Drugs

Nessun Dorma: Insomnia and Sleep Aids

Sleep deprivation side effects -- Wikimedia

Sleep deprivation side effects — Wikimedia

Most people experience less than satisfying sleep at least occasionally, but some sufferers go for years without relief. Not being able to fall asleep at the normal hour in a reasonable length of time is known as “sleep onset insomnia.” Older people especially may suffer from waking too soon or not getting enough deep sleep. Sleep is a complex neurochemical phenomenon, and a wide variety of different causes for poor sleep make it hard to diagnose and relieve.

What’s often called sleep hygiene is a collection of good practices and habits that tend to lead to better sleep. Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine has a good list.

If you’re getting exercise and avoiding caffeine or alcohol late in the evening, you might still have problems. Chemical sleep inducers in the form of drugs and supplements can help get you to sleep or keep you asleep, but prescription medications like Ambien and Lunesta can have side-effects, cost a lot, and can be addictive. Many people have been hooked on them (and the drugs of past eras like tranquilizers and sedatives) for years, unable to stop without going through far worse withdrawal symptoms.

If your problem is getting to sleep, your body and mind may be revved up and out of synch with your natural sleep hours. Not engaging in eating, drinking, or stimulating activities for a few hours before normal bedtime can help. Some natural supplements — chemicals already found in your body or food that promote sleep — work for many people. A list:

Melatonin, one of the body’s primary sleep signalling chemicals, is continuously produced by the pineal gland, but destroyed by light hitting the eyes, so it is a driver of the sleep-wake cycle that lags exposure to light; it’s partly because exposure to light synchronizes your sleep cycle that staying up late with bright lighting can disturb it. Taking natural melatonin a few hours before normal bedtime reinforces the natural cycle somewhat, although there’s little evidence of it crossing the blood-brain barrier after absorption by the digestive system. Try sprinkling a bit of melatonin in powdered form under your tongue, perhaps by opening a commercial capsule like these. Melatonin, like some other drugs and vitamins, can be absorbed somewhat by the blood-vessel-rich skin under the tongue — this is called sublingual administration. Melatonin successfully reduces time-to-sleep and insomnia for most people, though it is less effective at keeping you asleep. If you’re already getting up to go to the bathroom at 3 AM, though, you can do another sublingual dose of melatonin and sleep a few more hours successfully.

5-HTP or its precursor L-Tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid component of the proteins in many meats, eggs, and dairy products, and is commonly believed to create the sleepiness after a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner — though turkey meat has no more L-Tryptophan than most other meats. It is also usually credited for the “glass of milk at bedtime” method for assisting sleep. After a Japanese manufacturer of L-Tryptophan produced contaminated batches in 1989, injuring thousands and killing as many as 37 people, L-Tryptophan was banned by the FDA in the US. These restrictions were loosened and finally lifted completely in 2005. As a result of that incident, though, more people still take 5-HTP, which is a metabolite of L-Tryptophan and his similar effects. A few hundred mg of either does tend to produce faster and deeper sleep in most people, and like melatonin thet are both safe and not habit-forming.

Valerian Root is somewhat less harmless. An old herbal standby, this herb in capsule form is used by millions as a sleep aid. While it does work, it can’t be recommended for any but the shortest-term use because it is a mild liver poison — long-term use damages liver function. Other herbal teas like chamomile also have some sedative effects without any obvious toxicities.

GABA is another amino acid and neurotransmitter which doesn’t seem to cross the blood-brain barrier, yet has some obvious effects, producing calm and deeper sleep and perhaps aiding production of growth hormone in older body builders who take it. I take a gram every night before bed and it seems to deepen sleep. It also has some side-effects reminiscent of the niacin flush for some, so be careful and experiment with small doses before trying more. A reliable low-cost provider of GABA powder which can be mixed into any drink is here. Capsules tend to provide less effective dosages.

Doxylamine succinate is an old standby which works fairly well and is cheap and safe as a sleep aid: as an antihistamine, it is obsolete because its side-effect of drowsiness is intolerable during the day. But while it’s unwise to take any drug regularly unless you really need to, it’s at least not addictive and is easy to buy OTC: as this Kirkland-label product from Costco, for example.

Everyone’s sleep problem is different, and with age staying asleep becomes the most common problem. Natural substances can help but good sleep hygiene should be tried first.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire

vitamins

Sekrit Reform Agenda: Untangling Government: Medical Deregulation

I have been researching issues of dysfunctional government and over-regulation for the next book, which won’t be done for months. But now is a good time to discuss some of the results that bear on the new administration’s agenda.

Trump rode a popular wave of anger at being lied to and cheated by the DC pols and bureaucrats who have been in the pockets of special interests — oligopolic corporations, unions, and regulated industries — for several decades now. The fog of disinformation funded by government PR and interlocking media conglomerates obscured how regular people were being shafted to fund ever-increasing costs for medical care, education, housing, and cable TV, special interests that had captured their regulators to increase profits at the expense of middle-class families. Proximate causes of voter anger: the lies of Obamacare and the intentional subversion of the law and welfare systems to support a large population of illegal immigrants intended to tip the electoral balance against citizens who were born in the US or entered legally. The government cheerleaders denigrated blue-collar and less degreed workers, while promising and failing to deliver good jobs. “College for everyone” policies meant college degrees came to be required for all good jobs, and meanwhile failed public schools graduated students unprepared for even low-level college work, then stuck the dropouts with nondischargeable student loan debts. College tuitions rose far faster than inflation while an elite class of academics and administrators took home fat paychecks and enjoyed job security and benefits unavailable to most taxpayers — meanwhile abusing nontenured adjuncts to do the actual teaching for poverty-level pay. Lives have been destroyed by the promises of the social engineers, and the people finally stopped buying the propaganda.

Trump is not beholden to the usual billionaire donors and subsidy-seeking industries. His administration is the first opportunity in decades to seriously overhaul the regulatory structure that has crippled US competitiveness. Real structural reform could unleash a wave of growth and new jobs and lower costs of housing, allowing people to move to where the jobs are and start rebuilding families and lives that have stagnated since 2008’s Great Recession began.

I’m going to propose an agenda of radical reform that not only would create a business boom, but a freedom dividend. The elitists have tried micromanaging normal people by regulating the most trivial details of daily life (for example, incandescent bulb and plastic shopping bag bans) and opposing all new housing, pipelines, and industrial development. They should be told to mind their own business.

Radical reform agendas affecting multiple sectors have a problem getting accepted. One can try to build a coalition to get people to accept the parts they don’t like for the sake of others they do, but you run the risk of notifying the entrenched interests that you’re threatening their monopoly profits. Those special interests will join together to fund propaganda to frighten the population into halting the reforms. This was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s downfall in California; he took on the entrenched power of public employee unions — nurses, prison guards, and civil servants — who funded a massive PR campaign against his reforms and halted them at the ballot box. Schwarzenegger gave up, convinced the interests he had challenged were too powerful to curb. So perhaps the reform agenda should be secret — picking off the interests one by one with as little fanfare as possible, so the people wake up one day to discover they are richer and more free than before. Announcing that you intend to fire millions of paper-pushers so they can go to work in real jobs that actually add value might possibly be a bad idea… even those paper-pushers might be better off in the long run working in more dynamic industries, but it is hard to convince someone to voluntarily undergo wrenching change for some long-term good.

So slow and steady change, with due regard for transitional measures to smooth the way. But smash the system, gently, and let people choose freely how to live and create. The status quo is no longer sustainable, and change rolled out before the inevitable collapse of the debt-based economy will perhaps forestall the worst scenarios.

One of the downfalls of the Democratic-Progressive machine was the failure of the Rube Goldberg ACA / Obamacare health insurance scheme they believed would cement their electoral dominance by creating more dependent citizens. Passed in a hurry when they were about to lose their lock on the Senate, the law was a Frankenstein monster of parts assembled by special interest groups and progressive policy wonks, famously cheered on by MIT Prof. Jonathan Gruber, who admitted the proponents had intentionally obscured its true nature: to greatly raise the cost of insurance for healthy middle-class families so that poorer, sicker people could get subsidies without revealing the huge hidden tax increase involved. Repeated lies were used to pass it, including Politifact’s Lie of the Year for 2013, Obama’s “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” plus the promise of $2500 per family yearly savings.



But the current death spiral of the ACA individual insurance market is far worse than the planned hidden tax and subsidy scheme. Through its poorly-designed rules of payment for coverage, the scheme allowed and encouraged gaming — clever consumers discovered they could sign up and pay for one month, then get lots of expensive healthcare services for three months before being cut off for nonpayment. And the loopholes allowing enrollment outside normal time windows were so easy to bypass that many people dropped coverage, returning to pay only when they had a major medical expense upcoming. Because of the high prices — which were barely affordable even with subsidies, and many times the cost of similar pre-ACA policies for those who were not subsidized — many or most of those eligible chose not to buy in, leaving the sickest and poorest to drive up average medical spending for the risk pool.

As a result, the trumpeted increase in coverage was entirely due to expanded Medicaid, which is free and worth every penny. The Oregon study which showed that Medicaid coverage did nothing to increase health or decrease death rates for newly-covered people was ignored, and the claims that new Medicaid coverage would save thousands of lives every year and decrease ER usage among the poor turned out to be false — ER usage rose as poor people continued to prefer no-appointments, no-payment access to ERs over Medicaid clinics with long waits for appointments. Meanwhile, the 20 million people who had paid for their own insurance before the ACA have been soaked, and there are now only 10 million people enrolled in the new individual ACA plans. So while proponents continually claim success in that more people are “insured,” the deteriorating quality of the coverage and the reduced participation by the young and healthy who were supposed to pay the bills mean that it is becoming both a financial and a healthcare disaster.

What happens when a significant number of voters have supposed facts drummed into them by political leaders, but discover they were all lies, and many middle-class voters are being soaked for insurance that covers less and costs much more, reduces choice in providers, and limits travel because they can’t get coverage outside their area of residence? They begin to doubt the word of the “experts” of the government propaganda machine on every other subject, and they yearn for honesty.

Passed to satisfy all major special interest groups, the ACA appeared likely to increase profits for health insurance and drug companies, which is why they supported it. It has not worked out that way, with the companies generally losing $billions on individual health insurance plans. Progressives are now calling for a public option which would somehow undercut the pricing of private insurance companies, many of which are nonprofits, while doing the same work the government way — we can see how well that might work by how patients are treated by the VA.

But the failure of the ACA has created a climate for real reform because the old mostly-functional system is now smashed to pieces and there is less to lose from drastic change. The ACA, ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, established that the Federal government could regulate and interfere with the healthcare markets of every state. Under the expanded Commerce Clause powers now established as precedent, nothing stops Congress from seizing direct control of medical professional licensing. The balkanized 50-state regulation of care is part of the inefficiency of the system — it should go. In practice there is no evidence that doctors licensed by one state become hazards to care in a different state, and the complex schemes that restrict supply and raise costs for medical certifications need to be streamlined and unified. Irish doctors who go through a four-year program are just as good as doctors trained in the US’s standard eight-year program, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Services which can be provided by technicians in cheap clinics like those popping up in drugstores nationwide should be expanded; for example, checking for suspicious skin growths to screen for cancer can now be done by AI-based optical scanners at very low cost. Standard tests and treatments for colds, flu, STDs, skin fungus, and impacted earwax don’t require a doctor’s knowledge. State laws requiring doctor supervision of even routine care do little to improve care but a lot to restrict availability and raise prices.

Medicaid is both expensive to taxpayers and provides delayed and substandard care. An expanded system of clinics for the poor is a much better way of spending public money on low-income patients. Hospital ERs need to be free of the requirement to treat non-emergency patients, and free to pass them off to public clinics who can more cost-effectively treat the less urgent problems they bring in.

Requiring prescriptions for drugs raises costs and reduces availability for everyone, even wealthy people — having to see your doctor several times a year to renew routine prescriptions for birth control, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other common medications adds to costs with minimal benefits. Doctors have to waste time jumping through insurance company hoops intentionally imposed to reduce drug costs, and vast amounts of time and money are spent needlessly.

There are some medications which need to be controlled to prevent overuse. Antibiotics, for example, gradually lose their effectiveness as organisms build up resistance, and so having some authority limit their use to cases of real need is cost-effective. But most standard medicines should be free for sale over the counter — only antibiotics and highly addictive drugs need to be controlled. This would cut out layers of cost and reduce prices and the cost in time and trouble to patients and doctors. OTC birth control costs the system much, much less than Obamacare’s “free” birth control pills.

Many newly-approved treatments are startlingly expensive. One reason for this is a hidebound FDA, which requires massive double-blind controlled studies for approval. For each drug that is approved, many more fail, so the billions spent have to come from somewhere, and that means very high list prices for patented treatments. The focus on approvals can make or break billion-dollar companies, and so the FDA deciders are subject to influence-peddling campaigns and barely-hidden bribery, making their decisions less transparent and more political than is decent. Meanwhile, foreign countries control prices and reap the benefits of new treatments while not footing much of the development cost. It’s only because the US government enforces this setup that the market works this way; removing bans on imports and equalizing world prices for medications would force the pharmacy companies to price more rationally and fight the price-controlling developed countries that are free-riding on US research costs.

So setting up a commission to investigate modernizing FDA approvals, freeing up provision of most medical services and licensing, and allowing US sales of any drug approved by reputable agencies abroad would be a good start. Drug companies will fight this since it means they have to find another way to charge the costs of research more broadly to the rest of the developed world while selling at marginal cost to poorer patients wherever located, but the current situation is not sustainable — just as the US no longer dominates the world economy and can no longer afford to pay the lion’s share of defense costs for its allies, medical research and drug approval costs have to be more widely shared. And the paternalistic control of what adult citizens choose to eat, drink, smoke, and take as drugs needs to end. It is vastly wasteful and costly to freedom.

All insurance is a bad deal in that it costs more than the services one might expect on average to get in return; the overhead of the insurance company, claims managers, and payment systems has to be built into the price. Thus insurance for small expenses one could easily afford to pay is a bad deal; extended warranties for appliances, phones, and travel insurance are overpriced. Most people who bought their own insurance pre-ACA had catastrophic coverage, which kept premiums down by having high deductibles. But these policies got them access to the insurance company-negotiated prices, which is important because hospital list prices have been set artificially high in response to the Medicare reimbursement system. Bare-bones policies covered the truly unaffordable costs of serious medical treatments, which is the correct use of insurance. Now many people who had catastrophic coverage can’t get it at the formerly reasonable prices since even unsubsidized policies must conform to ACA rules.

So the first relief for ACA problems is to end regulation of policy benefits so individuals can buy what they actually need in coverage. If medical screening is allowed, setting up a national subsidized high-risk pool for poorer people with pre-existing conditions can help solve that problem, or regulations could require anyone with continuous coverage to be accepted, as they did before the ACA in most states — only a few people would find themselves uncovered and needing a subsidized high-risk pool. Most of the damaging gaming of ACA policies comes from those who stop paying in until they have an expensive need, and requiring continuous coverage limits that problem.

Subsidies for lower-income people are problematic in many ways. One is the benefits cliff, which penalizes someone who increases their income many times the increase, punishing efforts to better their lives. Another is the high cost to taxpayers — the costs have been less in total than expected because ACA policies have been much less popular than expected, but higher per covered person. Getting medical costs down overall through deregulation and heightened interstate competition and economies of scale will help, and making any subsidy required be available through income-tax credits eliminates the need for the costly and mostly failed state and national marketplace web sites, easier dreamed of and promised than executed by government contractors. Those have cost $billions but have proven unsustainable even when they work. Let insurance companies sell directly, let any aggregator compete to sell policies, and get the government out of health insurance provision entirely.

The FDA was once focused on policing the marketplace for food and drugs — its predecessor started under the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and the emphasis was on preventing fraud. Focused on dangerously adulterated food and false claims of efficacy for medical treatments, proper manufacturing and labeling were effective at reducing problems, with the Prohibition-like bans on some drugs and detailed regulation of what chemicals a citizen could buy coming later. Most of the damage caused by quacks and adulterated foods and drugs could be prevented by emphasizing consumer information and labeling instead of prohibition — making sure what is sold is what it is labeled as being and preventing unsupported claims of efficacy are really all that is required, and the growth of FDA regulation beyond that is retarding progress and increasing costs to consumers with very little benefit. Patients with their doctor’s guidance ultimately choose what is needed and useful in medical care, and the FDA has forced them to smuggle in lifesaving medications from abroad and set up a system that prices treatments far above affordable costs. No one who is facing a life-threatening illness to should be kept from trying promising treatments the FDA is too slow to approve. And advanced countries like Britain allow pharmacies to sell, for example, codeine (similar to heroin!!) with acetaminophen tablets for the asking — with little additional risk, though they have been criticized for not warning enough against the dangers of overuse of acetaminophen (Tylenol).

And the FDA is legally prevented from halting the advertisement of and wasted money on homeopathic medicines, which do nothing but can harm people by delaying treatment with real medication. They are also barred from halting supplement sales, and liver toxins like valerian root are still sold freely without appropriate warning labels. Consumers are lead to believe authorities have made the world safe for them, and do not investigate and are not sufficiently skeptical of claims made.

The Hoover Institution’s studies of medical reform are in line with what I’m suggesting, though less radical. I’m particularly bored by HSAs and schemes to jigger tax credits when the underlying problem is that costs are just too damn high, but those incremental improvements would be worthwhile.

[next installment: Sekrit Plan for media conglomerates and cable TV companies, now one and the same]

 


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


For more reading goodness:

Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Who Killed Prince?: Update – Buprenorphine Implant Approved by FDA
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
No More Elections or Campaigns: Liquid Democracy
Death by HR Introduction: HR Pushes Damaging Regulations Into the Enterprise
Death by HR: Thiel, Trump, Palantir: Regulation as Partisan Weapon
Update on: Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine
California Dream Choo-Choo Lives On: Bay Bridge Lessons Ignored
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Who Killed Prince?: Update – Buprenorphine Implant Approved by FDA

FDA Approves Titan Implant - photo: Titan

FDA Approves Titan Implant – photo: Titan

The FDA has finally approved Titan Pharmaceutical’s buprenorphine implant after years of unnecessary delay, letting doctors have another useful weapon in treating opioid addiction. The background is here:
Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine.

The implant provides a smooth low level of buprenorphine sufficient to relieve opioid cravings, but not enough to degrade mental functions; patients on the implant testify that, unlike opioids or pill forms of buprenorphine, it makes them feel normal so they can function in their daily lives.

The Reuters story mentions the neo-Puritan objections:

The first-ever implant to fight addiction to opioids, a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers and heroin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. The matchstick-sized implant, developed by Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc and privately owned Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, is by design less susceptible to abuse or the illicit resale that plagues existing oral therapies. Fewer than half of the estimated 2.2 million Americans who need treatment for opioid abuse are receiving help, according to the U.S. Centers for Human and Health Services (HHS).

Currently, two drugs are predominantly used to treat opioid addiction — methadone, which is dispensed only in government-endorsed clinics, and the less-addictive buprenorphine, which exists as a pill or strip of film. While effective, a pill or film may be lost, forgotten or stolen. Evidence suggests that the use of these medicines as part of the overall treatment program are more effective than short-term detoxification programs aimed at abstinence, the FDA said on Thursday….

“I intend to make this the most successful implant that’s ever been marketed … and I think it’s absolutely possible given the unmet need,” Braeburn Chief Executive Behshad Sheldon said in an interview ahead of the FDA decision.

However, some doctors are concerned that the implant may incentivise patients to rely solely on medication, and ignore the lifestyle changes they need to make.

This is the neo-Puritan impulse — if you lack the ability to get off entirely, you should just suffer and die because you don’t deserve a normal life. Addiction is not a “lifestyle choice,” it’s an addiction, and those prone to addiction are generally going to be addicted to something, or many things — the goal of treatment should be to move the addict to habits which don’t interfere with leading a productive and satisfying life. I am, for example, addicted to coffee, working out, eating well, and getting a good night’s sleep…

Since it’s an implant, if it isn’t replaced after six months the patient will taper off the drug fairly slowly, and it might well be easy enough to go off it completely as a result. But even if viewed as permanent maintenance, it is much better for the patient and society than allowing the peaks and valleys of opioid addiction to wreck the patient’s life and possibly kill them.

We are also seeing these perfectionists in the current effort to outlaw vaping, which is one of the best ways to get smokers off the much more damaging cigarette smoking habit — see FDA Wants More Lung Cancer.

The implant has a bright future now. Too bad tens of thousands of people died without treatment in the three years the FDA delayed it. The Reuters story continues:

Braeburn estimated the U.S. market for opioid addiction treatments at about $2 billion, excluding methadone and Vivitrol, Alkermes Plc’s treatment for the prevention of relapse after opioid detoxification.

CEO Sheldon declined to specify a price for the implant on Thursday, but said it would be substantially cheaper than Vivitrol. “We are hoping that our first patient will have received the implant by the first day of summer or June 21,” she added.

The market for long-acting therapies such as Probuphine could be even larger if attempts to raise the limit on the number of opioid addicts a doctor can treat are successful. Under the current law, a doctor can treat only 30 opioid addicts within a year of obtaining a waiver, rising to a maximum 100 after procurement of a second waiver. The Congress and the HHS are working toward increasing this limit. Of particular interest is a proposal that exempts from the patient limit any treatment directly administered by a physician, such as an implant or injection.

UPDATED 2 JUNE 2016:

The preliminary autopsy report has been released showing cause of death as an overdose of Fentanyl, an opioid stronger than morphine or heroin. The report is minimal and gives no hint of what investigators might have found or what legal actions Prince’s doctors may face.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Update on: Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Update on: Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine

Prince: 1999 Cover - Wikipedia

Prince: 1999 Cover – Wikipedia

Updating Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine:

First, the public release of the autopsy report is likely to be delayed, possibly for months. The complex issues and possible prosecution of the doctors involved are said to be causing authorities to take more time before concluding their investigation of the death. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has more:

Prince appeared to have been dead for at least six hours before his body was found in a Paisley Park elevator last month, a responding paramedic told staff members, law enforcement officers and others at the scene….

Sources with knowledge of the investigation have told the Star Tribune that despite putting on a calm face after his emergency treatment for an opioid overdose in Moline, Ill., on April 15, Prince grew increasingly agitated in the following days. That prompted one member of his staff to place a call to New York at 6 a.m. on April 20 — the day before the musician’s body was found — seeking advice from someone who had recently worked with the musician, a source said.

Later that day, Prince was given an intravenous treatment at a local hospital, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.

It’s not clear whether that visit came before or after the doctor treating him for withdrawal symptoms made a house call that evening at Paisley Park.

According to several sources, Prince’s staff eventually reached out to Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, a well-known environmental and labor activist in the San Francisco Bay Area who has been credited with helping Prince recover the rights to his early catalog of songs from Warner Bros.

Ellis-Lamkins called Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a pain and addiction specialist in Mill Valley, Calif., seeking his help to get the musician off prescription painkillers, the sources said.

Her call would have been placed less than 12 hours before Prince’s body was discovered.

Ellis-Lamkins, reached by phone, declined to comment. “I cared deeply about him, and I am not ready to speak publicly,” she wrote the Star Tribune in a follow-up e-mail. “I also know how much he valued his privacy and want to respect his wishes.”

Ellis-Lamkins is a close associate of Van Jones, a Yale-trained lawyer and environmental and social activist who briefly served as a special adviser to the Obama administration. Jones, now a commentator for CNN, was close to Prince and his surviving siblings and attended a recent probate hearing in Carver County District Court to lend his support….

Bill Mauzy, a Minneapolis attorney who has spoken on Kornfeld’s behalf, has said that Kornfeld is widely known for his use of buprenorphine to help wean users from opioids….

In earlier interviews, Mauzy said that Kornfeld couldn’t leave California immediately to meet with Prince, so he sent his son Andrew — who works with his father’s clinic — to Minnesota to explain the treatment. Mauzy represents Andrew Kornfeld.

Court records show that Andrew Kornfeld arrived at Paisley Park the morning of April 21. Sources have told the Star Tribune that he arrived with Kirk Johnson — Prince’s longtime friend, drummer and business associate — and Meron Bekure, Prince’s assistant. It was Johnson and Bekure who found Prince unconscious in an elevator and began screaming.

Andrew Kornfeld called 911 at 9:43 a.m. and said that Prince appeared to be dead, according to the transcript of the call. Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg arrived at Paisley Park a short time later and after paramedics were on the scene, according to one source. A search warrant filed in the death investigation said Schulenberg told investigators that he had treated Prince twice in April — including the day before Prince’s body was found — and that he had arrived at Paisley Park to deliver some test results.

The painkiller Percocet was present in Prince’s body when he died, and pills were found at the death scene, sources with knowledge of the investigation previously told the Star Tribune….
Andrew Kornfeld was carrying buprenorphine with him when he arrived at Paisley Park, though he is not licensed to administer prescription drugs. Mauzy has said Howard Kornfeld gave the drug to his son to bring to another, unidentified Minnesota doctor who is specially certified to prescribe the drug and who had planned to see Prince the morning he was found dead. Mauzy said the Kornfelds never provided buprenorphine to Prince, however.

“Andrew did not deliver or dispense or administer any medication to Prince,” Mauzy said Friday. “It is obvious that Andrew had nothing whatsoever to do with Prince’s death.”

TMZ has suggested a conspiracy theory based on leaked police reports — we’ll soon know more when the autopsy report is made public, but they suggest (contrary to Dr. Kornfeld’s son’s lawyer’s statements) that buprenorphine might have been given to Prince before his death. If that were true, it’s well-known that incautious addition of buprenorphine to an existing high level of opiates can precipitate a withdrawal crisis. While I doubt this version of events is what happened, if it turns out to be true we will have another celebrity doctor trial fiasco a la Michael Jackson’s. Kornfeld’s son is on shaky legal ground and Prince’s local doctor could reasonably be accused of malpractice.

Here’s a bit from TMZ’s latest story:

As we reported, Prince’s doctor, Michael Schulenberg, told authorities he went to Prince’s home to personally deliver test results. Andrew Kornfeld, the son of California rehab Dr. Howard Kornfeld, was also present and had Buprenorphine pills in his backpack. The pills are used to treat opiate addiction.

Andrew’s lawyer held a news conference saying Andrew was not there to personally administer the drug, but he was there to deliver the pills to a local doctor. That’s why cops think it might be more than coincidental Kornfeld and Dr. Schulenberg were there at the same time … when Prince died.

That’s all speculation. But until the autopsy report is released, we can imagine the celebrity doctor trial that may be coming. Big stars seem to feel safer with doctors who will bend the rules to give them what they want. Sometimes that means they die prematurely because their doctor doesn’t want to confront them about their addictions.

UPDATED 2 JUNE 2016:

The preliminary autopsy report has been released showing cause of death as an overdose of Fentanyl, an opioid stronger than morphine or heroin. The report is minimal and gives no hint of what investigators might have found or what legal actions Prince’s doctors may face.
 


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine

Prince Memorial - CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE

Prince Memorial – CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE

Pop music legend Prince likely died of an overdose of opioid pain reliever, which he got hooked on after injuring a hip during a performance. Results of the autopsy are pending, but we know he was seeking treatment from one of the few doctors certified to prescribe a drug that can help addicts get off opioids. The doctor arrived too late — he was just in time to help discover Prince’s body in an elevator.

Who killed Prince? He was partly responsible for his own death. But he could have been saved had Congress, the FDA, and the DEA not restricted access to buprenorphine, the anti-addiction drug the doctor was bringing to help him.

It’s a long and complicated tale, and we’ll get back to Prince after explaining what buprenorphine is and why authorities made it so hard to get.

Opioids are the class of opium-derived and opium-like drugs, from opium itself to derivatives like morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, oxycontin, and methadone. Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain under trade names like Percocet, Vicodin, Darvon, Dilaudid, and Demerol, and they are routinely prescribed for every surgical patient as part of aftercare.[1] Attempts to limit prescribing run up against pain management advocates, who quite reasonably don’t want some to suffer unnecessary and medically-damaging chronic pain.

Street opioids like heroin are illegal and addicts are often jailed, usually for the other unlawful activities they pursue as their ability to work declines and feeding their habit grows expensive. Middle and upper-class addicts can reach a stable state where they manage their addictions for long periods and stay out of the justice system. It’s far from clear that legalization would do any additional harm to poor addicts, who might then be expected to stabilize their lives more easily when their drug is cheap and easy to get.

But prescribed opioids are becoming a public-health epidemic, causing at least half of the 28,000 US overdose deaths in 2014.[2] Many legally-produced pills are diverted to the black market. Screening tests done to detect abuse cost about $2 billion in 2013, and US sales of opioids rose from $3.97 billion in 2001 to $8.34 billion in 2012.[3] Thus legally-prescribed opioids are an enormous business for US drug companies.

President Obama recently hosted pop star Macklemore to raise awareness on the topic. Of course his suggested solution is to spend $1.1 billion more, which would hire more therapists and pay for treatment.[4]

 

But getting people off opioids is a solved problem. Buprenorphine, an opioid itself originally approved by the FDA in 1985 as a scheduled narcotic for pain relief, was discovered to relieve cravings for other opioids in low doses which didn’t produce the highs of typical opioids. Let the The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment explain it:

Buprenorphine (BYOO-pre-NOR-feen) (‘bu-pre-‘nor-feen) is an opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction in the privacy of a physician’s office. Buprenorphine can be dispensed for take home use, by prescription. This in addition to buprenorphine’s pharmacological and safety profile makes it an attractive treatment for patients addicted to opioids.

Buprenorphine is different from other opioids in that it is a partial opioid agonist. This property of buprenorphine may allow for;

• less euphoria and physical dependence*
• lower potential for misuse*
• a ceiling on opioid effects*
• relatively mild withdrawal profile*

At the appropriate dose buprenorphine treatment may:

• Suppress symptoms of opioid withdrawal
• Decrease cravings for opioids
• Reduce illicit opioid use
• Block the effects of other opioids
• Help patients stay in treatment

* When compared with full opioid agonists (such as oxycodone and heroin)

Buprenorphine (‘bu-pre-‘nôr-feen) (C29H41NO4) is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, an alkaloid of the poppy Papaver somniferum. Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. This means that, although Buprenorphine is an opioid, and thus can produce typical opioid effects and side effects such as euphoria and respiratory depression, its maximal effects are less than those of full agonists like heroin and methadone. At low doses Buprenorphine produces sufficient agonist effect to enable opioid-addicted individuals to discontinue the misuse of opioids without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The agonist effects of Buprenorphine increase linearly with increasing doses of the drug until it reaches a plateau and no longer continues to increase with further increases in dosage. This is called the “ceiling effect.” Thus, Buprenorphine carries a lower risk of abuse, addiction, and side effects compared to full opioid agonists. In fact, Buprenorphine can actually block the effects of full opioid agonists and can precipitate withdrawal symptoms if administered to an opioid-addicted individual while a full agonist is in the bloodstream. This is the result of the high affinity Buprenorphine has to the opioid receptors. The affinity refers to the strength of attraction and likelihood of a substance to bind with the opioid receptors. Buprenorphine has a higher affinity than other opioids and as such will compete for the receptor and win. It will “knock off” other opioids and occupy that receptor blocking other opioids from attaching to it. If there is enough Buprenorphine to knock the opioids off the receptors but not enough to occupy and satisfy the receptors, withdrawal symptoms can occur; in which case the treatment is more Buprenorphine until withdrawal symptoms disappear.[5]

For motivated and conscientious patients, doctor-supervised treatment with buprenorphine is very effective, and prescriptions for the drug have risen into the millions yearly despite restrictions on the doctors allowed to prescribe it and the number of patients they can treat with it. Why the restrictions? After all, the more dangerous opioids are prescribed to much larger numbers of patients, and no special training of doctors is required….

The answer: Congress wrote the law to allow opioids to be prescribed for addiction treatment in 2000, but included special licensing and training requirements for doctors and limited the number of patients each doctor could treat, imagining that this would reduce the already-known problem of “pill mills” where doctors abuse their licenses to prescribe to addicted patients. This turned out to make it difficult to find a doctor to treat addiction since it would only be a small part of any doctor’s practice and the hassle of getting certified, and the association with addiction, made it a losing proposition for most doctors. So while large numbers did get treated, the problem continued to grow far beyond the treatment slots available.

Abuse did turn out to be a problem. Many patients are undergoing treatment involuntarily after being charged with drug possession or other crimes related to their addiction, and this population is quite capable of grinding up the pills and snorting or injecting them, or selling them to feed their original addiction. In an effort to block this, naloxone (an opioid antagonist which eliminates the high) was added to the pills. This didn’t solve the problem, and compliance by patients who are “justice system involved” continued to be poor, with only 8% of those treated staying clean.

The New York Times and the DEA spun these problems as fatal to use of the drug in treatment of addiction. Here’s the DEA in July 2013:

Like other opioids commonly abused, buprenorphine is capable of producing significant euphoria. Data from other countries indicate that buprenorphine has been abused by various routes of administration (sublingual, intranasal and injection) and has gained popularity as a heroin substitute and as a primary drug of abuse. Large percentages of the drug abusing populations in some areas of France, Ireland, Scotland, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and New Zealand have reported abusing buprenorphine by injection and in combination with a benzodiazepine.

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) is a DEA database that collects scientifically verified data on drug items and cases submitted to and analyzed by state and local forensic laboratories. The System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) provides information on drug seizures reported to and analyzed by DEA laboratories. In 2012, federal, state and local forensic laboratories identified 10,804. In the first quarter of 2013, 1,905 buprenorphine exhibits were identified.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN ED), an estimated 21,483 emergency department visits were associated with nonmedical use of buprenorphine in 2011, nearly five times the 4,440 estimated number of buprenorphine ED visits in 2006. The American Association of Poison Control Centers Annual Report indicates that U.S. poison centers recorded 3,625 case mentions and three deaths involving toxic exposure from buprenorphine in 2011.[6]

Crisis! Three deaths! As compared to the 28,000 dead from other opioids. This can’t be allowed.

The New York Times spun their 2013 story to emphasize buprenorphine abuse:

Mr. Schneider was staying in his parents’ basement when he washed down 40 sleeping pills with NyQuil and beer. His father heard him gasping and intervened, a reprieve that led Mr. Schneider into rehab, not his first program, but the one where he discovered buprenorphine, a substitute opioid used to treat opioid addiction.

In the two years since, by taking his “bupe” twice daily and meeting periodically with the prescribing psychiatrist, Mr. Schneider, 38, has rebounded. He is sober, remarried, employed building houses, half of a new acoustic duo and one of the many addicts who credit buprenorphine, sold mostly in a compound called Suboxone, with saving their lives.

Suboxone did not save Miles Malone, 20; it killed him. In 2010, a friend texted Mr. Malone an invitation to use the drug recreationally — “we can do the suboxins as soon as I give them to u, right, dude?” — and he died that night in South Berwick, Me., of buprenorphine poisoning. The friend, Shawn Verrill, was sentenced this summer to 71 months in prison.

“I didn’t know you could overdose on Suboxone,” Mr. Verrill said in an interview at a federal prison in Otisville, N.Y. “We were just a bunch of friends getting high and hanging out, doing what 20-year-olds do. Then we went to sleep, and Miles never woke up.”

Suboxone is the blockbuster drug most people have never heard of. Surpassing well-known medications like Viagra and Adderall, it generated $1.55 billion in United States sales last year, its success fueled by an exploding opioid abuse epidemic and the embrace of federal officials who helped finance its development and promoted it as a safer, less stigmatized alternative to methadone.

But more than a decade after Suboxone went on the market, and with the Affordable Care Act poised to bring many more addicts into treatment, the high hopes have been tempered by a messy reality. Buprenorphine has become both medication and dope: a treatment with considerable successes and also failures, as well as a street and prison drug bedeviling local authorities. It has attracted unscrupulous doctors and caused more health complications and deaths than its advocates acknowledge.

It has also become a lucrative commodity, creating moneymaking opportunities — for manufacturers, doctors, drug dealers and even patients — that have undermined a public health innovation meant for social good. And the drug’s problems have emboldened some insurers to limit coverage of the medication, which cost state Medicaid agencies at least $857 million over a three-year period through 2012, a New York Times survey found.[7]

Thus the need for a drug delivery system that didn’t allow for easy diversion or abuse, and delivered a constant dose of the medication without requiring the patient to remember to take it. Titan Pharmaceutical’s Probuphine, an implantable form of buprenorphine, started development in 2000, was rejected by the FDA in April 2013 for what appear to be murky reasons, and is up for approval again in 2016 after a three-year delay to gather more data to answer FDA questions. The episode looks like an instance of Bootleggers and Baptists overregulation, with vested interests blocking a much-needed new drug implant to protect their interests while throwing up a cloud of “concerns” to justify their actions.

Titan began development of the drug implant in 2000 after licensing the patent from MIT in 1996. At the beginning of development, buprenorphine was approved and in use for anti-addiction treatment in France and Australia, but was awaiting more studies and FDA approval in the US. When the FDA approved buprenorphine tablets in 2002 under the then-new law allowing opioids to be prescribed for addiction treatment, Titan appeared to have a winning idea on its hands after the DEA and FDA soured on the bright early hopes for tablet-delivered buprenorphine — Titan’s implantable form would address all of the issues that so concerned the DEA and improve success rates among addict populations.

But the FDA rejected Titan’s application in April of 2013 despite the positive recommendation of their panel of outside medical experts, a rare event. The company’s stock dropped by 80%, typical when a small drug company’s key development project is rejected. One biotech publication outlined the FDA’s position:

In the end, a vote by an outside panel of FDA experts favoring approval of Titan Pharmaceuticals’ Probuphine didn’t influence the outcome at all. Agency staffers stuck with the opinions outlined in a harsh internal review and rejected the opioid addiction drug, outlining some extensive demands for new clinical data that would be needed for an approval.

In a statement, Titan ($TTNP) outlined three key requirements on new efficacy data. Titan will have to offer clear evidence of:

• The ability of Probuphine to provide opioid blockade of relevant doses of agonists.
• The effect of higher doses of Probuphine, ideally doses more closely approximating the blood plasma levels associated with sublingual doses of buprenorphine of 12 to 16 mg/day.
• Human factors testing of the training associated with Probuphine’s insertion and removal.

The FDA’s panel had voted 10 to four in favor of an approval, but the agency had no problem overlooking the majority support along with Titan’s claim that Phase III data demonstrated that Probuphine, an implant that releases buprenorphine over a period of 6 months, was better than a placebo at preventing addicts from using illicit opioids. Investigators also said it was noninferior to the approved therapy. But staffers picked apart that argument in the internal review.[8]

The outside panel recognized that while results were not perfect, Titan’s product was needed immediately and offered enough advantages over alternatives to merit approval. FDA staff decided to reject the drug and require several more years of studies and delays before looking at it again.

Remember, this is a widely-used drug since 2002, and the company had been at work on the required studies for many years before bringing it to the FDA for approval in 2013. The delay nearly killed the company and the implant product, and Titan was forced to sell rights to the drug to another company, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, to get enough money to continue.

Because the FDA is an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy, no one knows how often their decisions are swayed by politics and under-the-table influence-peddling. Doctors can be stubborn and view themselves as protecting the public, or require even more proof of efficacy, or perhaps can be influenced by communications from Big Pharma interests who might see opioid revenues decline if better treatments for opioid addiction became available. No one knows or can know whether improper influence occurred in this case — it’s best to assume erroneous belief, rather than corruption, causes this kind of damaging mistake.

Titan came back to the FDA with the requested new studies, and a hearing was held January 13, 2016. The Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee again has recommended approval, this time by a vote of 12-5. But again, some panelists were against approval, working hard to come up with reasons to deny a new treatment to people with life-threatening addictions:

Probuphine works like a contraceptive implant, such as Norplant. Four implanted rods, each smaller than a matchstick, provide a steady amount of medication for up to 6 months. The FDA is considering approving it for a specific population: “stable” patients who are already taking the dissolvable buprenorphine film at a low dose. The committee voted 12-5 in favor of probuphine.

“I think this will save some folks’ lives,” said advisory committee member David Pickar, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore.

Doctors who want to prescribe probuphine would have to refer patients to providers trained to implant medical devices, or undergo training to learn how to safely implant and remove it, said Behshad Sheldon, president and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, who spoke at Tuesday’s advisory committee hearing.

Implanting probuphine takes 10 to 15 minutes and removing it takes about 20 minutes, said Steven Chavoustie, a physician involved in a clinical trial of the device.

Pharmacist Tracy Rupp urged the committee to reject probuphine, noting that its manufacturer presented only one clinical study showing the drug was effective.

In the study, doctors compared the use of probuphine implants and buprenorphine film, Sheldon said. Patients in the study were considered “stable” because they had been safely using the films. After 6 months, 85% of those given probuphine tested negative for illegal drugs, compared to 72% of those given the film.

The study had multiple flaws, said Rupp, director of public health policy initiatives at the National Center for Health Research, a nonpartisan group that analyzes health data.

Some missing urine tests were counted as negative, as if the patient had no drugs in their system. But Rupp noted that people addicted to opiates “often skip tests to avoid a positive test.” That could skew the results, Rupp said.

“It is disappointing that the advisory committee set such a low bar for safety and effectiveness,” Rupp said after the vote. “Is probuphine effective? We still don’t know because the study was poorly designed and missing data.”

Judith Kramer, the committee’s acting chairwoman, said she voted against recommending probuphine’s approval because doctors don’t yet know if it’s effective for more than 6 months. Many people who are addicted to opiates need to take medication for years, she added.[9]

Notice the proposed use is now restricted to patients already on the film form of the drug, and the advantages—six months guaranteed compliance, for example—are ignored in favor of nitpicking, as if the efficacy of the drug itself has to be proven all over again. The goalposts have been moved. The FDA will rule soon, and may well reject the drug again despite the positive panel recommendation.

Meanwhile, the magnitude of the opioid addiction crisis has only grown, with recent headlines about flat life expectancy among older white women which some blame on epidemic opioid addictions among the poorer folk of the depressed parts of the US. The New York Times weighed in again as Congress and the White House prepared to try again to address the crisis:

Methadone, a liquid opioid that patients must drink every day under supervision at a methadone clinic, has been in use since the Vietnam War; it was approved to help the many soldiers coming back with heroin addiction. Before that, “treatment” usually consisted of a) jail and b) nothing else…

Waiting lists for these therapies are enormous. According to research by the RAND Corporation, 90 percent of the counties in the United States have no methadone clinic or fall very far short of the need, even though having a local clinic is crucial, because patients must visit daily. The shortage is especially acute in rural areas, where opioid and heroin addiction are spreading fast.

As for Suboxone, 43 percent of counties don’t have doctors who can prescribe it, or have far fewer than needed. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, while 900,000 doctors across the United States are licensed to write prescriptions for opioid painkillers, only 32,000 are allowed to prescribe Suboxone….

Just as a contraceptive implant in a patient’s arm releases a steady dose over time, the new Probuphine implant releases a consistent, low dose of buprenorphine for six months. Three studies — this one, this one and a not-yet peer-reviewed study — found that Probuphine was better than a placebo implant and better than Suboxone pills at reducing illicit drug use, measured by urine tests…. Probuphine was designed to solve three problems with Suboxone. One was the chance of resale or accidental exposure to the pills. “Also, there’s the opportunity for non-adherence — people forget, or don’t take their dose, which leaves them vulnerable again,” [Richard Rosenthal, medical director of addiction psychiatry at Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System in New York] said. The other issue is that medicines have peaks and troughs. “People on various medications may have increased cravings during those troughs.”

…I spoke with a man named David, a firefighter in a Boston suburb who wanted to be identified only by his first name. After doing well on Suboxone, he participated in the latest trial of Probuphine. When he was taking the pill, he said, he could feel it kick in every morning, “like drinking a good cup of coffee,” he said. “With the implant there was a much more consistent feeling of normalcy. I just felt perfectly normal all the time.”[10]

On May 11th, Congress passed a new package of bills aimed at fighting the epidemic — and the White House asked for $1.1 billion in new money to fund the effort:

House members are expected to overwhelmingly approve a total of 18 bills this week focused on opioid addiction, treatment and prevention.

On Wednesday, the House easily passed 10 of those bills, including legislation by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., to create an inter-agency task force to update standards for doctors to manage their patients’ pain and prescribe painkillers. Lawmakers also approved a bill requiring states that receive federal grants for child protective services to have laws or programs in place to ensure that infants born to opioid-addicted mothers will be cared for safely when they leave the hospital.

More bills will be taken up Thursday.

“This historic package of anti-drug bills will deliver critical funds to address the abuse of heroin and opiates, support our loved ones on their path towards recovery, and slow the flow of drugs into our country,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., praised the bipartisan action but said it must be fully funded to do any good. Democrats offered an amendment Wednesday to provide $600 million in emergency funding, but it was blocked by Republicans who said the money will come later when Congress passes its 2017 spending bills for federal agencies.[11]

Eighteen bills! That will surely fix the problem, and $1.1 billion will fund thousands more social workers and functionaries to administer new programs.

Simple folk may wonder why all doctors can’t prescribe buprenorphine as they do Oxycontin and Percocet, which are more dangerous to life and health. Or why Titan’s implant form has been so long delayed by the FDA. More dead people is apparently preferred to letting the doctors and suffering patients start treating the addictions.

And now let’s get back to Prince, who died alone on the floor of an elevator because he — despite his wealth and intelligence — didn’t seek out a local doctor to prescribe buprenorphine:

Prince was found dead one day before he was scheduled to meet with a California doctor in an attempt to kick an addiction to painkillers, an attorney with knowledge of the death investigation said Tuesday.

Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a national authority on opioid addiction treatment, was called by Prince representatives the night of April 20 because Prince “was dealing with a grave medical emergency,” said William Mauzy, a prominent Minneapolis attorney working with the Kornfeld family.

Kornfeld, who runs Recovery Without Walls in Mill Valley, Calif., could not clear his schedule to meet with Prince the next day, April 21, but he planned to fly out the following day.

So he sent his son, Andrew Kornfeld, who works with him, to Minnesota, with plans for him to go to Paisley Park to explain how the confidential treatment would work, Mauzy said.

“The plan was to quickly evaluate his health and devise a treatment plan,” Mauzy said, speaking on behalf of the Kornfelds. “… The doctor was planning on a lifesaving mission.”

…When Andrew Kornfeld arrived at Paisley Park at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Prince’s representatives could not find him, Mauzy said. Andrew Kornfeld was one of three people at Paisley Park when the musician’s body was found in an elevator a few minutes later — and it was Andrew Kornfeld who called 911.[12]

Too late by a day. Meanwhile, some Minneapolis doctors are darkly critical of Kornfeld for not getting in touch with one of them.[13] It’s not known why Prince or his staff chose to seek treatment from Kornfeld’s California clinic instead of local doctors, but presumably the local doctors Prince had seen weren’t proactive in getting him off opioids, for whatever reason.

Prince had been treated at an ER six days before his death, apparently for an overdose. This is probably what started the search for a private clinic that could treat him for opioid addiction.[14] He may also have had the flu, and the immune system involvement may have turned his customary dose deadly.[15]

78 people a day die from opioid overdose[16]. 28,000 people a year, more than all non-suicide deaths from guns. Yet life-saving treatments are being bottled up by regulatory delay and a strange if-you-can’t-kick-the-addiction-you-deserve-to-die attitude. Congress and the FDA need to give doctors the freedom to help patients, and give patients the freedom to get treatment free of bureaucratic delays and costly requirements.

The FDA was founded to assure consumers that the foods and drugs they were purchasing were pure and as labelled, unadulterated, and useful for the ailments they claimed to treat — remember that the FDA was originated in 1906 by passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act.[17] Mission creep and continued expansion of safety and efficacy-proving study requirements led to the current morass, where new drugs take a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars to win approval. This is the underlying reason for high drug prices and reduced competition, as small companies like Titan are crushed by vested interests. Many life-saving drugs are available overseas for many years before they are approved in the US.

Prince — and hundreds of thousands of other overdose victims — might still be alive and creating music today if it were not for the commissars at the FDA and the drug warriors of the DEA, aided by a Congress easily pressured into limiting the people’s freedom to decide what they want to put into their own bodies. Having well-paid bureaucratic busybodies decide every aspect of your life for you is what brought us to this learned helplessness that is slowing growth and leading to lives of unemployed and aimless despair and addiction.

UPDATED 2 JUNE 2016:

The preliminary autopsy report has been released showing cause of death as an overdose of Fentanyl, an opioid stronger than morphine or heroin. The report is minimal and gives no hint of what investigators might have found or what legal actions Prince’s doctors may face.

For further reading:

– A deep dive story: “Suboxone Saves Lives. Could It Have Saved Prince?” by Zachary Siegel, Daily Beast, 5-13-2016[18]
– Website of The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment.[19] If you or a loved one are addicted to opioids, seek out an authorized doctor.

Postscript: Others are reporting further speculation about the two doctors on scene when Prince’s body was discovered. TMZ has spun up a conspiracy theory based on leaked police reports — we’ll soon know more when the autopsy report is made public, but they suggest (contrary to Dr. Kornfeld’s son’s statements) that buprenorphine might have been given to Prince before his death. If that were true, it’s well-known that incautious addition of buprenorphine to an existing high level of opiates can precipitate a withdrawal crisis. While I doubt this version of events is what happened, if it turns out to be true we will have another celebrity doctor trial fiasco a la Michael Jackson’s. Kornfeld’s son is on shaky legal ground and Prince’s local doctor could reasonably be accused of malpractice.

Here’s a bit from TMZ’s latest story:

As we reported, Prince’s doctor, Michael Schulenberg, told authorities he went to Prince’s home to personally deliver test results. Andrew Kornfeld, the son of California rehab Dr. Howard Kornfeld, was also present and had Buprenorphine pills in his backpack. The pills are used to treat opiate addiction.

Andrew’s lawyer held a news conference saying Andrew was not there to personally administer the drug, but he was there to deliver the pills to a local doctor. That’s why cops think it might be more than coincidental Kornfeld and Dr. Schulenberg were there at the same time … when Prince died.

As for the drugs … medical experts say a combination of Percocet and Buprenorphine can be fatal because both drugs suppress breathing, and the combination creates a dangerous synergistic effect.
If the toxicology results show both drugs were in Prince’s system and contributed to his death, Dr. Schulenberg and Andrew Kornfeld would be questioned again to determine if either of them gave Prince the Buprenorphine and what tests were done to determine the level of Percocet in his system.

Stay tuned — much of this speculation may evaporate when the autopsy report is released.

PPS: More news on the Prince death investigation here: Update on: Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine

Footnotes:

[1] Many people get no more pain relief from oral opioids than they do from non-addictive painkillers like ibuprofen, and opioids have serious side-effects like constipation. But others do get relief they need, and very few get addicted under typical short-term use.
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/23/sunday-review/the-soaring-cost-of-the-opioid-economy.html
[4] “Why We Need More Resources for the Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic,” White House Blog, Michael Botticelli, May 12, 2016
https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/05/12/why-we-need-more-resources-prescription-opioid-and-heroin-epidemic
[5] “What exactly is Buprenorphine?” The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment
http://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=2
[6] “BUPRENORPHINE: (Trade Names: Buprenex®, Suboxone®, Subutex®)” July 2013 Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control, Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section
http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/buprenorphine.pdf
[7] “Addiction Treatment With a Dark Side,”
by Deborah Sontagnov. New York Times, Nov 16, 2013

[8] “FDA steamrolls over panel vote, spurns Titan’s addiction drug Probuphine,” by John Carroll, FierceBiotech, May 1, 2013. http://www.fiercebiotech.com/regulatory/updated-fda-steamrolls-over-panel-vote-spurns-titan-s-addiction-drug-probuphine
[9] “Panel recommends FDA approve implant to treat opiate addiction,” Liz Szabo, USA TODAY January 12, 2016.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/01/12/implant-aims-help-addicts-stop-using-heroin-prescription-painkillers/78677618/
Also, the Titan press release: https://braeburnpharmaceuticals.com/titan-pharmaceuticals-and-braeburn-pharmaceuticals-announce-fda-advisory-committee-recommends-approval-of-probuphine-first-6-month-implant-to-treat-opioid-addiction/
[10] “Medicines to Keep Addiction Away,”
By Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, February 16, 2016

[11] “House passes package of bills to fight opioid addiction,” by Erin Kelly, USA TODAY, May 11, 2016
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/05/11/house-begins-passing-package-bills-fight-epidemic-opioid-addiction/84203944/
[12] “Prince died amid frantic plans for drug addiction treatment,” by David Chanen, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 4, 2016
http://www.startribune.com/addiction-doctor-was-to-have-seen-prince-just-before-his-death/378051471/
[13] “Questions: Did Prince’s call for help get right response?” by Carla K. Johnson, AP Medical Writer, SFGate May 7, 2016
http://www.sfgate.com/news/medical/article/Death-raises-questions-Did-Prince-die-of-an-7392407.php
[14] “Prince Treated for Overdose Days Before Death,” TMZ, 4/21/2016
http://www.tmz.com/2016/04/21/prince-treated-drug-overdose-dead/
[15] “Experts say flu, opioid use can be deadly combination,” Melinda Carsten, Foxnews, 4-22-2016
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/04/22/awaiting-prince-s-autopsy-results-experts-say-flu-opioid-use-can-be-deadly-combination.html
[16] “End the 30/100 Patient limits on Care,” National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment, accessed 5-16-2016.
http://www.naabt.org/reasons.cfm
[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Food_and_Drug_Act
[18] Suboxone Saves Lives. Could It Have Saved Prince?
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/14/suboxone-saves-lives-could-it-have-saved-prince.html
[19] http://www.naabt.org/


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

FDA Wants More Lung Cancer

E-Cigarette - FDA Vaping Rules

E-Cigarette – FDA Vaping Rules

The post Bootleggers and Baptists touched on the corrupt bargain now bringing together a coalition to suppress vaping (close to harmless) as a substitute for cigarettes (cause of most lung cancer deaths.)

The FDA has announced their plan to regulate vaping (and cigars, etc.), which seems designed to drive all vaping products off the market — except those provided by Big Tobacco companies. As usual with the FDA, the process for getting approval will be lengthy and costly, when a simple filing of ingredients (and prohibition of dangerous ones) would be cheap and quick. Only the largest companies will be able to afford the approval process.

The New York Times story:

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration made final sweeping new rules that for the first time extend federal regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, popular nicotine delivery devices that have grown into a multibillion-dollar business with virtually no federal oversight or protections for American consumers.

The 499-page regulatory road map has broad implications for public health, the tobacco industry and the nation’s 40 million smokers. The new regulations would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to Americans under 18 and would require that many people buying them show photo identification to prove their age, measures already mandated in a number of states.

The long-awaited regulations shift the terms of the intense public debate over e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without the harmful tar and chemicals that cause cancer. The devices were introduced about a decade ago and have exploded in popularity. There are an estimated 9 million adult e-cigarette users in the United States.

But they have sharply divided American public health experts. The central question is whether they help people stop smoking — or whether they are a gateway to traditional cigarettes, especially for younger people. Health experts in Britain have decided they are effective in helping people quit, and have urged smokers there to switch to them. American experts have been more cautious, warning that they may eventually result in young people moving from vaping to smoking traditional cigarettes.

The answer is important because smoking is still the largest cause of preventable death, with over 480,000 tobacco-related deaths each year in the United States.

The regulations, which will take effect in 90 days, establish oversight of what has been a market free-for-all of products, including vials of liquid nicotine of varying quality and unknown provenance. Finalizing them has taken years. They stem from a major tobacco-control law Congress passed in 2009 and were first proposed in draft form in 2014….

Perhaps the biggest change is a requirement that producers of cigars and e-cigarettes register with the F.D.A., provide the agency with a detailed accounting of their products’ ingredients, and disclose their manufacturing processes and scientific data. Producers will be subject to F.D.A. inspections and will not be able to market their products as “light” or “mild,” unless the F.D.A. allowed them to. Companies will be prohibited from giving out free samples….

The American Vaping Association, a trade group for the industry, seemed to take that view, arguing in a statement on Thursday that the agency had gone too far. “This is not regulation — it is prohibition,” the group said in a statement. It said the process for submitting an application, in terms of number of hours spent, would exceed a million dollars.

But federal health officials countered that the industry will have ample time to respond to the rules. Companies with products on the market now, including vape shops that mix their own liquids, will have two years to submit an application to the F.D.A. for approval of a product. It can stay on the market for another year while the agency reviews the application.

As for the cost, officials and advocates said it was too soon to tell, but added that there was broad agreement — including in federal statute — that the industry needed to be regulated, not unlike the food industry, for example, and that these rules were a thoughtful way to accomplish that. Mr. Zeller. said that until now the industry had been the “wild, wild West.”

…The rules also impose regulations on all tobacco cigars, a tougher move than originally anticipated as the agency was pondering excluding so-called premium cigars….

“At last, the Food and Drug Administration will have basic authority to make science-based decisions that will protect our nation’s youth and the public health from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah,” Harold P. Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

The F.D.A. announcement followed a ruling by Europe’s highest court on Wednesday upholding the right of the European Union to place restrictions on the sale of electronic cigarettes. Europe’s rules are to take effect this month.

So based on so-far-unfounded speculation that vaping will induce kids to smoke regular cigarettes, regulators who purport to care about the millions of deaths due to lung cancer will, in effect, make it more difficult and expensive to quit cigarette smoking by using the much-less-harmful e-cigarettes.

I don’t vape and I suspect vaping has some minor negative health effects, but relatively speaking they’ve already been shown to be minimal. Yet the knee-jerk reaction is to clamp down on something these regulators don’t do or know much about, because it *resembles* cigarette smoking and those poor weak-minded citizens need to be protected. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that vaping threatens tax revenues and the business models of both Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, and the approvals process is designed to suit Big Tobacco while shutting out small companies.

From the Bootleggers and Baptists post:

Tobacco: Vaping equipment, or e-cigs, provide the appearance of cigarettes and a dose of the nicotine smokers crave in a delivery format (evaporated carrier with nicotine and flavoring) that is much less harmful to smoker’s lungs. Many experts recommended smokers switch to e-cigs immediately, since harm to their health would be much reduced. But e-cigs threaten both the makers of the highly-regulated and taxed legacy cigarettes and the makers of smoking cessation products like nicotine gum and patches — often the same companies! So paid “medical authorities” and lobbyists began to work hard to promote the view that the new and untested e-cigs were just as hazardous — if not more hazardous, since their long-term effects were unknown! — than traditional cigarettes. Cato’s Regulation put out a good paper on the Bootleggers-and-Baptists pattern in this new propaganda war:

Now consider the situation with electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and their incumbent competitors: tobacco companies that produce and sell traditional cigarettes and drug companies that produce nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs). The U.S. cigarette market has been regulated, one way or another, since colonial times. Along the way, federal regulation—coupled most recently with the state attorneys general Master Settlement Agreement (MSA, about which we say more later)—effectively cartelized the industry, bringing increased profits to the industry and higher cigarette prices and reduced cigarette consumption throughout the nation. Falling cigarette consumption gladdened the hearts of health advocates, who fought for the elimination of tobacco products, while higher industry profits brought joy to tobacco company owners.

This happy Bootlegger/Baptist equilibrium is now threatened by the exploding sales of e-cigs, a new technology for delivering nicotine to all who want it without simultaneously bringing the harmful combustion-induced chemicals associated with burned tobacco. Today, there are many e-cig producers and numerous small shops selling e-cigs and customized nicotine-dispensing products. It is a rapidly evolving market that has been relatively open to new entrants and innovation in product design. Given the quick growth in e-cig use (much of which comes at the expense of cigarette sales), previous political deals that stabilized tobacco industry profits are at risk. The major tobacco companies are understandably not sitting idle. They, too, have entered the e-cig marketplace and are responding in other ways to the new competition.

The major pharmaceutical companies have not been idle either. The makers of smoking cessation products, including NRTs such as the nicotine patch and nicotine gum, are major players in the politics of tobacco and nicotine. The producers of traditional nicotine delivery devices and NRTs are at work trying to stop the disruptive e-cig producers. These Bootleggers are joined by health advocates (Baptists) who raise questions about unknown potentially harmful effects that may be associated with e-cig use. Both groups—cigarette and NRT producers on the one hand, and health advocates on the other—would like to stop new e-cig producers or severely crimp their ability to compete.

Lawfare between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general was settled in 1998 with the MSA (Master Settlement Agreement), which set the payments due to the states to compensate them for the additional Medicare and Medicaid costs states would bear because of tobacco products. The agreement was carefully designed to send money to the states while protecting the incumbent manufacturers from competition, allowing them to raise prices more than required to pay the fines.

Again from Cato’s paper:

The heart of the MSA was the promised payment of $206 billion by the four participating cigarette companies to the participating states. Those payments would be tax deductible and the costs would be paid by consumers in the form of higher cigarette prices. (Because cigarette consumption is highly price inelastic, the cost of the price increase was largely borne by consumers rather than producers.) The MSA presented state legislatures with a simple choice: either accept the MSA, in which case they would be able to spend their state’s share of the billions of dollars raised from smokers, or reject the proposed statute and their states’ smokers would still pay the higher prices necessary to fund the deal but they would lose their claim on the money. Not surprisingly, every state legislature took the money.

Responsibility for the payments was allocated among the cigarette companies in proportion to their current market share, thereby reducing the incentive for the participating cigarette companies to engage in price competition to increase their respective market shares. The structure of the MSA thus provided a powerful incentive for each company to be satisfied with the status quo.

The MSA also attempted to protect the major cigarette companies from new competition. At the time of the agreement, the four participating cigarette companies accounted for about 99 percent of domestic cigarette sales. Increasing cigarette prices to pay for the settlement risked a loss of market share to marginal competitors or new entrants. Therefore the MSA provided that for every percent of market share over 2 percent lost by a participating cigarette manufacturer, the manufacturer would be allowed to reduce its payments to the states by 3 percent, unless each participating state enacted a statute to prevent price competition from non-participating manufacturers (which each state did). The statutes require nonparticipating cigarette producers to make payments equal to or greater than what they would owe had they been participants in the agreement, to eliminate any cost advantage.

The MSA also included restrictions on cigarette marketing practices agreed to by the participating producers. The advertising limits were portrayed as a public health measure because they reduced advertising that could influence young adults and teens. The limits also reinforced the anticompetitive nature of the MSA by making it more costly for new brands or entrants to secure market share through promotional efforts.

The MSA’s cartel-reinforcing provisions sufficiently suppressed competition to enable cigarette companies to take advantage of the price inelasticity of cigarette demand and obtain record profits. This made it possible for the major cigarette manufacturers to increase prices by more than was necessary to make the mandated MSA payments.

Having made a deal to get big money for states and attorneys while protecting the companies from competition and raising prices more than enough to make the addicted smokers themselves pay the full cost of the settlement, many of the states decided to grab their money immediately by selling municipal (federal tax-free) bonds backed by the MSA payments expected. California alone issued at least $16.8 billion in such bonds, proceeds being used for both immediate expenses and long-term capital improvements. Legislators appear to have forgotten that the supposed purpose of the payments was to cover smoking-related expenses of future medical care for the state’s population, and instead chose to spend the money immediately on unrelated matters while leaving the burden of those health expenses with future taxpayers.

In some cases, however, the bonds are backed by secondary pledges of state or local revenues, which creates what some see as a perverse incentive to support the tobacco industry, on whom they are now dependent for future payments against this debt.

Tobacco revenue has fallen more quickly than projected when the securities were created, leading to technical defaults in some states. Some analysts predict that many of the bonds will default entirely. Many of the longer-term bonds have been downgraded to junk ratings. More recently, financial analysts began raising concerns that the rapid growth of the electronic cigarette market is accelerating the decline of $97 billion outstanding in tobacco bonds…. Lawmakers in several states proposed measures to tax e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco products to offset the decline in TMSA revenue. They anticipate that taxing or banning e-cigarettes would be beneficial to the sale of combustible cigarettes. — Wikipedia on “Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement”

Vested interests, including tobacco companies and the states, now actively seek to suppress e-cigs or at least tax them enough to make up for any lost revenue as they are adopted. This means they are actively working to keep smokers addicted to the most hazardous form of nicotine consumption, with its resultant cancers and other diseases. The original Baptist goal of helping smokers quit the habit to avoid cancer and early death has long since been forgotten.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegregation Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Why Did Black Crime Syndicates Fail to Go Legit?

Black Guerrilla Gang

Black Guerrilla Gang

Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting long essay in The New Yorker about the gradual going-straight and assimilation into respectable society of the Italian crime families (“Mafia”) of the 50s.

The Lupollos were not really called the Lupollos, of course; nor was Uncle Phil really named Philip Alcamo. Ianni changed names and identifying details in his published work. The patriarch of the Lupollo clan he called Giuseppe. Giuseppe was born in the eighteen-seventies in the Corleone district of western Sicily. He came to New York in 1902, with his wife and their two young sons, and settled in Little Italy. He imported olive oil and ran an “Italian bank,” which was used for loan-sharking operations. When a loan could not be repaid, he would take an equity stake in his debtor’s business. He started a gambling operation, and moved into bootlegging; during Prohibition, the business branched out into trucking, garbage collection, food products, and real estate. He recruited close relatives to help him build his businesses—first, his wife’s cousin Cosimo Salemi, then his son, Joe, then his daughter-in-law’s brother, Phil Alcamo, and then the husband of his granddaughter, Pete Tucci. “From all accounts, he was a patriarch, at once kindly and domineering,” Ianni wrote of Giuseppe. “Within the family, all important decisions were reserved for him. . . . Outside of the family, he was feared and respected.” The family moved from Little Italy to a row house in Brooklyn, and from there—one by one—to Queens and Long Island, as its enterprise grew to encompass eleven businesses totalling tens of millions of dollars in assets.

“A Family Business” was the real-life version of “The Godfather,” the movie adaptation of which was released the same year. But Ianni’s portrait was markedly different from the romanticized accounts of Mafia life that have subsequently dominated popular culture. There were no blood oaths in Ianni’s account, or national commissions or dark conspiracies. There was no splashy gunplay. No one downed sambuca shots at Jilly’s, on West Fifty-second Street, with Frank Sinatra. The Lupollos lived modestly. Ianni gives little evidence, in fact, that the four families had any grand criminal ambitions beyond the illicit operations they ran out of storefronts in Brooklyn. Instead, from Giuseppe’s earliest days in Little Italy, the Lupollo clan was engaged in a quiet and determined push toward respectability.

By 1970, Ianni calculated, there were forty-two fourth-generation members of the Lupollo-Salemi-Alcamo-Tucci family—of which only four were involved in the family’s crime businesses. The rest were firmly planted in the American upper middle class. A handful of the younger members of that generation were in private schools or in college. One was married to a judge’s son, another to a dentist. One was completing a master’s degree in psychology; another was a member of the English department at a liberal-arts college. There were several lawyers, a physician, and a stockbroker. Uncle Phil’s son Basil was an accountant, who lived on an estate in the posh Old Westbury section of Long Island’s North Shore. “His daughter rides and shows her own horses,” Ianni wrote, “and his son has some reputation as an up-and-coming young yachtsman.” Uncle Phil, meanwhile, lived in Manhattan, collected art, and frequented the opera. “The Lupollos love to tell of old Giuseppe’s wife Annunziata visiting Phil’s apartment,” Ianni wrote. “Her comment on the lavish collection of paintings was ‘manga nu Santa’ (‘not even one saint’s picture’).”

The moral of the “Godfather” movies was that the Corleone family, conceived in crime, could never escape it. “Just when I thought I was out,” Michael Corleone says, “they pull me back in.” The moral of “A Family Business” was the opposite: that for the Lupollos and the Tuccis and the Salemis and the Alcamos—and, by extension, many other families just like them—crime was the means by which a group of immigrants could transcend their humble origins. It was, as the sociologist James O’Kane put it, the “crooked ladder” of social mobility.

The piece has more interesting material about the Italian crime family’s climb to respectability. Gladwell highlights another book to ask the differential question: why were the black drug gangs of the 70s-90s not able to make the same transition? It may be that declining police corruption, and a lack of political friends in high places to protect their underground business, kept them from getting any traction in the upward climb:

Fast-forward two generations and, with any luck, the grandchildren of the loan sharks and the street thugs would be riding horses in Old Westbury. It had happened before. Wouldn’t it happen again?

This is one of the questions at the heart of the sociologist Alice Goffman’s extraordinary new book, “On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City.” The story she tells, however, is very different.

….

Chuck and Mike were criminals: they were complicit in the barbarism of the drug trade. But, in the Mertonian sense, they were also innovators. Goffman describes how they craved success in mainstream society. They tried to get an education and legitimate jobs, only to find themselves thwarted. Selling crack was a business they entered into only because they believed that all other doors were closed to them. In Chuck’s case, his mother had a serious crack habit. He began dealing at thirteen in order to buy food for the family and to “regulate” his mother’s addiction; if he was her supplier, he figured, she wouldn’t have to turn tricks or sell household possessions to pay for drugs. Chuck’s criminal activities were an attempt to bring some degree of normalcy to his family.

The problem was that on 6th Street crime didn’t pay. Often, Chuck and Mike had no drugs to sell: “their supplier had gotten arrested or was simply unavailable, or the money they owed this ‘connect’ had been seized from their pockets by the police during a stop and search.” And, if they did have drugs, the odds of evading arrest were small. The police saturated 6th Street. Each day, Goffman saw the officers stop young men on the streets, search cars, and make arrests. In her first eighteen months of following Mike and Chuck, she writes:

I watched the police break down doors, search houses and question, arrest, or chase people through houses fifty-two times. Nine times, police helicopters circled overhead and beamed searchlights onto local streets. I noted blocks taped off and traffic redirected as police searched for evidence . . . seventeen times. Fourteen times during my first eighteen months of near daily observation, I watched the police punch, choke, kick, stomp on, or beat young men with their nightsticks.

Years later, when Chuck went through his high-school yearbook with Goffman, he identified almost half the boys in his freshman class as currently in jail or prison. Between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-seven, Mike had spent three and a half years behind bars. He was on probation or parole for eighty-seven weeks of the hundred and thirty-nine weeks that he was out of prison, and made fifty-one court appearances.

The police buried the local male population under a blizzard of arrest warrants: some were “body” warrants for suspected crimes, but most were bench and technical warrants for failure to appear in court or to pay court fees, or for violations of probation or parole. Getting out from under the weight of warrants was so difficult that many young men in the neighborhood lived their lives as fugitives. Mike spent a total of thirty-five weeks on the run, steering clear of friends and loved ones, moving around by night. The young men of the neighborhood avoided hospitals, because police officers congregate there, running checks on those seeking treatment for injuries. Instead, they turned to a haphazard black market for their medical care. The police would set up a tripod camera outside funerals, to record the associates of young men murdered on the streets. The local police, the A.T.F., the F.B.I., and the U.S. Marshals Service all had special warrant units, using computer-mapping software, cell-phone tracking, and intelligence from every conceivable database: Social Security records, court records, hospital-admission records, electricity and gas bills, and employment records. “You hear them coming, that’s it, you gone,” Chuck tells his little brother. “Period. ’Cause whoever they looking for, even if it’s not you, nine times out of ten they’ll probably book you.” Goffman sometimes saw young children playing the age-old game of cops and robbers in the street, only the child acting the part of the robber wouldn’t even bother to run away:

I saw children give up running and simply stick their hands behind their back, as if in handcuffs; push their body up against a car without being asked; or lie flat on the ground and put their hands over their head. The children yelled, “I’m going to lock you up! I’m going to lock you up, and you ain’t never coming home!” I once saw a six-year-old pull another child’s pants down to do a “cavity search.”

When read alongside Ianni, what is striking about Goffman’s book is not the cultural difference between being an Italian thug in the early part of the twentieth century and being an African-American thug today. It’s the role of law enforcement in each era. Chuck’s high-school education ended prematurely after he was convicted of aggravated assault in a schoolyard fight. Another boy called Chuck’s mother a crack whore, and he pushed his antagonist’s face into the snow. In a previous generation, this dispute would not have ended up in the legal system. Until the nineteen-seventies, outstanding warrants in the city of Philadelphia were handled by a two-man team, who would sit in an office during the evening hours and make telephone calls to the homes of people on their list. Anyone stopped by the police could show a fake I.D. Today, there are computers and sometimes even fingerprint machines in squad cars. Between 1960 and 2000, the ratio of police officers to Philadelphia residents rose by almost seventy per cent.

In the previous era, according to Goffman, the police “turned a fairly blind eye” to prostitution, drug dealing, and gambling in poor black neighborhoods. But in the late nineteen-eighties, she writes, “corruption seems to have been largely eliminated as a general practice, at least in the sense of people working at the lower levels of the drug trade paying the police to leave them in peace.”

The entire piece is well worth the ten minutes it takes to read it. But it does seem the earlier immigrant crime families were able to climb a ladder to relative respectability that was never available to inner-city drug gangs.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More on Social Decay:

“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
The High Cost of Divorce
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
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“Postcards from Venezuela”
Ross Douthat on Unstable Families and Culture
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Why Did Black Crime Syndicates Fail to Go Legit?
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Culture Wars: Peace Through Limited Government
Steven Pinker on Harvard and Meritocracy

“Breaking Bad”–The Lessons of Walter White