Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, highlighting some of the best investigative reporting on healthcare each week.
Tufts Doctor Charged with Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child
Tufts Medical Center recently placed 45-year-old anesthesiologist Sadeq Quraishi, MD, on leave after he was arrested in a federal sting operation and accused of attempted sex trafficking of a child, 7NEWS Boston reported.
On Monday, the DOJ announced that Quraishi was one of four men from the greater Boston area that had been arrested and charged with attempting to pay for sex with 12- and 14-year-old girls. The agency said that, if convicted, the defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 or 15 years in prison.
Quraishi and the other defendants each responded to an advertisement on a website used to advertise commercial sex acts, and communicated via text message with an individual who purported to be selling young girls for sex, the DOJ said.
“Each defendant allegedly agreed to purchase sex with one or both of the advertised children and then traveled to a local hotel to have sex with the fictitious victims,” the DOJ said in its announcement of the charges. “It is alleged that, upon arrival at the hotel, each defendant physically met up with the individual purporting to sell the 12- and 14-year-old girls for sex and again allegedly committed to paying to sexually abuse one or both of the children.”
Shortly after Quraishi’s arrest, a spokesperson for Tufts Medical Center provided WHDH-TV with the following statement: “When we learned today of the disturbing allegations made against Dr. Quraishi, we immediately suspended his medical staff privileges, and he has been placed on leave while we await further information from law enforcement.”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement that the arrests “show that the sex trafficking of children is happening every day.”
“There is a huge demand for this abusive, repugnant and criminal behavior,” Rollins added. “We need to dispel the myths about who actually commits this horrific crime. The perpetrators can be white collar professionals who live in nice suburban neighborhoods. Many are married. All put their own sexual gratification over the trauma and harm inflicted on vulnerable, innocent child victims.”
Pfizer Has Big Plans for its COVID Cash
After bringing in close to $100 billion from selling COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, Pfizer has plans to become even richer, Kaiser Health News reported.
Specifically, Pfizer will be “sinking the cash into developing and marketing potential blockbusters for conditions like migraines, ulcerative colitis, prostate cancer, sickle cell disease, and obesity,” KHN wrote.
“Pfizer is a remarkable marketing machine,” Timothy Calkins, MBA, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, told KHN. “They have an incredible ability to make the most of molecules and get them adopted.”
Even with a 66% drop in COVID vaccine sales in the past quarter, Pfizer still made some $4.4 billion, KHN reported. And the company continues to view COVID as a “multibillion-dollar franchise” in the long-term, chief financial officer David Denton, MBA, reportedly said during a recent earnings call.
“Pfizer has a deep stream of cash to finance its future,” KHN wrote. “COVID has been very good for business.”
Mohit Bansal, MBA, a Wells Fargo analyst, told KHN that, “from the investor’s point of view, the focus is not on COVID as much at this point. … The focus is, what do they do with this money and expertise?”
Ransomware Attacks Impact Patients
Kelley Parsi, who recently took her 3-year-old son to a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa for pain and dehydration that he experienced after tonsil surgery, told NBC News that a ransomware attack on the facility caused the trip to become one of the scariest days she’s ever experienced.
Parsi told NBC News that a computer system that automatically calculated medicine wasn’t working, and a resident doctor informed her he had mistakenly given her son “five times what was prescribed.”
Parsi’s son recovered, she told NBC News. But she further told the outlet that she later learned the outage of digital tools at the hospital during her son’s stay was the result of a cyberattack.
Parsi isn’t alone. Ransomware “has become one of the toughest problems in cybersecurity and a threat to industries around the world,” the article stated. “But it can be especially damaging when it hits hospital chains, causing trickle-down damage for patient care across the country.”
NBC News noted that Parsi’s hospital, MercyOne, was hit by ransomware attackers early last month. The incident was part of a larger breach that caused outages at multiple health systems, the outlet added, citing reporting from the Des Moines Register.
MercyOne declined a request for comment from NBC News about Parsi’s situation, citing patient confidentiality. However, a spokesperson told the outlet in a statement that it is “committed to providing safe quality care for all patients we serve in their time of need.”
Elsewhere, NBC News reported that other instances of patients being affected by ransomware attacks on hospitals have included a patient whose surgery to remove an ovarian cyst was delayed as well as one alleged instance of a newborn’s death.