The business of medicine…the great doxycycline shortage…

It was with a  tremendous wave of dèjá vu that I watched NY Senator Chuck Schumer calling for the FDA to investigate a supposed shortage and massive price spikes seen for the common antibiotic doxycycline.

History of a doxycycline shortage…

Wasn’t this problem solved last year?  This issue hits close to home because I have a dog that requires intermittent courses of doxycycline for severe Lyme disease.  Last year the price spiked to ridiculous levels  over the summer and the pharmacist looked at me with sympathy when she gave me the bill for my dog.   Suddenly, what used to be about $40 tab skyrocketed to well north of $350.  She told me there was a temporary “shortage” of the drug and that had caused the price spikes.  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?

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The business of medicine…

In my previous blog I discussed the business of science  and why science itself is not,  and should never be, considered a business.  Today, as we see the widening Ebola epidemic spreading throughout West Africa I find myself thinking the same thing about medicine.

Medicine is not a business…

As in science,  there are businesses surrounding medicine.  Big pharma and biotech being far from the least among them.  As  I pointed out before, the science of pharma and biotech must not mix with the business unless you want to be buying hi-tech snake oil when you go to the pharmacy.

But there is another component here, often overlooked and currently underfunded even in developed nations:  the role of a strong public health program and the public funding for basic research.

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The business of science…

This blog is going to begin with a premise that I know will raise some eyebrows.  It is quite simply this:

Science is not a business…

To a scientist, this is obvious, but to business people I would expect howls of protest.  On the surface the  statement is counter-intuitive.   After all, entire industries are based on what science has discovered.  We have massive numbers of industrial laboratories that would indicate otherwise.  According to the WHO, the pharmaceutical industry is a $300 billion/year industry and growing rapidly.  So what do I mean by such a provocative  statement?

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The Internet – the Interstate & Lemonade Stands…

Lemonade Stand in Westchester NYI’ve taken a brief break from Thomas Piketty and have picked up a book I started reading last year but never finished.  Jaron Lanier’s book “Who Owns the Future?”  is a very compelling read while it paints frightening indictment of “big data” and “siren servers”.   Indeed, the New York Times review of this book boasts the title  “Fighting Words Against Big Data”.

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Bill Gross and Defining “Normalcy”….

In my previous blog on income inequality   I quoted  Bill Gross, the founder and chief investment officer of PIMCO who in a USA Today article   eschewed present-day excesses in the market place and called for a return to “normalcy”.  Not surprisingly, conservatives who dominated the comment thread implied that Gross presumed a great deal  when he attempted to define “normalcy”.

Just because slavery or indentured servitude are historically “normal” – doesn’t make it right…

Few would probably disagree with the heading above.  However, many commenters questioned Gross’s  definition of normalcy.  ”Who’s to say what is normal anyway?”  asked one commenter.  To his credit, Gross defined what was NOT “normal” with our current system and his criteria seemed spot-on to me:

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Of Pitchforks, Revolutions, Capitalism and our Better Angels…

Its a rare thing when within one week I run across two articles written by two very different members of the  financial elite (the  0.1-0.015%) ringing alarm bells about  the rising tide of income inequality. But it happened this week.  Both addressed their fellow plutocrats directly and had the audacity to speak out strongly against the rising tide income inequality.

Nick Hanauer and the Tedtalk that wasn’t…

NIck Hanauer, a very successful entrepreneur, CEO and philanthropist is decidedly a part of the  exclusive financial elite. He is also no stranger to controversy.  In 2012 Mr Hanauer gave a TEDtalk that TED declined to post.   Why?  Well as it turns out that instead of invoking his own personal success story, Mr. Hanauer had the chutzpah to focus his talk on the emerging oligarchy , income inequality and its impact on business, society and the economy. OOPSIE!   TEDtalks are all about rugged individualism and empowerment – that’s a no-no!

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Lessons From Game of Thrones: Invention & Innovation Requires Public Commitment

In the very first episode of a Game of Thrones,  10-year-old  Branden Stark had an unfortunate “accident”. He was pushed from a high window and nearly died. Although he survived, he was paralyzed from the waist down.  A few episodes later,  the decidedly book-smart and wealthy  Lord Tyrion Lannister offered Bran a gift.  He designed  a special saddle so Bran could ride horseback once again.

Invention often happens that way.  Someone with the technological know-how and the money, sees a need and acts to fill that need.  This is but one of the more minor routes to discovery and invention.  It is simple, direct, but far from the most likely.  For the most part, big gains and earth changing discoveries are generally not sprints; they are marathons.

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Lessons From Game of Thrones – Players – Pawns & Market Chaos…

This is part 2 of 2 parts

In my previous post on “players vs. pawns”  I brought up a disturbing trend that I saw on a  YouTube comment thread.  The video was about the famous Little Finger monologue from season 3 of the series.  A disturbing number of people found this monologue “inspiring” and a metaphor for the acquisition of security and success in the United States today.  To say that this is deeply disturbing indicator of the state of our union is an understatement:   Once again – here is the monologue…

Chaos is a ladder.  Many who try to climb it fail, never get to try again.  The fall breaks them.  And some, given a chance to climb, they refuse.  They cling to the realm, or the Gods, or love.  Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.  - Littlefinger GOT – Season 3.

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Lessons From Game of Thrones – Players & Pawns – which are you?

This is part 1 of 2 parts…

I was going to move off my Game of Thrones metaphor for a couple of posts, but my last blog on “Players, Pawns and Little Finger” brought something interesting to my attention.  I have to admit that it was something I found deeply disturbing…In that post I embedded a YouTube clip on Little Finger’s monologue “The Climb”.  In the monologue he describes chaos as a ladder that he intends to climb in order to achieve ultimate power.

Apparently, many people have found this monologue “inspiring”.  A few indicated that they listen to it every day as it gets them going in the morning, implying that it helps them realize that they are in charge of their own destiny. 

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Lessons from Game of Thrones – Players, Pawns & Littlefinger…

There was a time in America when the political powers that be actually feared the wrath of the people. Our elected officials were regarded as public servants and woe be to them if they did not enact policies that served the interests of their constituents.

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