who in the past have been exposed to such heavily marketed drugs as the painkiller Bextra and the diabetes drug Avandia — billion-dollar blockbusters until dangerous side effects emerged.

“Without question the public should care,” said Dr. Joseph Ross, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine who has written about the industry’s influence on physicians. “You would never want your kid learning from a bad teacher. Why would you want your doctor learning from a bad doctor, someone who hasn’t displayed good judgment in the past?”

To vet the industry’s handpicked speakers, ProPublica created a comprehensive database [4] that represents the most accessible accounting yet of payments to doctors. Compiled from disclosures by seven companies, the database covers $257.8 million in payouts since 2009 for speaking, consulting and other duties. In addition to Lilly and Cephalon, the companies include AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. and Pfizer.

Although these companies have posted payments on their websites — some as a result of legal settlements — they make it difficult to spot trends or even learn who has earned the most. ProPublica combined the data and identified the highest-paid doctors, then checked their credentials and disciplinary records.

That is something not all companies do.

A review of physician licensing records in the 15 most-populous states and three others found sanctions against more than 250 speakers, including some of the highest paid. Their misconduct included inappropriately prescribing drugs, providing poor care or having sex with patients. Some of the doctors had even lost their licenses.

More than 40 have received FDA warnings for research misconduct, lost hospital privileges or been convicted of crimes. And at least 20 more have had two or more malpractice judgments or settlements. This accounting is by no means complete; many state regulators don’t post these actions on their web sites.

In interviews and written statements, five of the seven companies acknowledged that they don’t routinely check state board websites for discipline against doctors. Instead, they rely on self-reporting and checks of federal databases. Only Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon said they review the state sites.

ProPublica found 88 Lilly speakers who have been sanctioned and four more who had received FDA warnings. Reporters asked Lilly about several of those, including Leak and McMillen. A spokesman said the company was unaware of the cases and is now investigating them.

“They are representatives of the company,” said Dr. Jack Harris, vice president of Lilly’s U.S. medical division. “It would be very concerning that one of our speakers was someone who had these other things going on.”

Leak, the pain doctor, and his attorney did not respond to multiple messages. The Ohio medical board voted to revoke Leak’s license in 2008. It remains active as he appeals in court, arguing that the evidence against him was old, the witnesses unreliable and the sentence too harsh.

In an interview, McMillen denied nearly all of the allegations in the FDA letter and blamed his troubles on a rival firm whose drug he had criticized in his presentations.

“I’m more cautious now than I ever was,” said McMillen, who said he also does research. “That’s why I think a lot of the companies use me. I’m not taking any risks.”

Taylor said that the allegations against him were “old news” from the 1990s and that regulators had not sanctioned him. “It had nothing to do with my skills as a physician,” said Taylor, noting that he speaks every other week around the country and sometimes abroad. “Even my biggest detractors in that situation lauded my skills as a physician. That’s what’s most important.”

Disclosures are just the start

Payments to doctors for promotional work are not illegal and can be beneficial. Strong relationships between pharmaceutical companies and physicians are critical to developing new and better treatments.

There is much debate, however, about whether paying doctors to market drugs can inappropriately influence what they prescribe. Studies have shown that even small gifts and payments affect physician attitudes. Such issues have become flashpoints in recent years both in courtrooms and in Congress.

All told, 384 of the approximately 17,700 individuals in ProPublica’s database earned more than $100,000 for their promotional and consulting work on behalf of one or more of the seven companies in 2009 and 2010. Nearly all were physicians, but a handful of pharmacists, nurse practitioners and dietitians also made the list. Forty-three physicians made more than $200,000 — including two who topped $300,000.

Physicians also received money from some of the 70-plus drug companies that have not disclosed their payments. Some of those interviewed could not recall all the companies that paid them, and certainly not how much they made. By 2013, the health care reform law requires [5] all drug companies to report this information to the federal government, which will post it on the Web.

The busiest — and best compensated — doctors gave dozens of speeches a year, according to the data and interviews. The work can mean a significant salary boost — enough for the kids’ college tuition, a nicer home, a better vacation.

Among the top-paid speakers, some had impressive resumes, clearly demonstrating their expertise as researchers or specialists. But others did not –contrary to the standards the companies say they follow.

Forty five who earned in excess of $100,000 did not have board certification in any specialty, suggesting they had not completed advanced training and passed a comprehensive exam. Some of those doctors and others also lacked published research, academic appointments or leadership roles in professional societies.

Experts say the fact that some companies are disclosing their payments is merely a start. The disclosures do not fully explain what the doctors do for the money — and what the companies get in return.

In a raft of federal whistleblower lawsuits [6], former employees and the government contend that the firms have used fees as rewards for high-prescribing physicians. The companies have each paid hundreds of millions or more to settle the suits.

The disclosures also leave unanswered what impact these payments have on patients or the health care system as a whole. Are dinner talks prompting doctors to prescribe risky drugs when there are safer alternatives? Or are effective generics overlooked in favor of pricey brand-name drugs?

“The pressure is enormous. The investment in these drugs is massive,” said Dr. David A. Kessler, who formerly served as both FDA commissioner and dean of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. “Are any of us surprised they’re trying to maximize their markets in almost any way they can?”

From drug reps to doc reps

For years, drug companies bombarded doctors with pens, rulers, sticky notes, even stuffed animals emblazoned with the names of the latest remedies for acid reflux, hypertension or erectile dysfunction. They wooed physicians with fancy dinners, resort vacations and personalized stethoscopes.

Concerns that this pharma-funded bounty amounted to bribery led the industry to ban most gifts voluntarily [7]. Some hospitals and physicians also banned the gift-givers: the legions of drug sales reps who once freely roamed their halls.

So the industry has relied more heavily on the people trusted most by doctors — their peers. Today, tens of thousands of U.S. physicians are paid to spread the word about pharma’s favored pills and to advise the companies about research and marketing.

Recruited and trained by the drug companies, the physicians — accompanied by drug reps — give talks to doctors over small dinners, lecture during hospital teaching sessions and chat over the Internet. They typically must adhere to company slides and talking points.

These presentations fill an educational gap, especially for geographically isolated primary care doctors charged with treating everything from lung conditions to migraines. For these doctors, poring over a stack of journal articles on the latest treatments may be unrealistic. A pharma-sponsored dinner may be their only exposure to new drugs that are safer and more effective.

Oklahoma pulmonologist James Seebass, for example, earned $218,800 from Glaxo in 2009 and 2010 for lecturing about respiratory diseases “in the boonies,” he said. On a recent trip, he said, he drove to “a little bar 40 miles from Odessa,” Texas, where physicians and nurse practitioners had come 50 to 60 miles to hear him.

Seebass, the former chair of internal medicine at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, said such talks are “a calling,” and he is booking them for 2011.

The fees paid to speakers are fair compensation for their time away from their practices, and for travel and preparation as well as lecturing, the companies say.

Dr. Samuel Dagogo-Jack has a resume that would burnish any company’s sales force: He is chief of the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Dagogo-Jack conducts research funded by the National Institutes of Health, has edited medical journals and continues to see patients.

While most people are going home to dinner with their families, he said, he is leaving to hop on a plane to bring news of fresh diabetes treatments to non-specialist physicians “in the trenches” who see the vast majority of cases.

Since 2009, Dagogo-Jack has been paid at least $257,000 by Glaxo, Lilly and Merck.

“If you actually prorate that by the hours put in, it is barely more than minimum wage,” he said. (A person earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would have to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week for more than four years to earn Dagogo-Jack’s fees.)

For the pharmaceutical companies, one effective speaker may not only teach dozens of physicians how to better recognize a condition, but sell them on a drug to treat it. The success of one drug can mean hundreds of millions in profits, or more. Last year, prescription drugs sales in the United States topped $300 billion, according to IMS Health, a healthcare information and consulting company.

Glaxo’s drug to treat enlarged prostates, Avodart — locked in a battle with a more popular competitor — is the topic of more lectures than any of the firm’s other drugs, a company spokeswoman said. Glaxo’s promotional push has helped quadruple Avodart’s revenue to $559 million in five years and double its market share, according to IMS.

Favored speakers like St. Louis pain doctor Anthony Guarino earn $1,500 to $2,000 for a local dinner talk to a group of physicians.

Guarino, who made $243,457 from Cephalon, Lilly and Johnson & Johnson since 2009, considers himself a valued communicator. A big part of his job, he said, is educating the generalists, family practitioners and internists about diseases like fibromyalgia, which causes chronic, widespread pain — and to let them know that Lilly has a drug to treat it.

“Somebody like myself may be able to give a better understanding of how to recognize it,” Guarino said. Then, he offers them a solution: “And by the way, there is a product that has an on-label indication for treating it.’’

Guarino said he is worth the fees pharma pays him on top of his salary as director of a pain clinic affiliated with Washington University. Guarino likened his standing in the pharma industry to that of St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, named baseball player of the decade last year by Sports Illustrated. Both earn what the market will bear, he said: “I know I get paid really well.”

Is anyone checking out there?

Simple searches of government websites turned up disciplinary actions against many pharma speakers in ProPublica’s database.

The Medical Board of California filed a public accusation against psychiatrist Karin Hastik in 2008 and placed her [8] on five years’ probation in May for gross negligence in her care of a patient. A monitor must observe her practice.

Kentucky’s medical board placed Dr. Van Breeding on probation [9] from 2005 to 2008. In a stipulation filed with the board, Breeding admits unethical and unprofessional conduct. Reviewing 23 patient records, a consultant found Breeding often that gave addictive pain killers without clear justification. He also voluntarily relinquished his Florida license.

New York’s medical board put Dr. Tulio Ortega on two years’ probation [10] in 2008 after he pleaded no contest to falsifying records to show he had treated four patients when he had not. Louisiana’s medical board, acting on the New York discipline, also put him on probation [11] this year.

Yet during 2009 and 2010, Hastik made $168,658 from Lilly, Glaxo and AstraZeneca. Ortega was paid $110,928 from Lilly and AstraZeneca. Breeding took in $37,497 from four of the firms. Hastik declined to comment, and Breeding and Ortega did not respond to messages.

Their disciplinary records raise questions about the companies’ vigilance.

“Did they not do background checks on these people? Why did they pick them?” said Lisa Bero, a pharmacy professor at University of California, San Francisco who has extensively studied conflicts of interest in medicine and research.

Disciplinary actions, Bero said, reflect on a physician’s credibility and willingness to cross ethical boundaries.

“If they did things in their background that are questionable, what about the information they’re giving me now?” she said.

ProPublica found sanctions ranging from relatively minor misdeeds such as failing to complete medical education courses to the negligent treatment of multiple patients. Some happened long ago; some are ongoing. The sanctioned doctors were paid anywhere from $100 to more than $140,000.

Several doctors were disciplined for misconduct involving drugs made by the companies that paid them to speak. In 2009, Michigan regulators accused one rheumatologist of forging a colleague’s name to get prescriptions for Viagra and Cialis. Last year, the doctor was paid $17,721 as a speaker for Pfizer, Viagra’s maker.

A California doctor who was paid $950 this year to speak for AstraZeneca was placed on five years’ probation by regulators in 2009 after having a breakdown, threatening suicide and spending time in a psychiatric hospital after police used a Taser on him. He said he’d been self-treating with samples of AstraZeneca’s anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, medical board records show.

Other paid speakers had been disciplined by their employers or warned by the federal government. At least 15 doctors lost staff privileges at various hospitals, including one New Jersey doctor who had been suspended twice for patient care lapses and inappropriate behavior. Other doctors received FDA warning letters for research misconduct such as failing to get informed consent from patients.

Pharma companies say they rely primarily on a federal database listing those whose behavior in some way disqualifies them from participating in Medicare. This database, however, is notoriously incomplete.

The industry’s primary trade group says its voluntary code of conduct is silent about what, if any, behavior should disqualify physician speakers.

“We look at it from the affirmative — things that would qualify physicians,” said Diane Bieri, general counsel and executive vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Some physicians with disciplinary records say their past misdeeds do not reflect on their ability to educate their peers.

Family medicine physician Jeffrey Unger was put on probation [12] by California’s medical board in 1999 after he misdiagnosed a woman’s breast cancer for 2½ years. She received treatment too late to save her life. In 2000, the Nevada medical board revoked Unger’s license for not disclosing California’s action.

As a result, Unger said, he decided to slow down and start listening to his patients. Since then, he said, he has written more than 130 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on diabetes, mental illness and pain management.

“I think I’ve more than accomplished what I’ve needed to make this all right,” he said. During 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, Lilly paid Unger $87,830. He said he also is a paid speaker for Novo Nordisk and Roche, two companies that have not disclosed payments.

The drug firms, Unger said, “apparently looked beyond the record.”

Companies make their own experts

Last summer, as drug giant Glaxo battled efforts to yank its blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia from the market, Nashville cardiologist Hal Roseman worked the front lines.

At an FDA hearing, he borrowed David Letterman’s shtick [13] to deliver a “Top Five” list of reasons to keep the drug on the market despite evidence it caused heart problems. He faced off [14] against a renowned Yale cardiologist and Avandia critic on the PBS NewsHour, arguing that the drug’s risks had been overblown.

“I still feel very convinced in the drug,” Roseman said with relaxed confidence. The FDA severely restricted access to the drug last month citing its risks.

Roseman is not a researcher with published peer-reviewed studies to his name. Nor is he on the staff of a top academic medical center or in a leadership role among his colleagues.

Roseman’s public profile comes from his work as one of Glaxo’s highest-paid speakers. In 2009 and 2010, he earned $223,250 from the firm — in addition to payouts from other companies.

Pharma companies often say their physician salesmen are chosen for their expertise. Glaxo, for example, said it selects “highly qualified experts in their field, well-respected by their peers and, in the case of speakers, good presenters.”

ProPublica found that some top speakers are experts mainly because the companies have deemed them such. Several acknowledge that they are regularly called upon because they are willing to speak when, where and how the companies need them to.

“It’s sort of like American Idol,” said sociologist Susan Chimonas, who studies doctor-pharma relationships at the Institute on Medicine as a Profession in New York City.

“Nobody will have necessarily heard of you before — but after you’ve been around the country speaking 100 times a year, people will begin to know your name and think, ‘This guy is important.’ It creates an opinion leader who wasn’t necessarily an expert before.”

To check the qualifications of top-paid doctors, reporters searched for medical research, academic appointments and professional society involvement. They also interviewed national leaders in the physicians’ specialties.

In numerous cases, little information turned up.

Las Vegas endocrinologist Firhaad Ismail, for example, is the top earner in the database, making $303,558, yet only his schooling and mostly 20-year-old research articles could be found. An online brochure [15] for a presentation he gave earlier this month listed him as chief of endocrinology at a local hospital, but an official there said he hasn’t held that title since 2008.

And several leading pain experts said they’d never heard of Santa Monica pain doctor Gerald Sacks, who was paid $249,822 since 2009.

Neither physician returned multiple calls and letters.

A recently unsealed whistleblower lawsuit against Novartis [16], the nation’s sixth-largest drug maker by sales, alleges that many speakers were chosen “on their prescription potential rather than their true credentials.”

Speakers were used and paid as long as they kept their prescription levels up, even though “several speakers had difficulty with English,” according to the amended complaint filed this year in federal court in Philadelphia.

Some physicians were paid for speaking to one another, the lawsuit alleged. Several family practice doctors in Peoria, Ill., “had two programs every week at the same restaurant with the same group of physicians as the audience attendees.”

In September, Novartis agreed to pay [17] the government $422.5 million to resolve civil and criminal allegations in this case and others. The company has said it fixed its practices and now complies with government rules.

Roseman, who has been a pharma speaker for about a decade, acknowledged that his expertise comes by way of the training provided by the companies that pay him. But he says that makes him the best prepared to speak about their products, which he prescribes for his own patients. Asked about Roseman’s credentials, a Glaxo spokeswoman said he is an “appropriate” speaker.

Getting paid to speak “doesn’t mean that your views have necessarily been tainted,” he said.

Plus pharma needs talent, Roseman said. Top-tier universities such as Harvard [18] have begun banning their staffs from accepting pharma money for speaking, he said. “It irritates me that the debate over bias comes down to a litmus test of money,” Roseman said. “The amount of knowledge that I have is in some regards to be valued.”

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Defense Medical Examinations | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tell Congress: Support Veterans by Taking Action Against Toxic Burn Pits

Targeting: The U.S. House of Representatives
Started by: Change.org

Thousands of soldiers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to smoke from open-air burn pits, landfills used for burning the military’s trash. Rarely were soldiers given equipment to protect themselves against the toxic smoke, which was a permanent fixture in many military bases. Soldiers exercised around the pits and made daily trips to the burn pits to dispose of trash, including medical and human waste, batteries, paint, plastics and solvents.

Numerous soldiers have health problems linked to burn pit exposures. Although their complaints prompted the government to shut most of the pits down, many soldiers are still fighting for their health, their lives and their benefits. Although the Veterans Administration acknowledges that burning solid waste generates carcinogenic and toxic compounds, they also continue to claim that there are no likely long-term effects from the burn pits and that “health monitoring and medical follow-up is not necessary for routine exposure to smoke from burning trash and human waste.”

As a response to the lack of monitoring and response to burn pits, Representatives Tim Bishop (D-NY) and cosponsor Representative Carol Shea-Porter (D-NY) introduced H.R. 4477, the Military Personnel Toxic Exposure Registry Act. This act will establish a medical surveillance system to identify members of the military exposed to the chemical hazards of burn pits, prohibit the disposal of waste resulting in the production of dangerous levels of toxins and help veterans get the care and benefits they deserve.

Urge your Representative to support the bill so veterans get the proper care and benefits they need and exposure to toxic burn pits is put to an end.

Go to Change.org to sign petition

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Burn Pits, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties | , , , , | Leave a comment

American Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan Doctors Who Work for Insurance Companies

American Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan Doctors Who Work for Insurance Companies

Doctors who work for the insurance companies
Defense Medical Examination Doctors
(Paid for Second Opinions)

They may use the term
Independent Medical Examination

which is only used when the DoL chooses the Doctor under strict guidelines ensuring that the
Doctor does not do more than one examination every two years for the defense

 

AIG’s Hired gun
Dr John Dorland Griffith
!!  Exposed !!
If you lost your claim due to testimony by Dr Griffith
contact us junglem@yahoo.com

Visit American Contractors in Iraq and Afghanstan DME Doctors

to see the list and to add your own DME Doctors

QE4BK79UJ2CC

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Medical Examinations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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