Pharma pimps say: Everyone/No one is raising insulin prices

❝ A casual observer of April’s House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing might think insulin prices just go up by themselves.

After all, the key industry executives filed opening statements to the congressional panel outlining patient-assistance programs, coupons and discounts — a range of price reductions that might make one think this life-or-death diabetes medication is easily affordable to the patients who need it….

❝ In fact, the price of insulin nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016 alone, triggering national headlines about the resulting hardships — sometimes deadly — suffered by people with the Type I-version of the condition who are left to ration insulin because it is too expensive for them to use as prescribed.

❝ The three drug manufacturers that make insulin — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — joined three pharmacy benefit managers — CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx — to testify before the Oversight and Investigations panel at its second hearing probing the corporate maneuvers behind the skyrocketing costs.

They disagreed a lot. All that counted was whose lies were the most believable. For years, no one has owned more members of Congress than Big Pharma. Giving a minimum of $15,000 a year to anyone elected to Congress. House or Senate. Big enough player? You get more. A lot more.

“In 2009, PhRMA spent about $25 million lobbying the government, Bloomberg said.

The trade association spent $6 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $10 million in the third, as it lobbied the Trump administration and federal government over a myriad of policies…”

“CNN said the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector spent $194 million lobbying the government in 2018. That amount does not include the lobbying efforts of PhRMA…”

Government, Parents, won’t regulate kids’ sugary drinks — Doctors will try taxes to cut consumption

❝ Pediatricians have long warned parents about the risks of consuming too many sugary drinks — including the link to Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Now, the nation’s leading group of kids’ doctors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, together with the American Heart Association, has endorsed a range of strategies designed to curb children’s consumption — including taxes on sugary drinks, limits on marketing sugary drinks to kids and financial incentives to encourage healthier beverage choices…

❝ While consumption of sugary drinks has declined in the U.S., kids and teens still consume about 150 calories a day, on average, from them. That’s about 12 ounces per day. But the heart association recommends that children consume no more than 8 ounces per week.

The pediatricians – in all sincerity – hope the White House and Congress will also aid in the reduction of kids’ sugar consumption. The fake president and his pimps in Congress will probably respond with free classes in using a machine gun. And give taxpayer dollar$ to the NRA to teach the courses.

Not exercising kills you sooner than smoking, diabetes or heart disease

We’ve all heard exercise helps you live longer. But a new study goes one step further, finding that a sedentary lifestyle is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and senior author of the study, called the results “extremely surprising.”

“Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker,” Jaber told CNN. “We’ve never seen something as pronounced as this and as objective as this.”

Jaber said researchers must now convey the risks to the general population that “being unfit should be considered as strong of a risk factor as hypertension, diabetes and smoking — if not stronger than all of them…It should be treated almost as a disease that has a prescription, which is called exercise…”

Jogging, walking at a good pace, cripes just walking steadily is better than sitting on your butt. Get your heart working faster than a leaky faucet.

Human-Pig chimera is a step towards replacement organs


Human cells (green) differentiated into endoderm progenitors (red)

Every day, 22 people in America die while waiting for an organ transplant. But when scientists can grow replacement livers or kidneys or pancreases inside of animal hosts, medicine’s organ shortage may end. That’s the hope anyway—and this week there’s more reason to hope than ever that it might become reality.

❝ The key to producing human organs in other animals is the chimera, a mixture of cells from more than one species growing together as a single animal. For decades, researchers have struggled to coax Petri dishes of stem cells into functional, three-dimensional tissues and organs, hampered by technical challenges and political stonewalling. Now, two milestone papers have taken two big steps toward solving the chimeric riddle. Will you be ordering up a homo-porcine gallbladder on Amazon this time next year? No. No, definitely not. But researchers have done two things they’ve never done before: 1. Combine two large, distantly-related species into one embryo. And 2. Use organs from one species grown in another to actually treat disease…

❝ With other advances, scientists are hoping to do away with artificial insulin altogether. About 30 million Americans have diabetes; more than 3 million of them rely on artificial insulin to stay alive. Chimeras could potentially help those patients make their own insulin—and Hiromitsu Nakauchi, a stem-cell biologist at the University of Tokyo and Stanford, showed you can do just that in a paper published yesterday in Nature. At least, you can in rats. His team used genetic tweaks to prevent rats from making their own pancreases. Then they injected mouse stem cells (complete with all the necessary pancreas-making genes) into the developing pancreas-less rat embryos. The rats grew normally. The only thing different was their pancreases were made almost entirely of mouse cells.

Then they went a step further. From those rat-mouse chimeras, Nakauchi’s team took out tiny clusters of pancreatic cells that make insulin (called islets) and transplanted them into diabetic mice. The islets settled in and made enough insulin to keep the host mice’s blood glucose levels in a normal range for more than a year. In layman’s terms? The mice were cured. It’s the first time a chimera-created organ has ever treated a medical condition.

❝ …Scientists will have to improve human stem cells’ colonization of their animal hosts. The Salk team’s next hurdle is trying to embed one human cell in 1,000, or even 100 pig cells. “That’s when we can start thinking about practical applications,” says Wu. But that’s also when ethical questions start to become more urgent.

More urgent, that is, for people who consider religious ideology more important than keeping someone alive. Folks more concerned with the creation of new species or sub-species and the uses thereof – instead of reducing numbers in the thousands and more of individuals who have to die – are socially, criminally out of touch with human needs.

Air pollution recognized as a risk factor for diabetes


Click to enlarge

“Whether the disease becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution,” said Professor Annette Peters, director of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the research area of epidemiology of the DZD.

For the current study, she and her colleagues…analyzed the data of nearly 3,000 participants of the KORA study who live in the city of Augsburg and two adjacent rural counties. All individuals were interviewed and physically examined. Furthermore, the researchers took fasting blood samples, in which they determined various markers for insulin resistance and inflammation. In addition, leptin was examined as adipokine which has been suggested to be associated with insulin resistance. Non-diabetic individuals underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to detect whether their glucose metabolism was impaired.

The researchers compared these data with the concentrations of air pollutants at the place of residence of the participants, which they estimated using predictive models based on repeated measurements at…up to 40 sites…in the city and in the rural counties.

“The results revealed that people who already have an impaired glucose metabolism, so-called pre-diabetic individuals, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution,” said Dr. Kathrin Wolf, lead author of the study. “In these individuals, the association between increases in their blood marker levels and increases in air pollutant concentrations is particularly significant! Thus, over the long term — especially for people with impaired glucose metabolism — air pollution is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”

The authors are also concerned that the concentrations of air pollutants, though below EU threshold values, are still above the proposed guidelines of the World Health Organization… As a consequence, they demand changes in government policy: “Lowering the threshold for acceptable air pollution levels would be a prudent step,” said Dr. Alexandra Schneider, who was also involved in the study. “We are all exposed to air pollution. An individual reduction by moving away from highly polluted areas is rarely an option.”

Many folks currently focussed on the political battle over climate change have been at it for a long time. The crap air we’re all faced with as “normal” has been anything but normal for decades. Because we’ve moved slightly back from acid rain and a Love Canal in every backyard doesn’t mean we’ve won anything more than individual battles. Though significant, the full extent of poisoning of the Earth’s air breathers, water-drinkers, continues to demand a critical political movement against the polluters and their acolytes.

In most wealthier nations the maternal death rate is dropping — just not in the United States

More women are dying in childbirth in the US than in any other developed country. And experts say the problem is likely to keep getting worse.

You can see how alarming the issue is in this chart. In other countries, maternal death rates have fallen sharply since 1990. In South Korea, the rate of women dying in childbirth fell from 20.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 12 today. In Germany, it dropped from 18 to 6.5.

But in the United States, the opposite is happening. The rate of women dying in childbirth is going up.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. During the 20th century, the maternal death rate in the United States dropped from 607.9 deaths per 100,000 births in 1915 to 7.2 in 1987. But over the past 30 years, the maternal mortality rate trend reversed and steadily marched upward.

Pregnancy-related deaths are still rare events in the US; only about 700 women die out of 4 million live births annually. But the US is one of the few rich countries in the world where maternal mortality is steadily rising. The maternal mortality rate has more than doubled since 1987, the first year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting data through its pregnancy mortality surveillance system.

And experts are just now understanding why this is happening — why the United States looks so different from other countries, and why so many more new mothers are dying. They think maternal deaths are rising because of the rising toll of chronic diseases.

Thirty years ago, women died in the delivery room because of hemorrhages and pregnancy-induced blood pressure spikes. Now they are much more likely to die because of preexisting chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes…

❝ “It’s a larger problem than just dealing with women during pregnancy, it’s the health of our society,” said Dr. William Callaghan.

Too bad for women. Too bad for everyone. Especially if you’re Black, btw.

RTFA, understand the sum of variables collectively affecting the life of a Black woman. They are two or three times more likely to die of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

Please, don’t forget we only had a window of a couple of years in the decades since a small number of politicians first proposed National Health Insurance in the United States – and actually got it passed. Don’t forget one of the two laggard political parties we have – will be campaigning right up to Election day this year to overturn that one significant victory for public health achieved in Obama’s first term.

South Dakota warehouses thousands with manageable disabilities in nursing homes


No, the fight ain’t new — it ain’t over either

When patients in South Dakota seek help for serious but manageable disabilities such as severe diabetes, blindness or mental illness, the answer is often the same: With few alternatives available, they end up in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, whether they need such care or not.

In a scathing rebuke of the state’s health care system, the Justice Department said on Monday that thousands of patients were being held unnecessarily in sterile, highly restrictive group homes. That is discrimination, it said, making South Dakota the latest target of a federal effort to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities and mental illnesses, outlined in a Supreme Court decision 17 years ago.

The Obama administration has opened more than 50 such investigations and reached settlements with eight states. One investigation, into Florida’s treatment of children with disabilities, ended in a lawsuit over policies that placed those children in nursing homes. With its report Monday, the Justice Department signaled that it might also sue South Dakota.

While the administration has received widespread attention for investigating police abuses and supporting the rights of gay and transgender people, the Justice Department has also steadily made these cases part of its civil rights agenda. The government says that those efforts have allowed more than 53,000 Americans with disabilities to leave institutions or avoid them altogether. It is a small number compared with the 250,000 working-age people who are estimated to be needlessly living in nursing homes, but advocates say the federal campaign has had significant effects.

With help, the Justice Department said, such people could live at home, hold jobs and lead productive lives. Instead, they are confined and segregated from society. Many cannot leave the grounds of their institutions without supervision or perform tasks such as shopping for groceries or cooking meals. One resident told investigators that when friends visited to take him for a car ride, “they have to sign me out, like a kid.”…

Paternalism, patriarchal practices – social and medical – reflect a society unwilling to move to best practices. Modernism is viewed as heresy by some, radicalism by others in the wonderful world of conservative beancounters.

Unless pressure is mounted, locally or through federal oversight, the cost of doing business as usual – defined by 19th Century minds – overrules what should be systems that help folks lead better lives.

The global surge in diabetes – in one map

Around the world, the number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980, and most of the burden of the disease is concentrated in poorer countries.


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As this chart from Statista shows, many of the biggest increases in diabetes prevalence have happened in the developing regions of the world, such as the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. In 2014, 422 million adults were living with diabetes, compared with 108 million in 1980, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

For years, researchers and health agencies have warned that urbanization and the influx of cheap, sugary, and processed foods into low- and middle-income countries are linked to the surge in noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes and obesity…

❝ “If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: To eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director general, said in a statement. “Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.”

Whether they’re poor or rich, countries are also going to have to find ways to counter the ​food marketing messages​ urging people to consume more if they want to turn the trend around.

Any Libertarians, liberal or conservative, on your block who will support that approach? The right to sell people crap food is as sacrosanct as “debate” anchors refusing to challenge political lies from presidential candidates.

You are what your parents ate — uh-oh!


Click to enlargeLaurentiu Garofeanu

For its studies, the team of the Institute of Experimental Genetics used mice that had become obese and had developed type 2 diabetes due to a high-fat diet. Their offspring were obtained solely through in vitro fertilization from isolated oocytes and sperm, so that changes in the offspring could only be passed on via these cells. The offspring were carried and born by healthy surrogate mothers. This enabled the researchers to rule out additional factors such as the behavior of the parents and influences of the mother during pregnancy and lactation.

❝ “The results showed that both oocytes and sperm passed on epigenetic information, which particularly in the female offspring led to severe obesity,” said Prof. Johannes Beckers, who directed the study. In the male offspring, by contrast, the blood glucose level was more affected than in the female siblings. The data also show that — like in humans — the maternal contribution to the change in metabolism in the offspring is greater than the paternal contribution.

“This kind of epigenetic inheritance of a metabolic disorder due to an unhealthy diet could be another major cause for the dramatic global increase in the prevalence of diabetes since the 1960s,” said Prof. Martin Hrabe de Angelis, director of the IEG and initiator of the study. The increase in diabetic patients observed throughout the world can hardly be explained by mutations in the genes themselves (DNA) because the increase has been too fast. Since epigenetic inheritance — as opposed to genetic inheritance — is in principle reversible, new possibilities to influence the development of obesity and diabetes arise from these observations…

In their theories on heredity and evolution, both Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin explicitly stated that characteristics and traits that parents acquire during their lifetime through interaction with the environment could be passed on to their offspring. It was not until the neo-Darwinist “Synthetic Theory of Evolution,” which combines the theories of natural selection by Darwin and of genetics by Gregor Mendel, that the inheritance of acquired traits was rejected. “From the perspective of basic research, this study is so important because it proves for the first time that an acquired metabolic disorder can be passed on epigenetically to the offspring via oocytes and sperm – similar to the ideas of Lamarck and Darwin,” said Professor Johannes Beckers.

In contrast to genetics, the term epigenetics refers to the inheritance of traits that are not determined in the primary sequence of the DNA (the genes). So far, RNA transcripts and chemical modifications of the chromatin (e.g. on the DNA or the histones) have been considered as carriers of this epigenetic information.

An interesting opening to another corridor of the preservation and expansion of human health. Given that our medical-industrial complex is mostly interested in symptomatic profiteering, I doubt there will be serious investment in this research from Big Pharma.

People staying sick longer is always more profitable.