400% price increase for EpiPen demonstrate pharmaceutical market's failure

The pharmaceutical market is not "free" -- drug makers use patents, a state creation, to keep out competition. Here's a lovely example of why capitalism should never intersect with health care.

EpiPen's 400 Percent Price Hike Has Parents Scrambling (NBC News)

Doctors and patients say the Mylan pharmaceutical company has jacked up the prices for an EpiPen — the portable device that can stop a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction — from around $100 in 2008 to $500 and up today.


Following a recall by Mylan's chief competitor last year, the company now enjoys a near monopoly.


For the past 10 years, she has watched the price she paid for her refills rise higher and higher with no discernible improvement to the device or medicine.

In 2008, Bush said the price was $145.99. In 2010, it was $220.99, then jumped to $649.99. This year her pre-insurance costs were $1,118.08.


In a statement, Mylan said that the prices have "changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides," and that "we've made a significant investment to support the device over the past years."


"When epinephrine only costs a few cents, but they're going up to $500, personally I don't think that's ethically responsible," said Dr. McMahon.

And he understands better than most what costs are involved: For the past few years he's been developing his own, smaller version of the EpiPen, and trying to get it approved by the FDA and bring it to market. He estimates that process costs about $1.5 million. In 2015, Mylan's profits from the sale of EpiPens rose to $1.2 billion.

McMahon says his device will retail for about $50.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the former presidential contender and a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, told NBC News in a statement:

"The drug industry's greed knows no bounds. There's no reason an EpiPen, which costs Mylan just a few dollars to make, should cost families more than $600. The only explanation for Mylan raising the price by six times since 2009 is that the company values profits more than the lives of millions of Americans."

Pharmaceutical companies hide harmful effects of antidepressants

Our mental health care remains in the Dark Ages, and Big Pharma continues to corrupt the practice of science.

The Hidden Harms of Antidepressants (Scientific American)

In the latest and most comprehensive analysis, published in January in the BMJ, researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen showed that pharmaceutical companies have not been revealing the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports, which are detailed documents sent to regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when applying for approval of a new drug. The researchers examined reports from 70 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of two common categories of antidepressants—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—and found that the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in children and adolescents who used these drugs.

The investigators discovered that some of the most revealing information was buried in appendices where individual patient outcomes are listed. For example, they found clear instances of suicidal thinking that had been passed off as “emotional lability” or “worsening depression” in the report itself. This information, however, was available for only 32 out of the 70 trials. “We found that a lot of the appendices were often only available on request to the authorities, and the authorities had never requested them,” says Tarang Sharma, a Ph.D. student at Cochrane and lead author of the study. “I'm actually kind of scared about how bad the actual situation would be if we had the complete data.”

This study “confirms that the full degree of harm of antidepressants is not reported,” says Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist and researcher at University College London who was not involved in the study. “[These harms] are not reported in the published literature—we know that—and it appears that they are not properly reported in clinical study reports that go to the regulators and form the basis of decisions about licensing.”

The researchers struggled for many years to get access to the clinical trial reports, which are often withheld under the guise of commercial confidentiality. “All this secrecy actually costs human lives,” says Peter Gøtzsche, a clinician researcher at Cochrane and a co-author of the recent study....

The fact that antidepressants may cause suicidal ideation has been shown before, and in 2004 the FDA gave these drugs a black box warning—a label reserved for the most serious hazards. The EMA has issued similar alerts. There are no labels about risks for aggression, however....

Taken together with other research—including studies that suggest antidepressants are only marginally better than placebos—some experts say it is time to reevaluate the widespread use of these drugs. “My view is that we really don't have good enough evidence that antidepressants are effective, and we have increasing evidence that they can be harmful,” Moncrieff says. “So we need to stop this increasing trend of prescribing them.”

Sleeping in a strange place keeps one brain hemisphere partly awake

Your deep brain doesn't know that your hotel isn't full of hungry hyenas waiting to pounce.

Half Your Brain Stands Guard When Sleeping In A New Place (NPR.org)

When you sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, only half your brain is getting a good night's rest.

"The left side seems to be more awake than the right side," says Yuka Sasaki, an associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University.

The finding, reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology, helps explain why people tend to feel tired after sleeping in a new place. And it suggests people have something in common with birds and sea mammals, which frequently put half their brain to sleep while the other half remains on guard.

Ancient Roman hygiene practices didn't help much

Return human waste to the soil is a key sustainability practice. But it has to be done properly if it's not to spread pathogens. If you're doing composting toilets, use care.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Us Your Toilets (Without Parasites) (NPR.org)

On the surface of their bodies, the Romans appear to have hosted fleas, bedbugs and three varieties of lice. Excavation of a site in York, England, showed that despite all the time they spent in public baths, "the Romans had just as many body lice and fleas as the Vikings, who are regarded as fairly smelly, unclean people," Mitchell says.

Avocados: nutritious but high in calories

Avocados sure taste good, and they've got a lot of important nutrients. (One fellow I know who used to be a serious alcoholic told me that how he survived his worst times with this health largely intact was to eat an avocado a day, which is an interesting story but not a hypothesis I recommend testing.)

Ask Well: Are Avocados Good for You? (Well)

Several clinical trials have reported that diets that incorporate avocado may help lower levels of L.D.L., or “bad,” cholesterol, because the fruit contains plant sterols called phytosterols that compete with cholesterol for absorption in the intestines. One small clinical trial found that women with Type 2 diabetes who followed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, including those from avocados, had lower triglyceride levels. Another small trial suggested avocados may improve vascular health and have anti-inflammatory effects. Some papers have reported that an extract made of avocado and soybean oils may alleviate pain from osteoarthritis, but a 2003 systematic review concluded that the data were mixed.


But one drawback to avocados is their high calorie count, about 250 calories per fruit, Dr. Kris-Etherton said. “So people have to be careful – they can’t just add an avocado a day to a bad diet and see health benefits.”

The corruption of nutritional science by corporate sponsorships

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conflicts of Interest | NutritionFacts.org (nutritionfacts.org)

The American Dietetic Association (ADA)...promote[s] a series of Nutrition Fact Sheets. Who writes them? Industry sources pay $20,000 per fact sheet to the ADA and explicitly take part in writing the documents; the ADA then promotes them through its scientific journal and on its website. Some of these fact sheets are “What’s a Mom to Do: Healthy Eating Tips for Families” sponsored and co-written by Wendy’s; “Lamb: The Essence of Nutrient Rich Flavor,” sponsored by the Tri-Lamb Group; “Cocoa and Chocolate: Sweet News” sponsored by the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition; “Eggs: A Good Choice” sponsored by the American Egg Board’s Egg Nutrition Center...


When the American Academy of Family Physicians was called out on their proud new corporate relationship with Coke to support patient education on healthy eating, an executive vice-president of the Academy tried to quell protest by explaining that this alliance was not without precedent. The American Academy of Family Physicians has had relationships with Pepsi and McDonald’s for some time....


In 2012, the American Dietetic Association changed their name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Did their policies change at all? After all, they now have nutrition in their name. A landmark report last year from one of my favorite industry watchdogs, found that they continue to take millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship money every year from meat, processed junk, dairy, soda, and candy bar companies, and in return offer official educational seminars to teach dietitians what to say to their clients. So when you hear the title “registered dietitian", this is the group they are registered with.

Diabetes drug Metformin to get tests for life extension

I'd take the idea of an anti-aging pill with some skepticism, and the breathless speculative tone of this article with even more...but, could be big news.

Diabetes Drug Metformin Could Increase Human Lifespan To 120 Years (The Inquisitr News)

Researchers plan to conduct the first clinical trials of the project, dubbed Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME), next year to see whether results obtained in animals can also be replicated in humans. Researchers are hopeful of a major breakthrough in the decades-long search for an anti-aging drug.

The study, to be conducted in the U.S., will involve 3,000 adults aged 70- to 80-years-old, with known risk of cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases that cause cognitive impairment, and people who already have one or a combination of the conditions.

The individuals will be placed on the drug and monitored to see if it exerts significant preventive effect on the disease conditions, or whether it affects the progress of the conditions and overall lifespan of participants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval for trials to proceed.


Although researchers believe there are other drugs that could be more effective than metformin for delaying aging, they are focusing on metformin because it has been shown to be a safe drug for humans after six decades of use for controlling type 2 diabetes.

Run For Your Life

While mild exercise like walking is better than none, it takes more vigorous exercise to have strong anti-aging benefits.

Run to Stay Young - NYTimes.com (well.blogs.nytimes.com)

In fact, when the researchers compared their older runners’ walking efficiency to that of young people, which had been measured in earlier experiments at the same lab, they found that 70-year-old runners had about the same walking efficiency as your typical sedentary college student. Old runners, it appeared, could walk with the pep of young people.

Older walkers, on the other hand, had about the same walking economy as people of the same age who were sedentary. In effect, walking did not prevent people from losing their ability to walk with ease.


The researchers speculate that this difference resides deep within their volunteers’ muscle cells. Intense or prolonged aerobic exercise, such as running, is known to increase the number of mitochondria within muscle cells, said Justus Ortega, now an associate professor of kinesiology at Humboldt University, who led the study. Mitochondria help to provide energy for these cells. So more mitochondria allow people to move for longer periods of time with less effort, he said.

Runners also may have better coordination between their muscles than walkers do, Dr. Ortega said, meaning that fewer muscles need to contract during movement, resulting in less energy being used.


The good news for people who don’t currently run is that you may be able to start at any age and still benefit, Dr. Ortega said. “Quite a few of our volunteers hadn’t take up running until they were in their 60s,” he said.

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