BUSINESS
10/09/2012 08:05 am ET

Fungal Meningitis Safe From Burdensome Regulation: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Thing One: Our Regulations, Our Selves: If we could take de-regulation and inject it directly into our spines, this is what it might look like.

At least eight people have died so far, 105 have been sickened, and thousands more have been exposed to fungal meningitis as a result of being injected with tainted steroids. The disease leads to swelling of the brain and central nervous system, can last for months, and can kill patients with weaker immune systems or patients who are exposed to large doses. The steroids were mixed in a mass-producing compounding pharmacy, New England Compounding Center Inc., in Framingham, Mass., which essentially does what your local pharmacist does, mixing up medicine, except on a massive scale.

Outrageously, this industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, thanks to heavy lobbying and long legal battles to keep it that way. Instead, it is regulated in only 17 states, which use quality-control guidelines set by the industry itself. This tainted batch of steroids is only the latest in a series of such incidents involving compounding pharmacies, Reuters notes, with infections of meningitis, Hepatitis C and other diseases occurring "repeatedly in the last decade." The Wall Street Journal notes that the FDA, having failed in Congress and in court to win oversight of the industry, has been helplessly warning for years of the dangers of compounding pharmacies, citing "devastating repercussions" from these drugs, including "three patients dying of infections from a drug used to paralyze the heart during surgery and two patients at a veterans hospital who were blinded by a compounded product used in cataract surgery."

The FDA is still fighting in court to win oversight of the industry, and Reuters notes the battle may eventually get to the Supreme Court. That is cold comfort: The Supreme Court is where Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote an opinion in 2002 closing one avenue for regulation of this industry to the FDA, the WSJ writes. It is doubtful that the Roberts Court will be much more sympathetic to the FDA's pleas. This is a court that may be the most corporate-friendly, anti-regulation court in history. It is the court of Citizens United, a court in which the Chamber of Commerce had a perfect 7-0 record in the latest term -- the first undefeated term for business interests at the high court since 1991, according to the Constitutional Accountability Center.

So every time you go to a hospital and get injected with one of these compounded drugs, you will likely continue to get a shot of de-regulation right into your blood stream or central nervous system, your heart or your eyeball. Best of luck.

Thing Two: Green Zone For Merkel: You've got to hand it Angela Merkel, she's got chutzpah. The German Chancellor is in Greece today, as maybe the most unwanted visitor since the Persians arrived a few millennia ago. Athens has been turned into a heavy policed Green Zone in anticipation of possibly violent protests, the Financial Times writes. Merkel is deeply unpopular as the driving force behind the painful austerity measures that have helped keep Greece's economy in a miserable depression. Her visit is ostensibly a friendly one, meant to send the message that she wants Greece to stay in the euro zone, Reuters writes. Meanwhile, the European Union is applauding Greece's austerity measures, a hint that more bailout money is forthcoming, Bloomberg writes. But Merkel will make no such promises and bring no money, notes the FT. This should go over well.

Thing Three: IMF Stands For "Isn't Much Fun:" The global economy is on the brink of a new recession, just three years after the last recession, the International Monetary Fund warned yesterday. What's the matter with the world this time? Not much, just the European debt crisis and the looming "fiscal cliff" in the U.S. In better news, the IMF said it didn't see a hard landing in emerging economies such as China and India. But they wouldn't be immune from a global slowdown.

Thing Four: Wal-Mart's Bluebird Of Unhappiness: Because Wal-Mart shoppers don't currently have enough options for paying for the cheap crap that Wal-Mart sells, the retailer and American Express have teamed up to give Wal-Mart customers a prepaid credit card, dubbed "Bluebird," because freedom I guess? It's a rare foray into the low-end customer swamp for AmEx, but there's just so much money to be made in prepaid cards, which are loaded with fees and have fewer consumer protections, The New York Times notes.

Thing Five: Bitter Goldman Sachs Is Not Obama's Friend Any More: Goldman Sachs was the biggest corporate contributor to President Obama's 2008 election campaign. But the president has hurt Goldman's feelings with his hurtful suggestions that maybe bankers might possibly bear some responsibility for the financial crisis. He's even made banks go through painful annual "stress tests," with another one coming up that banks are whining and whining about again, as usual, the Wall Street Journal observes. So now Goldman will show that mean Obama, they will just give all of their campaign money to their buddy Mitt Romney, who would never say things to them, the WSJ writes.

Thing Six: Ireland To Take Bold Step On Housing: The Irish government is expected to pass a law this year requiring banks to cut outstanding mortgage balances for thousands of homeowners, in order to avoid a wave of potential foreclosures, The New York Times writes. It will be an experiment watched closely by other countries around the world. In the U.S., on the other hand, Federal Housing Finance Agency chief Ed DeMarco will likely continue to say "see you in hell, homeowners."

Thing Seven: Wall Street Delusion Reaches Unexplored New Levels: Almost half of Wall Street bankers surveyed by eFinancialCareers.com expect to get a bigger bonus than they did a year ago, reports Bloomberg. That's up from just 41 percent a year ago. And this result comes despite the fact that the top five Wall Street banks reported their worst first-half revenue since 2008, Bloomberg notes.

Thing Seven And One Half: 'My God, It's Full Of Stars' Is In The Lead Right Now: This may be the most caption-contest-friendly photograph ever taken: A young girl expresses surprise about something Mitt Romney is doing. Just wow. Slate's Dave Weigel has a strong contender for the best caption so far.

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Jamie Dimon Hates On Regulation: A History
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