Ebola: Should profit-seeking drive development of Ebola medicines?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Ebola
HOW WILL A CURE BE FOUND? In addition to corporate and university research, government-funded centers are working on the puzzle. This photo shows a researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, better known as USAMRIID (pronounced you-SAM-rid).

HOW WILL A CURE BE FOUND? In addition to corporate and university research, government-funded centers are working on the puzzle. This photo shows a researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, better known as USAMRIID (pronounced you-SAM-rid).

Have you heard of “Ebolanomics”? It’s what happens when humanitarian needs clash with the profit motive.

So far this week, we’ve discussed how Ebola has dominated the news and our daily conversations, the extent to which people are changing their personal travel plans, whether hysteria makes sense, and the public’s slipping confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle the Ebola threat. Today, we consider the economics of the situation.

“Ebolanomics” has entered our lexicon to refer to the challenges of the business model for developing vaccines or treatments for Ebola. To put it bluntly, drug companies are for-profit enterprises and there isn’t much money to be made in medicines for Ebola or other so-called tropical diseases that predominately afflict the peoples of poor nations. While there is certainly an humanitarian need for these medicines, drug companies aren’t going to make much money by developing them.

Drug companies make much more money by developing and selling medicines for the ills and afflictions of the people of affluent nations. Now, I’m not chiding drug companies for focusing on profits. Making money is an imperative for private companies organized as for-profit, market-driven corporations. And drug companies do considerable philanthropic work.

But the dilemma remains. How do we promote and reward the development of medicines where there is dire human need for them, but little money to be made? Should the government fund the research? Should big prizes be awarded for breakthroughs? These are some of the questions be considered right now by the World Health Organization and other organizations.

Should humanitarian needs outweigh the profit motive?

How would you solve the dilemma?

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Ebola: Does hysteria make sense?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Ebola
10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group

WANT TO WORRY? CLICK ON THE TOP CHART to see it expand and learn the “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group,” the most recent version compiled by the CDC. CLICK ON THE LOWER CHART to see it expand and learn the “10 Leading Causes of INJURY Death by Age Group” from the CDC.

There was a time when hysteria made sense and fleeing for the hills was a prudent survival strategy, notes sociologist Claude Fischer. When yellow fever and cholera were prevalent and the mechanisms of transmission (and hence prevention or treatment) were unknown, leaving town was the best way to avoid illness. Of course, this meant that the burden of a disease fell disproportionately on the poor and the immobile.

Is Ebola another time for hysteria?

Drawing upon history, Fisher argues “that, while alarm and drastic emergency actions are needed in a few West African countries, the U.S. has the expertise and the resources to contain this kind of infectious disease.”

He notes that during the same three-week period in which Thomas Duncan was diagnosed and died, thousands of Americans died from other contagious conditions. Some of these conditions are medically contagious; others are socially contagious:

10 Leading Causes of Injury Death by Age Group“…during an average three-week period in the United States: 35 people die from tuberculosis; 3,200 from influenza and pneumonia–500 of those people under 65 years of age; 1,100 from suicide by gun; 650 from homicide by gun; 1,000 by alcoholic cirrhosis; and 1,900 by motor vehicle accident. These deaths are not only vastly more numerous, they are much more contagious, either in a medical sense or in a sociological sense. Where are screaming headlines for those risks?”

The threat of Ebola has captured our attention. But the diseases and conditions that occur slowly and in some ways acceptably elude our concerns. Fischer questions whether we have the will “to contain the much greater killers like alcoholism, firearm use, and motor vehicles.”

Is hysteria warranted when it comes to Ebola?

Should we be focusing on other killers of Americans?

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Categories: FreedomSecurity

Why wait? Know what happens as soon as you quit smoking?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Why wait?
Quit smoking2

CLICK ONCE ON THIS POSTER, based on CDC data, to see a larger version. Then, you can click again to see the poster in even more detail.

Don’t wait! Do it now!

This week’s Our Values posts have looked at some of the benefits of waiting, and why it is sometimes better to postpone a tough decision.

But that’s definitely a wrong strategy when it comes to your health. If you’re a smoker and want to quit—and are waiting until the end of the year to make that a New Year’s resolution—you’ll miss out on months of better health between now and then.

Many long-term smokers think that they’ve already done permanent damage to their hearts and lungs, and underestimate what they’ll get out of quitting right now.

But the Centers for Disease Control says the benefits kick in nearly immediately. “Within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years,” according to their studies.

As the poster explains, “Within 20 minutes—Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.” Click on the poster to read it in more detail.

Exercise has some of the same benefits, no matter how late you start. “It’s never too late to start exercising,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Exercise has benefits at any age.”

So let’s stop kicking this can down the road, unless we’re kicking an actual can down an actual road.

Know other life changes that shouldn’t wait?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: In recent years, Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. We invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

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What’s up with men? Do our boys face more dangers than our girls?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series What's up with men?
US Dept of Health and Human Services report on dangers boys face

CLICK THE IMAGE to read the entire report.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher. This is the third column in this series …

Remember “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”?

I know it was expanded more than a decade ago to “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” And its current mission is to “inspire a future generation of girls and boys by helping bring them into the workplace to explore the many life choices they have.”

But the original impulse for the annual event, created by the Ms. Foundation in the early 1990s, was “designed to specifically address self-esteem issues unique to girls,” according to a Wikipedia entry. And that is still a very worthy cause. Because, despite their strong gains over the last two generations, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles in business, government and other sectors.

But what do we do about the boys? It’s pretty clear that adolescent boys are much worse off than girls the same age. They’re more likely to drop out of school, to be incarcerated, to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Boys are more likely than girls to be the victims of violent crimes, five times more likely to be victims of homicide. The suicide rate for teenage boys is three and a half times that for teenage girls.

Overall, the mortality rate for boys 15 to 19 is 2.4 times that for girls the same age.

Teenage boys are really suffering in our society today. When we wonder how men got the way they are, we ought to look at how they lived as teenagers.

Do you think taking them to work one day a year will make a difference?

Want to know more about the “talking points” concerning boys that I’ve listed today? Click the image, above, to view a printable PDF version from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher will write four OurValues series in the summer of 2014. In recent years, he has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at OurValuesProject@gmail.com with suggestions for Terry. And, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

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Contraceptive Mandate: Who has the power?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Contraceptive Mandate

The contraceptive mandate brings together so many issues, each of which can be controversial by itself: sex, reproduction, gender, religion, federalism, and more.

Hobby Lobby store at night

What do the employees want? Their preferences aren’t at issue in this case. The chain’s owners and the high court hold the power.

One issue that hasn’t received enough attention is power. Who has the power? Who doesn’t?

This week, we’ve covered various facets of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning religious objections, by corporate owners, to the contraceptive mandate. These include the concept of corporations as persons, women’s rights versus religious rights, and differences in public opinion about the issues from the beginning of the month to just this week.

Today, we consider the issue of power. By power, my focus isn’t the power of the high court to decide these matters. It’s the age-old issue of the power of business owners versus employees. Let’s put aside the issue of religious principles. I know that’s at the heart of the matter, but let’s hold it in order to consider the issue of power.

Employees have very little power vis-à-vis the power of the business owners. Business owners make decisions and impose them on their many employees. Employees don’t have a say.

I would love to see results from an opinion poll of the employees of Hobby Lobby. What are their feelings about the contraceptive mandate? Do they want no-cost access to all contraceptive technologies, including the morning-after pill and IUD? Do they have religious objections? Presumably, some do and some don’t. Each employee has his or her own moral and religious principles that come into play when making decisions about conception and contraceptives.

But the high court will make a decision that sweeps over all employees, one way or the other. This decision might favor the will of corporate owners, or it may not—either way, the employees are voiceless.

Should the employees have a say?

Should their voices be taken into consideration?

Or, does the power reside with the corporate owners?

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Contraceptive Mandate: Survey says?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Contraceptive Mandate

US Supreme Court Building Washington DC Wikimedia CommonsThe U.S. Supreme Court began hearings yesterday on the request to opt out of the contraceptive mandate on the basis of religious principles. Churches and religious organization can opt out, but the issue in front of the court concerns for-profit corporations whose owners object on religious grounds. The Supreme Court may not pay much attention to public opinion, but what do Americans have to say about this issue?

The latest results come from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted just before the high court hearing. Here’s the question:

“Under the new health care law, health insurance plans are required to cover preventive health services, including prescription birth control. Religious organizations are exempt from the requirement that their health plans cover prescription birth control. Do you think other employers who object to birth control and other contraceptives on religious grounds should or should not be exempt from the requirement that their health plans cover prescription birth control?”

How would you answer it?

A majority of Americans (53%) answered that the employers in question should not be exempt from covering birth control in their employee insurance plans. About four of ten (41%) disagree, saying that employers like Hobby Lobby (one of the cases before the court) should be exempt on religious grounds. Only 6% say they are not sure.

Compared to older Americans, young adults (ages 18–34) are much more likely to say that employers shouldn’t be able to opt out on the basis of religious objections. This is yet another way that the values and attitudes of Millennials are distinctive and different from older Americans—differences that we discussed recently on OurValues.org.

How would you answer the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll?

Have your opinions about the contraceptive mandate changed or stayed the same over time?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Contraceptive Mandate: Do corporations have the people’s rights?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Contraceptive Mandate
US Supreme Court blog logo

The “Supreme Court of the United States” (SCOTUS) blog has a lot more about this case and will include updates this week. Click the logo to visit the blog.

The U.S. Supreme Court begins hearings this week on the contraceptive mandate—the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to include birth control in their insurance plans. Several issues are in play—all have to do with values.

One issue is this: Do corporations have religious rights? Are they “people”?

Churches and religious groups are exempt from the contraceptive mandate, meaning that they don’t have to provide this coverage if it violates religious principles. The cases the high court considers this week involve secular corporations whose owners object to the mandate on religious grounds. The companies are Hobby Lobby (owned through a trust by evangelical Christians) and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation (owned by a Mennonite family).

Similar cases heard in federal courts around the country have produced conflicting decisions, which is why this challenge to the Affordable Care Act has risen to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An argument preview on the Supreme Court of the United States blog presents one of the core issues: “At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can ‘exercise’ religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference… In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are ‘people.’ The First Amendment protects the rights ‘of the people,’ and the … law protects the religious rights of ‘persons.’ Do profit-making companies qualify as either?”

Do corporations have religious rights?

Are corporations “people”?

How would you decide the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases?

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