The US health industry gets ever spookier

The health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans. The companies are tracking race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth, postings on social media, slowness paying bills, and what you order online. Complicated computer algorithms then produce predictions about how much …

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Late to rise, early to die

Night owls tend to die slightly earlier than early risers – possibly because they’re so often forced to defy their body clocks. Researchers from Britain and America tracked about 430,000 people who were asked whether they preferred mornings or evenings. Over a six-and-a-half-year period, those who said they were “definite” evening types were 10% more …

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So much for the ‘Mediterranean diet’

Children in Italy, Greece and Spain are now the fattest in Europe. More than 40% of boys and girls aged nine are either overweight or obese. Sweets,junk food and sugary drinks have displaced the region’s traditional diet based on fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil. (World Health Organisation) One study suggests that your bank …

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Baby milk

The milk formula business is worth more than $45 billion globally, and projected to increase by over 50% by 2020 owing to rapid expansion in Asia. The report* by Changing Markets Foundation reviewed more than 400 infant milks for babies less than one year old made by Nestlé, Danone, Mead Johnson Nutrition, and Abbott. It …

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Opioid antidotes and the huge profits they generate

In 2016, 36 states joined a lawsuit against Reckitt Benckiser Group that alleged that the company had profited from the opioid crisis and siphoned money from Medicaid. The drug company allegedly worked to preserve its monopolistic hold on profits drawn from its control of addiction treatment drug Suboxone. The 2016 lawsuit in Philadelphia has received …

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Prescription drugs in the US (a bit long, but you must read the conclusion)

Congress is under pressure to reduce drug prices, but the obstacles are legion. Current federal regulations protect drug makers from competition and restrict the government’s ability to negotiate bulk prices for large purchases from manufacturers. The nation’s drug distribution system is complex, opaque, short on data, and little understood by consumers. And the huge money …

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Is do-it-yourself gene editing wise and ethical?

CRISPR, the cheap and easy technique for making precise changes to DNA, has researchers around the world racing to trial its use in treating a host of human diseases. But this race is not confined to the lab. Last month, Josiah Zayner, a biochemist who once worked for NASA, became the first person to edit …

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One reason American healthcare is so expensive

Five months after Hurricane Maria barrelled through Puerto Rico, much of the island remains “largely unliveable”, says emergency medicine physician Jeremy Samuel Faust. One knock-on effect of this is that America is drastically short of a staple item of hospital equipment: intravenous fluids for use in drips. The shutdown of several Puerto Rican factories that …

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Is there any point in old men? (Don’t all shout at once!)

“In “How Men Age” biological anthropologist Richard Bribiescas covers some interesting uncharted territory. This is not a mere description of getting older. Instead, by considering male ageing in the light of natural selection, it aims to answer why men’s lifespans are shorter than women’s, why baldness, prostate disease and erectile dysfunction are so prevalent, and …

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Thought for the day

Congress is moving to take a second crack at opioid legislation, with lawmakers broadly agreeing that they need to do more to deal with a crisis that’s killing over 42,000(!) people per year. Are they sure they are up postponing fundraising for long enough to do that?

Truby King and an origin of pervasive anxiety

Human beings possess a strong survival mechanism in the brain, directly linked to our bodies, able to signal Fight, Flight or Freeze.  When threatened our bodies are flooded with adrenaline. This part of our brains, primitive but effective, develops in utero starting at around 7 weeks. A baby, with this strong survival instinct, finds the …

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Killer air pollution

“Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe,” says the European Environment Agency (EEA), which estimated the toll in a report.  By far the biggest killer was PM2.5 pollution: tiny particles measuring 2.5 micrometres across or less. These caused 428,000 early deaths across the 41 European countries tracked in 2014. The main …

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Privatisation in healthcare is un-Epicurean

“Earlier this year, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit, based on evidence from a whistleblower, against United Health Group, the largest provider of subsidised private medical insurance for the elderly, accusing it of overcharging the government by more than $1 billion, claiming patients were sicker than they actually were. “The FBI estimates that fraud, both …

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