Day: April 17, 2007

Tuesdays with Turtles – Travel Edition

sm_mapping.jpgIt’s travel all the time for sea turtles. Of course, the great turtle race is finally on, and windy’s in the lead, my pick billie’s in second place, a mere 30 miles behind. There’s a new turtle in the race, Colbertia, named in honor of Stephen Colbert, in third place.

Anything that gets turtles some attention is good.

But this is only a 500 mile sprint. PBS’ nature series had a one hour documentary on an 8000 mile, one plus year journey of a loggerhead turtle from her juvenile feeding grounds in Mexico to her adult breeding ground in Japan. It’s great to spend an hour at that close proximity to a turtle. But to me, the other animals, the dolphin pods, the giant fish swarms, the hammerhead sharks, the other sharks, the jelly fish, those little fish that eat parasites off the turtles and sharks kinda stole the show. There is something about thousands of animals of the same species doing something in concert. 

Anyway, nothing more to say, except that 8000 miles is a long way at a mile an hour. I don’t think any of us can appreciate the mindfulness and sense of purpose (do turtles have these qualities, or do they just keep on chuggin’?), not to mention the huge amount of luck it takes to get it done.

AARP – Selling to you AND advocating for you at the same time

Am I just slow on the uptake? How can you simultaneously be an advocate for someone, and also sell them something very expensive and important? If at some point in time, these two tasks conflict, will AARP drop out of the healthcare industry to ensure that its role as advocate does not get compromised? I think not, the conflict of interest simply boggles the mind. How can you write a whole article about this issue and not have CONFLICT OF INTEREST flashing in big bold letters!!

For example, if it is proven that single payer, universal healthcare was the most effective way to ensure that people 50-64 (before they hit medicare, which used to work very much like single payer healthcare without drug coverage until a really complex and crazy drug insurance was written on top of it) were insured and healthy, how would this affect the AARP? They are now in the business of selling you the health insurance that would be rendered less necessary by said policy, what would the AARP do? Somehow, I don’t see them saying “Yeah, we’ll close our multimillion dollar profit making business because it is the right thing to do”.

This is ridiculous!

AARP Says It Will Become Major Medicare Insurer While Remaining a Consumer Lobby – New York Times

AARP, the lobby for older Americans, announced Monday that it would become a major participant in the nation’s health insurance market, offering a health maintenance organization to Medicare recipients and several other products to people 50 to 64 years old.

The products for people under 65 include a managed care plan, known as a preferred provider organization, and a high-deductible insurance policy that could be used with a health savings account.

When the new coverage becomes available next year, AARP will be the largest provider of private insurance to Medicare recipients. In addition to the new H.M.O., AARP will continue providing prescription drug coverage and policies to supplement Medicare, known as Medigap coverage.

William D. Novelli, the chief executive of AARP, said, “In launching these initiatives, we are driven by our mission to create a healthier America.”

The group also said it would use its leverage to reshape the health insurance market. The organization has 38 million members, and Mr. Novelli said it hoped to have 50 million by 2011.

The new Medicare product will be marketed with UnitedHealth Group. Policies for people under 65 will carry the AARP name and will be marketed with Aetna.

Bill could block some ads for new drugs – Not so Fast!

Bill could block some ads for new drugs – Yahoo News

Pharmaceutical companies could be prohibited from advertising new drugs directly to consumers for the first two years they are on the market under a bill moving through Congress this week.

The goal, supporters say, is to ensure medicines are safe before allowing industry to promote them to consumers in the hopes they will request prescriptions from doctors.

But a reduction in TV and print advertising, which helped transform medications for heartburn and arthritis into blockbusters, would be a serious financial blow to drug makers. According to one study, every $1 spent on pharmaceuticals advertising often adds more than $2 in sales.

While the Food and Drug Administration already screens a small portion of ads voluntarily submitted by drug companies, consumer advocates favor much tougher regulation, arguing that the studies companies use to test the safety of new drugs are not always large enough to spot dangerous side effects.

“We don’t know, and we won’t know, how truly safe a drug is until it’s been used in millions of people,” said Consumer Reports analyst Bill Vaughan. “The real testing of these drugs takes place after a pill hits the market and that’s why the advertising needs to be regulated.”

This is pretty significant. Big pharma is increasingly reliant on the blockbuster drug that addresses chronic and/or lifestyle diseases affecting the a large proportion of the affluent adult population. To reach this population, you need to target it with massive advertising blitzes that

  1. Alert you to the fact that you might have a problem – Restless leg syndrome, anyone!. This might be something that may be important, but nothing you might have noticed.
  2. Prod you to get treated for it.
  3. Convince both you and your doctor that the flashy new drug, which is 100 bucks per month is so much better than the other drug that is 10 bucks a month (Not much science is necessary here, just a major advertising blitz and continuous access to doctors through visits, “seminars”. “gifts”, etc.)
  4. Work with insurance companies to make this drug the treatment of choice
  5. Lather, rinse and repeat!

Note that advertising is a huge part of this circle, and any restrictions to this said advertising will have pharma crying foul, and free speech. Call me old fashioned, but free speech protects an individual from surveillance, imprisonment, torture, execution, etc. by his oppressive government of choice due to views he/she might have and/or express. All corporate speech is regulated by definition because it involves a flow of information from a party that has a knowledge edge to one, that does not. To the extent that corporate speech helps the end user, it is beneficial. To the extent it hurts, it is not. So regulation of this speech should be a line drawn by government/regulating authority based on maximizing the benefit to the consumer, not to the industry.

Davidson has urged Senate staffers to eliminate the provision on advertising, arguing that the Supreme Court has already struck down similar attempts to regulate commercial speech.

I do not think that in the current regulatory and judiciary environment, this provision has any chance of passing. As long as “commercial” speech is as free as “individual” speech, we will forever be exploited by organizations that have a knowledge gap on us and use this knowledge gap to make us buy/do things that may not necessarily be in our interest.

EPA chief: Bush climate policy working

If by working, you mean increasing CO2 is good for the world, a warm place is a better place, right!

EPA chief: Bush climate policy working – Yahoo News

The EPA said its annual greenhouse gas assessment showed that 7.26 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases were released by U.S. sources in 2005, an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year.

“The Bush administration’s unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is delivering real results,” Johnson proclaimed in a statement.

This statement makes perfect sense and is the complete truth if you assume that increasing GHG emissions demonstrates “unparalleled” commitment to “reducing” greenhouse gas emissions? Unparalleled all right! Nobody’s better at emitting CO2 than the U.S of A! Wohoo!!