Purdue Pharma Reigns In the Opioid Peddlers

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In typical cavalier fashion, drug giant Purdue Pharma has decided to curtail the sale of OxyContin that has brought misery and death to tens of thousands addicted to opioids.

Purdue Pharma Oxycontin

Why it has taken so long for this scandal to end – particularly to families who have lost loved ones – is difficult to fathom.  Perhaps, the allure of bonuses for licensed drug peddlers or the irresistible pull of a higher stock price blinded this company from the inescapable evidence that it was hooking Americans on lethal drugs.

In a scathing article entitled “Pain Pill Giant Purdue Pharma to Stop Promotion of Opioids to Doctors,” by Jared Hopkins, Bloomberg reports that Purdue plans to cut half of its sales force and concentrate instead on “promoting the company’s opioid induced constipation drug, Symproic.”

Needless to say, State and local governments are mounting huge suits against the predatory marketing practices of Purdue.  No doubt, local governments will win major financial judgements against Purdue Pharma, but will there be any assets left after Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy?  More importantly, how can you possibly place a value on the thousands of lives that have been destroyed by this toxic drug company that has done more damage to our society than all of the Colombian drug lords combined?

More importantly, PURDUE PHARMA DID IT WITH THE FULL SUPPORT AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE US GOVERNMENT.  

SFTT has been reporting on this shameful tragedy for well over five years.  We documented how Veterans received these powerful narcotics from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) and flushed them down the toilet or crushed them into powder to sell them on the black market.

It is sad that the President’s Commission on Drug Addiction and opioid abuse finds that “the modern opioid epidemic originated within the healthcare system,” but it is CRIMINAL to entrust the resolution of drug addiction to the very same healthcare agents that created this problem.

While non-invasive treatment for PTSD and TBI like hyperbaric oxygen therapy are rigorously dismissed by the VA in favor of new drugs, Veterans are unlikely to find that their lives are restored to any semblance of what it was in the past.

It is hard to believe that Purdue Pharma has been aggressively peddling their toxic drugs in our backyard (Stamford), but it would appear that our healthcare system is rigged to encourage more abuses

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News for Veterans with PTSD or TBI: Week Ending 2 Feb 2018

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The Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) struggles to provide effective therapy for Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  As such, SFTT has will now focus its attention on providing Veterans and their families cope with information on promising new alternative therapies to help brave warriors cope with brain injury.

The devastating effect of brain injury for hundreds of thousands of Veterans and their families cannot be underestimated.  While SFTT will focus primarily on “new” therapy programs, we will occasionally report on the very unsettling problems faced by Veterans and their families as they seek to recover their lives.

Some “alternative” therapies have already proven to be quite successful, but many others are not widely known to Veterans or the medical profession at large.   Even if these programs were endorsed or approved by the VA, treatment is often beyond the financial means of most Veterans.

While SFTT will let the “news” speak for itself, the science of treating brain injury is still in its infancy.  SFTT attempts to provide balanced reporting of the pros and cons of these emerging therapy programs but strongly encourages the reader to make up their own mind as to their efficacy.

Brain Injuries May Start at a Young Age

A recent article in the New York Times entitled, “Hits to the Head May Result in Immediate Brain Damage,” is troubling for families raising children where contact sports is often a way of life.

While the nature of brain injuries suffered by Veterans leading to PTSD and TBI are far different, the New York Times article suggests that there is still much to be learned in treating concussive events.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE

SFTT has reported on several occasions that the NFL has been investigating a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”) which appears to be caused by repeated blows to the head causing a protein called tau to spread and kill brain cells.

For many years the NFL and the VA has tried to hide the effects of debilitating brain injuries from players and Veterans, but the evidence is now overwhelming that concussive events may cause irreparable damage to sensitive brain tissue and cells.

Many parents are already pulling their children from junior football programs and some soccer leagues now prohibit children below the age of 12 from “heading the ball” to avoid brain and neck injuries.  Just recently, star performer Justin Timberlake who will perform at halftime at the Superbowl announced that “my son will not play football.”

Shouldn’t this be a warning message to all parents?

Ketamine Could Help Veterans with PTSD

Promising “new” drugs materialize daily that claim to help Veterans cope with the symptoms of PTSD and TBI.  Ketamine, approved by the FDA many years ago for sedating people (but not approved for treating traumatic events) has become a popular treatment option for Veterans that have exhausted VA remedies.

The San Antonio Express News, reports that Ketamine “has achieved good results in clinical trials.”  It adds that “the military also is interested in its use . . . and that two health facilities will treat active-duty troops and veterans. The research is funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The San Antonio Express News adds that “clinics use the drug off-label, and protocols, staffing and dosing can differ widely from one clinic to the next.   Despite the lack of supporting clinical evidence, many seek ketamine for relief.  “Even at low doses it alters the senses. Critics say the effects of longtime use remain unknown and wonder if ketamine clinics put vulnerable patients at risk.”

SFTT Commentary:  As in all mind or sensory altering drugs, there are risks that are not fully understood by the medical profession.  SFTT continues to support noninvasive therapies, particularly over unregulated and untested drug options.

Army Research Laboratories and Helius Research Neurological Wellness

According to a press release from Aerotech News,

“The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Helius Medical Technologies, Inc., from Newton, Penn., have partnered to expand on early research that could mean new interventions for improving Soldier readiness and resilience, as well as reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“As part of a cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, ARL and Helius are launching a research program to investigate Helius’ Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator for the enhancing cognitive and psychological readiness and response through mindfulness meditation training. Helius is focused on neurological wellness.

“Researchers from both organizations will combine the use of the neuromodulator with mindfulness meditation training and assess participants’ neurocognitive performance and self-reported symptoms before and after training.”

SFTT Commentary:   While this joint research program seems promising, the Army Research Laboratory has often placed troop “readiness” ahead of troop safety.  SFTT hopes that this study will prove different.

SFTT readers are encouraged to drop us a line if they discover an interesting new therapy to treat PTSD or TBI or would like to share a public interest story.  SFTT can be reached at info@sftt.org.

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Happy 2018!

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Is it too late to wish you all a happy new year? We think not!

Here at SFTT we’ve been busy wrapping up our 2017 initiatives and planning for an even better 2018 with new programs and partners to help Veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

During the past year, Stand for the Troops, the Little Organization That Could and Has, hit a major milestone — we turned 20! Twenty, old enough to be a combat soldier which, in many ways we are. SFTT is at war helping American Veterans combat invisible war wounds.

In 2017, we fought for — and aided — our Veterans who suffer from TBI and PTSD by:

  • Securing educational grants 2017 for west coast Veterans wanting to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture and presently, a 2018 grant to continue this program is being reviewed. We’re also working to expand this program to make it available to Veterans on the east coast.
  • Helping fund Attention-Bias Modification Treatment for PTSD research at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute by supporting the Principal Investigator, Dr. Yuval Neria. Dr. Neria’s other related projects establish innovative trauma care for Veterans and their family members, such as Man of War Project & Military Family Wellness Center.
  • Working in concert with the Knights of Columbus on The Frank Robotti Golf Classic where we raised awareness and funds for service dogs. We’ll be awarding money to a local service dog program soon.

In 2018 we plan to continue this good work while introducing a program that focuses on our co-founder, Col. David “Hack” Hackworth’s commitment to safeguarding frontline soldiers with more than lip service. Our new treatment plan, unveiled in the next few weeks, integrates proven medical and wellness therapies to effectively treat combat-related traumatic brain injury.

We’d love to hear from you so please drop us a line at info@sftt.org!

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Latest News for Vets with PTSD & TBI: 26 Jan 2018

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The Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) continues to struggle to provide effective therapy for Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  As such, SFTT has decided to focus most of its attention on helping Veterans and their families cope with the ravages of the silent wounds of war.

The devastating effect of brain injury for hundreds of thousands of Veterans and their families cannot be underestimated.  While SFTT will focus primarily on “new” therapy programs, we will occasionally report on the very unsettling problems faced by Veterans and their families as they seek to recover their lives.

Some “alternative” therapies have already proven to be quite successful, but many others are not widely known to Veterans or the medical profession at large.   Even if these programs were endorsed or approved by the VA, treatment is often beyond the financial means of most Veterans.

While SFTT will let the “news” speak for itself, the science of treating brain injury is still in its infancy.  SFTT attempts to provide balanced reporting of the pros and cons of these emerging therapy programs but strongly encourages the reader to make up their own mind as to their efficacy.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or “HBOT”


Among the most promising therapies is hyperbaric oxygen therapy or “HBOT,”   Essentially, HBOT consists of a series of controlled dives in a compression chamber where Veterans receive oxygen under pressure.  Many independent research studies have confirmed the efficacy of HBOT, but the VA and the DoD have consistently claimed that there is limited evidence to sustain the assertion that HBOT helps to improve brain function.

Despite the VA’s policy, many countries use HBOT to treat brain injury.  In fact, the Israel Defense Forces (“IDF”) use HBOT to treat any concussive event for its military personnel.  SFTT has written often about the efficacy of HBOT.

Nevertheless, VA spokesperson Dr. David Cifu continues to claim that current VA program are more effective than HBOT.  The clinical evidence strongly suggests that Dr Ciful is misleading Veterans, Congressional subcommittees that oversee the VA and the public about the lack of efficacy of HBOT.   SFTT will fully address Cifu’s “misspeaks” and “questionable” scientific evidence at a later date.

Combat Veterans Coming Home with CTE

Not all news is “good news” for Veterans suffering from brain trauma.  There is now evidence that some Veterans suffering from PTSD may have CTE or  chronic traumatic encephalopathy .  The 60 Minutes Video which accompanies this article, highlights the painful story of one Veteran’s “discovery” that he had an incurable brain injury.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE

SFTT has been reporting for months how the NFL has been dodging the nasty public relations surrounding CTE, but now (unsurprisingly) evidence suggests that this terrible degenerative disease of the brain may also be affecting Veterans who have been exposed to a series of concussive events.

MDMA for PTSD Enters Final Trials

According to an article published in Newsweek, the final round of clinical trials for MDMA assisted psychotherapy could lead the way for the United States to approve the drug for therapeutic use as early as 2021.

The third and final phrase of trials gets underway after the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) designated MDMA as a “breakthrough therapy” for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in August 2017, ensuring that it will work with advocates to complete the last phase quickly.

MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, is an empathogen, meaning that it stimulates togetherness and trust among users. It also inhibits activity in the brain that treats fear and stimulates hormones that make people feel more connected. While some may refer to MDMA and ecstasy interchangeably, MDMA is the pure form of the drug, while ecstasy can be cut with unknown adulterants.

SFTT Commentary:   SFTT has written several times about the use of MDMA (aka “Ecstasy”) in treating PTSD.  While final trial results for MDMA will not be known for several years, it is worth remembering that drugs that treat behavioral or pain symptoms but produce no long-lasting improvement in brain function may not be cause for celebration.  Let’s face it, the President’s Final Report on Combating Drug Addiction (page 20) states quite clearly that “the modern opioid crisis originated within the healthcare system.”    Will another drug prove more effective?

Written Exposure Therapy “WET”

According to a press release by Marilynn Larkin for the Psych Congress Network, “Written Exposure Therapy (“WET”) is noninferior to first-line cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can be delivered in fewer sessions, researchers say.”

WET involves writing about a traumatic experience under clinical guidance, using a structured format.

“Our study has important implications for clinicians, as it suggests that PTSD can be effectively treated using a much shorter, less burdensome intervention – i.e., five sessions, minimal face-to-face time with the therapist, no between-session homework assignments – than what is typically used in clinical practice,” Dr. Denise Sloan of National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, told Reuters Health.

SFTT Commentary:  The suggestion that WET is “noninferior to first-line cognitive processing therapy (“CPT”) is hardly a ringing endorsement.  Despite VA propaganda to the contrary, CPT has been largely unsuccessful in treating Veterans with PTSD.

SFTT readers are encouraged to drop us a line if they discover an interesting new therapy to treat PTSD or TBI or would like to share a public interest story.  SFTT can be reached at info@sftt.org.

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Will the VA Expand HBOT Therapy for Veterans with PTSD and TBI?

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As reported earlier, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) is now providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy of “HBOT” on a trial basis to Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  This marks an abrupt turnaround within the VA that has repeatedly claimed that there is insufficient clinical “evidence” to support the use of HBOT in treating Veterans with brain injuries.

HBOT Therapy

The VA’s position reportedly stems from some 32 “inconclusive” studies on the effectiveness of HBOT in treating TBI and PTSD. Most recently, the 2015 DoD trial of HBOT concluded that there was a “lack of evidence” that HBOT helped Veterans with PTSD or TBI.

Col. Miller, the DoD project manager, “didn’t see any value in moving forward with more studies.”  As SFTT reported earlier, Col. Miller is an infectious disease specialist and not a brain trauma specialist.  Fortunately, he now works for the Gates Foundation focusing on his specialty: infectious disease.

The VA and the DoD go to great lengths to discredit the use of HBOT in treating Veterans with brain injury. Nevertheless, their arguments seem rather spurious against the almost overwhelming scientific evidence that HBOT is effective in helping to improve brain functionality.

Some in the medical profession have questioned whether test protocols in the DoD 2015 study were manipulated to produce the “inconclusive” outcome.  More to the point, how is it possible for the VA to continue to defend its ONLY two non-invasive therapy programs: Prolonged Exposure Therapy (“PE”) and, Cognitive Processing Therapy (“CPT”)?   Patient outcomes for these two programs have been shown by independent studies to be next to useless.

In fact, so abysmal have been therapy results that the VA used highly addictive prescription drugs to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI rather than provide any long term cure.  Indeed, the VA has no small role to play in contributing to the opioid epidemic which is now ravaging America.

Hopefully, the lack of any meaningful success in treating PTSD and TBI has forced the VA to accelerate its exploration of alternative therapies.  Hopefully, HBOT will soon be incorporated into the treatment options currently provided to Veterans by the VA.

While Dr. David Cifu and his cronies at the VA may continue to put out disingenuous statements regarding HBOT, it is widely used all over the world to treat trauma.  Specifically, HBOT is the “go-to” option for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).   As reported in an earlier SFTT article, Daniel Rona, who has fought with both the IDF and US military states that in Israel:

“In essence, our mental attitude is that we must take care of ourselves and through that process little Israel has become a blessing for the rest of the world…we treasure our soldiers, young and old. They are our only defenders….no one else will fight our battles. You can imagine that every concussive event will be treated with HBOT !” . . .“the policy of the IDF is that life has the highest value and they are committed to use any treatment, in any case, to save a life”.

Furthermore, as Dr. Paul Harch and others have pointed out, there are many independent scientific studies confirming the benefits of HBOT.  Specifically, Dr. Xavier Figueroa has written a compelling argument suggesting that the VA has dropped the ball on HBOT research.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Veterans are seeking treatment centers all across the United States.  In many cases, clinics are opening their doors to Veterans to help them recover from the silent wounds of war.  Nevertheless, the treatment can be quite expensive as remains out of financial reach for most Veterans.

While Veterans and their support givers cope with this devastating war wound, SFTT remains hopeful that HBOT and other alternative therapy programs will soon be adopted by the VA to help these brave Veterans recover their lives.

Found below is an old (2012) but compelling video (caution, it takes a while to load) from a TV Station in Louisiana (WWL.com) which shows the remarkable recovery of Maj. Ben Richards mental and motor skills after having received treatment from Paul Harch:

While HBOT may not be “right” solutions for all Veterans suffering from brain injury, it does seem a far more compelling treatment alternative to the ineffective programs currently offered by the VA. More to the point, HBOT is non-invasive which suggests that we won’t have a new generation of addicts to contend with given failed VA programs.

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Veterans with Service Dogs: Apparently Not for Everyone

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While SFTT has long promoted the benefits of service dogs for Veterans with PTSD and TBI, there are some – perhaps many – who resent the intrusion of a dog or service animal in their space.

service dogs for Veterans

For instance, Anoka County, Minnesota reportedly had to pass an ordinance to protect the rights of people against the presence of unauthorized animals, particularly those that misrepresent pets as service animals:

“Anoka County now restricts animal lovers from toting ordinary pets into county facilities. From statehouses to corner stores, government officials and business owners across the country are trying to crack down on the number of people who misrepresent pets as service animals and weighing penalties for those flouting rules that restrict which animals may go where.”

While similar legislation exists in most every state for “health reasons,” the definition of the term “service dog” means something different depending on what you are talking about.  For instance, in an article published on Jan 6, 2018 in the Star Tribune of Minnesota the following “discussion” ensues:

“Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, service animals can go wherever their owners go, from the library to public transit to the corner cafe. Not so with an emotional support animal, except when it comes to flying, which is guided by a different law.

And when people say “companion animal?”

“In a legal sense, a companion animal means pet,” Wisch said.

A service animal is a “defined right” for an individual with a disability, while an emotional support animal is a type of accommodation, said Kevin Lindsey, Minnesota commissioner of human rights.”

Presumably, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) agrees with the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights since the VA provides service dogs for Veterans with physical disabilities, but has yet to determine whether to broaden this policy to support Veterans who require “emotional support” during times of crises.

While one can certainly appreciate the fact that a service dog may represent a unhygienic threat to someone in a public place, it seems ludicrous to create hard rules to protect against the abhorrent behavior of a small minority.  Will it be necessary to card “service dogs” or their owners at public establishments to insure that the dogs papers are in order?

With suicide rates among Veterans still high and an opioid epidemic that is ravishing America, it is hard to believe that the public can be distracted by this silly assault on individual rights.

While individual freedoms must certainly be respected against the “demands” of the public good, logic and statistical anomalies often distort the truth.

For instance, the Washington Post alarmingly reports that 963 people were “shot by police” in 2016.  Is this a national calamity or a reasonable defense that our police exercised reasonable prudence before taking another person’s life?  Make up your own mind by consulting the GitHub database.

According to the CDC database, people dying from gun violence last year exceeded 33,000.  One would hope that the public is focused on the causes for the other 97% with the same degree of attention that they monitor police gun violence.

We live in an imperfect world, but the men and women who have served our country so valiantly deserve access to service animals for both physical and mental disabilities.  Hopefully, the small minority who are inconvenienced by this evident need will have the common sense to dine elsewhere and, perhaps, tip their hat and say “thank you.”

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Sham Veteran Charities: What You Should Know

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There are few things more shameful than dishonest hucksters taking money from unsuspecting donors for what appears to be a worthwhile cause.  Our small staff at SFTT goes “ballistic”  when we learn that telemarketers and “spin-masters” use deceptive and misleading advertising to raise money for Veterans.

telemarketing scams

Just this week, Sarah Kleiner of Politico wrote an article for Politico entitled “Veterans Charity Raises Millions to Help Those Who’ve Served. But Telemarketers Are Pocketing Most of It.”

In this most disturbing article, Ms. Kleiner reports that telemarketers raising funds for the Center for American Homeless Veterans kept the vast majority of funds:

  • Outreach Calling, the telemarketer representing the Center for American Homeless Veterans, kept $3.7 million, or 90 percent, of the $4.1 million it raised for the nonprofit in the 2014 and 2015 tax years, according to the charity’s annual IRS tax filings. Records filed by Outreach Calling in Utah claim the telemarketer has kept $7.9 million out of $8.7 million it raised for the charity from 2011 to 2015.
  • Since 2015, Outreach Calling has raked in $2 million from the Put Vets First! PAC, the political action committee Hampton runs out of the same Falls Church office as his nonprofits. That’s 89 percent of the $2.3 million in donations the PAC has received in the same time period, according to Federal Election Commission filings. 
  • Charitable Resource Foundation, the telemarketer working for Circle of Friends for American Veterans, kept $6.4 million, or 85 percent, of the $7.5 million it raised from donors between the 2011 and 2015 tax years, according to IRS filings.

This is just another disturbing example of how unscrupulous operators pocket a good percentage of the funds raised for Veteran causes.   The mother of Veteran con jobs was perpetuated by the Wounded Warriors Project, but they are back in business some 18 months later raising money by pulling “heart-strings” with their traditional splashy infomercials featuring celebrities on behalf of WWP.

While some might argue that any residual amount that gets through to Veterans is a good thing, it would be nice to know that a large part of YOUR CONTRIBUTION will find its way to a needy Veteran and his or her family.

Make Sure Your Contribution Goes to a Worthy Veteran Cause

  1. Money is fungible and there is little one can do to monitor your funds once it is surrendered to a third party.  As a rule of thumb, THINK LOCAL and do what you can to support Veterans in your community before contributing to National fundraising efforts for Veterans.
  2. HANG UP ON ANY TELEMARKETER.   Their goals and yours probably don’t coincide.
  3. Don’t be swayed by flashy infomercials such as those regularly sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project.   They are rarely genuine.
  4. While Veteran charitable organizations need an active membership to fund ongoing administrative expenses, seek to contribute (or co-invest) in specific projects sponsored by the Veteran charity.  Focus on charities which channel your funds to specific Veteran programs:  education, homelessness, job search, substance abuse, vocational training, etc. are a far better use of funds than a “media-hyped” day at the ballpark.
  5. Sure, due-diligence is important, but many fine people lack the financial resources to run through the regulatory hoops to become an accredited charity.  In fact, the sheer size of the charity may be an inhibiting factor in getting your funds to the right Veteran cause.  THINK SMALL and LOCAL to channel your funds in the “right” direction.
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Military Helmet Sensors: Big Contracts but No Findings?

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Many years ago (perhaps 10), the US Army started began installing sensors in helmets to track the impact of IED events on brain trauma among combat troops.

HEADS

SFTT reported in 2010 that BAE Systems unveiled its latest concussion sensor for soldier helmets, named Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic System (“HEADS”).  Apparently, BAE and the military have been tracking military “concussive” events for some time since the press release refers to an earlier version already installed in military helmets.

As reported in a 2010 post entitled “New Helmet Sensor to detect Traumatic Brain Injuries”:

“The HEADS smart sensor is also designed to provide medical professionals with important data that may help determine the severity of a possible traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). The second generation HEADS sensor reportedly provides medical teams with a valuable diagnostic tool that utilizes radio frequency technology.   Spokesperson Colman claims that “With our new ‘smarter’ sensor, if a soldier is exposed to a blast, possibly sustaining a concussion, not only will the HEADS visual LED display be triggered at the time of the event, but once the soldier enters a specified area, such as forward operating base or dining facility, a series of strategically placed antennae will scan all available HEADS units and send data to a computer, identifying any soldiers who may have sustained a blast-related brain injury.”

Two years later, SFTT followed up with another post asking the next logical question:  “Military Helmet Sensor Data: What does it show?”

Today, some five years later, SFTT is asking the same question:  Where is the data and what does it tell us about concussive events suffered by men and women on the battlefield?

As SFTT speculated earlier:

“As recent history shows, the US Army and DOD are unwilling to share relevant data with the public that might suggest that the equipment provided to our brave warriors is deficient.   In fact, Roger Charles, the Editor of SFTT, was obliged to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to obtain forensic records of troops killed with upper torso wounds to evaluate the effectiveness of military-issue body armor.   A  federal judge in Washington, D.C. recently ordered the Army’s medical examiner to release information about the effectiveness of body armor used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or to justify the decision to withhold it.  For Roger Charles and those in SFTT who have followed this issue for several years, it is unlikely that the US Army will open their kimono and confirm what most already know:  the body armor issued to our troops was not properly tested and is most likely flawed.”

In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, one can only conclude that the military has discovered serious structural flaws in the designs of the “standard-issue” combat helmet, but doesn’t want to alarm combat troops (or their families).  Presumably, the “mad scientists” at the Soldier’s System Center at Ft. Belvoir are fast at work trying to build a safer helmet, but one must question how this invaluable data is being shared with those who study brain injuries.

It is alarming to think that even the secretive and misleading NFL leadership has been far more forthcoming about brain injuries than our military leadership.   It is both sad and frustrating that the DoD and VA have not been more proactive in sharing this information with scientists and the medical community so that we can take responsible action to help brave young men and women protect themselves from harm and assist those with brain trauma recover their lives.

Frankly, hiding under traditional military fallback position of “we don’t want the enemy to know the vulnerabilities of our equipment” rings a bit hollow when 22 Veterans are committing suicide each day.

 

 

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HBOT for Veterans: Infrastructure Largely in Place

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As SFTT reported earlier, the VA will soon be providing a limited number of Veterans with access to hyperbaric oxygen therapy or “HBOT” at the VA’s Center for Compassionate Innovation (“CCI”) facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.

SFTT has yet to learn when these programs will begin or how many Veterans will be enrolled in these initial programs.  As important, SFTT and the HBOT community at-large is interested in learning how “test protocols,” “metrics,” and “clinical trials” will be set by the VA and DoD to determine the benefits of HBOT.

As one sorts through the often nasty exchanges between proponents of HBOT and the VA gatekeepers like Dr. David Cifu, one cannot be oblivious to the fact that the VA does not want to encourage the adoption of HBOT in treating Veterans with PTSD and TBI.

The VA’s claim is that “patient outcomes’ using HBOT are inconclusive based on VA and DoD trials.

Could it be – as many have suggested – that the test protocols were flawed to produce “inconclusive” test results?   From SFTT’s experience in monitoring the DoD, it would NOT BE THE FIRST TIME that test procedures have been deliberately modified to produce outcomes more to the liking of current military dogma.

Since the VA has no experience in using HBOTin treating Veterans with PTSD, it seems to make sense to use established experts in the industry like Dr. Paul Harch, members of the International Hyperbarics Association or The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel which provides HBOT treatment to 120 patients a day and to the Israeli Defense Force (“IDF”) to agree on standardized test protocols and monitor results.

Many will argue that further HBOT tests are not required given the wealth research currently available.  In fact, found below is an extract from a Jan, 2017 report:

Xavier A. Figueroa, PhD and James K. Wright, MD (Col Ret), USAF Hyperbaric Oxygen: B-Level Evidence in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials. Neurology® 2016;87:1–7 “There is sufficient evidence for the safety and preliminary efficacy data from clinical studies to support the use of HBOT in mild traumatic brain injury/ persistent post concussive syndrome (mTBI/PPCS). The reported positive outcomes and the durability of those outcomes has been demonstrated at 6 months post HBOT treatment. Given the current policy by Tricare and the VA to allow physicians to prescribe drugs or therapies in an off-label manner for mTBI/PPCS management and reimburse for the treatment, it is past time that HBOT be given the same opportunity. This is now an issue of policy modification and reimbursement, not an issue of scientific proof or preliminary clinical efficacy.”

While Secretary Shulkin is wise to proceed slowly, he must exercise extreme caution in allowing the naysayers within the VA any authority over the initial CCI HBOT trial programs.

HBOT Infrastructure in Place to Help Veterans

Assuming the VA leadership can get beyond the hurdles they largely created, Veterans with “mild TBI” and “persistent” PTSD should be able to quickly access hundreds of HBOT facilities across the United States.  With equipment already in place around the country in hospitals and private health clinics, there is no need to hold up treatment for Veterans to wait for the VA to outfit its facilities.

Follow this link to see a directory of currently active HBOT treatment centers around the country.

Clear treatment protocols and directives need to be established for each private clinic providing HBOT to Veterans.  HBOT is administered in a series of dives or sessions (usually between 28 and 40) over a 6 week to 2 month time frame.  Supervision by a trained clinician is required at each dive.  Clearly, a larger “dive chamber” capable of offering therapy to a number of Veterans at the same will help bring down the costs of HBOT.

Costs “per dive” or “session” vary significantly around the country.    Some hospitals charge $1,800 per session, but most private clinics offer this service at a cost of between $250 and $350 per dive.  Given the bargaining power of the VA, it seems most likely that a series of battery of dives can be accomplished for well under $10,000, which is less than half of what the VA currently spends on Veterans with TBI/PTSD.

As SFTT has stated on many occasions, HBOT is not the “silver bullet” to eradicate this silent wound of war, but many more Veterans with brain trauma will begin to be able to reclaim their lives with less reliance on VA prescription drugs that simply mask symptoms rather than provide any lasting improvement in brain functionality.

This could be a BIG DEAL for ailing Veterans and family members who provide our Veterans such caring support.

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How Will the VA Offer HBOT to Veterans?

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In a somewhat surprising but not totally unexpected development, the “VA’s Center for Compassionate Innovation (CCI) will offer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT’) to a small number of selected veterans with chronic PTSD in a pilot program to be run through facilities in Oklahoma and Texas.”

HBOT Chamber

SFTT joins Bethesda Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“Bethesda HBOT’) in applauding this initiative by the VA.  Bethesda HBOT notes that “worldwide research and years of clinical experience has clearly demonstrated that HBOT is not only extremely safe in treating PTSD and head injury, especially when compared with psychoactive and mood altering drugs, but also has been effective in treating thousands of veterans and active duty service members with underlying brain injury.

According to a Press Release by the VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs:

“As healthcare leaders interested in innovative approaches to care, the VA Center for Compassionate Innovation (CCI) is facilitating use of HBOT for a subset of Veterans who have noticed no decrease of symptoms after receiving at least two evidenced-based treatments. CCI uses innovative approaches to treat conditions where traditional methods have been unsuccessful. VA will monitor the HBOT clinical demonstration project and the HBOT research study to help inform the potential for HBOT usage to treat a larger number of Veterans with PTSD.”  

As SFTT reported earlier, it seems that Secretary David Shulkin agreed to accelerate the use of HBOT for Veterans with PTSD over widespread opposition within the VA.

In fact, the Stars and Stripes article cites some 32 “inconclusive” studies on the effectiveness of HBOT in treating TBI and PTSD.   Furthermore, it quotes Col. Scott Miller, the lead study author for a 2015 VA study, arguing that there was a “lack of evidence” HBOT helped and that “he didn’t see any value in moving forward with more studies.”  SFTT finds it surprising that Col. Miller was lead on this project when he is reportedly an “infectious disease specialist.”

Several HBOT specialists have suggested that the DoD botched test protocols that let to its “inconclusive” findings.

How does this VA Change in Policy on HBOT Affect Veterans?

It is evident in the Stars and Stripes article that entrenched administrators within the VA are opposed to the use of HBOT in treating Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  As SFTT has reported many times, the “High Priests” and Gatekeepers at the VA have mounted a vigorous campaign to discredit the use of HBOT in treating Veterans with brain trauma.

In fact, some 3 years ago, Dr. Xavier Figueroa wrote an article titled “What the <#$*&!> Is Wrong with the DoD/VA HBOT Studies?!!” which clearly articulates the case for HBOT and discredits many of the underlying “evidence-based” positions often cited by the VA and DoD.

Frankly, scientific or clinical evidence is not lacking to support the use of HBOT in treating Veterans with brain trauma.  What is lacking is a willingness of the VA to support alternative therapies.

One must hope that the VA will move expeditiously to provide HBOT to “selected Veterans” at CCI facilities in Oklahoma and Texas, but the widespread adoption of HBOT by the VA is still some years away.

Questions for the VA?

  • When will initial “testing” begin?
  • How many Veterans with “chronic PTSD” be including in the program”
  • Who will administer the HBOT test protocols for these Veterans?
  • If “legitimate” test results prove encouraging, how will Veterans gain access to HBOT therapy?
  • Since HBOT Oxygen Chambers (and qualified personnel) are lacking at VA facilities, will Veterans receive this therapy from the private sector?
  • Estimated time frame from evaluating test results to widespread deployment of the HBOT alternative.

While SFTT is delighted that the VA is pressing forward with HBOT, it does seem that it is more of a reaction to public and political pressure rather than any internal VA initiative.  Based on years in observing the VA bureaucracy, it is likely that its administrators will do everything possible to discredit this noninvasive and widely accepted therapy to treat PTSD.

Such a shame, but SFTT will be vigilant.

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