Category Archives: Healthcare

Updates from Chicago Booth

Does mandatory health labeling lead to healthier choices?
By Brian Wallheimer – Obesity is a global epidemic, and the large amounts of calories, fat, sugar, and salt in fast-food and packaged products get much of the blame. In response, some countries, including the United States, mandate posting nutritional information on food packaging on the theory that it helps people make healthier choices.

Recent years have seen a new wave of food packaging reforms. One of the heaviest-handed such interventions is a 2016 Chilean law limiting TV advertising for offending foods. The measure also requires manufacturers to affix prominent black stop signs on the front of food packages warning that the contents are “high in sugar,” “high in saturated fats,” “high in salt,” or “high in calories.” The same or similar labels have since been adopted by many countries including Peru, Mexico, and Israel.

As intended, the warning labels suppressed demand for such foods, according to a study of breakfast cereals in Chile by Bar-Ilan University’s Jorge Alé-Chilet and Chicago Booth’s Sarah Moshary. But the labels affected both consumers and food manufacturers, which immediately started tweaking their product formulations to avoid the labeling requirements, the research finds.

Chile’s breakfast cereal purchases total $194 million a year, Alé-Chilet and Moshary note. Just before the law went into effect, about 13 percent of the cereals fell below the cutoff of 350 calories per 100 grams, which meant that the other 87 percent were required to post a high-calorie warning on their packaging, according to the study. Just after, 28 percent of the market squeaked under the cutoff, leaving 72 percent with the package warnings. more>

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Culture Clash: A Lesson from the Theranos Case

KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON – There’s much more at stake than a potential 20-year prison term for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, whose federal fraud trial opened last week. Her case has come to symbolize the perpetual conflict between big tech and health care.

“It’s a culture clash, to be sure,” Wharton health care management professor Lawton R. Burns said in an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM.

The startup culture in Silicon Valley and beyond moves at warp speed, he said. When investors are enthusiastic about a promising new venture, the hype builds and the dollars roll in. Theranos reached a valuation of $9 billion on a bogus claim that it developed a revolutionary lab test capable of screening for a range of conditions on a single drop of blood. It was exactly the sort of cost-efficient solution that big tech is known for, so it’s little wonder that investors fell for the pitch from the charismatic Holmes, who fashioned herself after Apple visionary Steve Jobs.

But there’s almost always friction when big tech turns its eye toward health care as “virgin turf to apply all of this new, cool stuff to,” said Burns, who is co-author of the book Big Med: Megaproviders and the High Cost of Health Care in America. “The question is whether or not all this stuff is going to work and transform health care or, conversely, at the extreme, just crash and burn.” more>

Why Managers Fear a Remote-Work Future

Like it or not, the way we work has already evolved.
By Ed Zitron – In 2019, Steven Spielberg called for a ban on Oscar eligibility for streaming films, claiming that “movie theaters need to be around forever” and that audiences had to be given “the motion picture theatrical experience” for a movie to be a movie. Spielberg’s fury was about not only the threat that streaming posed to the in-person viewing experience but the ways in which the streaming giant Netflix reported theatrical grosses and budgets, despite these not being the ways in which one evaluates whether a movie is good or not. Netflix held firm, saying that it stood for “everyone, everywhere [enjoying] releases at the same time,” and for “giving filmmakers more ways to share art.” Ultimately, Spielberg balked, and last month his company even signed a deal with Netflix, likely because he now sees the writing on the wall: Modern audiences enjoy watching movies at home.

In key ways, this fight resembles the current remote-work debate in industries such as technology and finance. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, this has often been cast as a battle between the old guard and its assumed necessities and a new guard that has found a better way to get things done. But the narrative is not that tidy. Netflix’s co-founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, one of the great “disruptors” of our age, deemed remote work “a pure negative” last fall. The 60-year-old Hastings is at the forefront of an existential crisis in the world of work, demanding that people return to the office despite not having an office himself. His criticism of remote work is that “not being able to get together in person” is bad. more>

Should vaccinated people worry about long Covid?

Here’s what we know about long Covid — with some hope for the future.
By German Lopez – Over the past few months, experts and officials have tried to prepare the world for a future in which Covid-19 is here to stay. They predict the vaccines will by and large defang the virus. There will still be a few cases of serious illness and death, but the coronavirus will be reduced to the level of a seasonal flu — a disease we’d be much better off without, but mild enough we won’t shut down society to fight it.

But this optimistic vision has always left open a big question: What about long Covid?

Covid-19 is most known for causing acute illness, from a cough and fever to hospitalization and death. But in some cases it seems to cause longer-term complications, including breathing difficulties, fatigue, and brain fog, though the effects vary from person to person. While Covid-19 typically resolves in the span of weeks, long Covid can last at least months after an infection.

“Without treatment, we’ve seen individuals who got sick in February or March of 2020 and are still sick and still extremely debilitated,” David Putrino, who’s treated long Covid patients at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, told me.

These long-term complications aren’t unique to the coronavirus; other viruses, including seasonal flu, cause long-term symptoms too, sometimes similar ones. But as more people have been infected by the coronavirus, and more have subsequently developed long Covid, the long-term problems have received more attention. more>

Apocalypse or co-operation?

The perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change, and resulting economic damage, will likely trigger much more social and political instability.
By Jayati Ghosh – The apocalypse is now. That is the glaring message of the perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change which has broken. The pandemic is unlikely to end for years, as the novel coronavirus mutates into increasingly transmissible, drug-resistant variants. And the climate catastrophe is no longer ‘impending’ but playing out in real time.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—whose assessments predate the extreme climate events of the past year—tells us that some drastic, adverse climatic changes are now irreversible. These will affect every region, as the recent heatwaves, wildfires and floods demonstrate. They will also severely damage many natural species and adversely affect the possibilities for, and conditions of, human life.

Keeping future global warming to a manageable level (even if above the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of 1.5C) will require a massive effort, involving sharp economic-policy reversals in every country. Major changes in the global legal and economic architecture will be essential.

For its part, the pandemic has devastated employment and livelihoods, pushing hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world, into poverty and hunger. The International Labor Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2021 shows the extent of the damage in grinding detail. In 2020, the pandemic caused the loss of nearly 9 per cent of total global working hours, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. This trend has continued in 2021, with working-hour losses equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs in the first quarter and 127 million jobs in the second quarter. more>

Vaccine Greed: Capitalism Without Competition Isn’t Capitalism, It’s Exploitation

Among the pandemic’s many lessons, however, is that greed can easily work against the common good
By Jag Bhalla – DID GREED JUST save the day? That’s what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed recently. “The reason we have the vaccine success,” he said in a private call to Conservative members of Parliament, “is because of capitalism, because of greed.

Despite later backpedaling, Johnson’s remark reflects a widely influential but wildly incoherent view of innovation: that greed — the unfettered pursuit of profit above all else — is a necessary driver of technological progress. Call it the need-greed theory.

Among the pandemic’s many lessons, however, is that greed can easily work against the common good. We rightly celebrate the near-miraculous development of effective vaccines, which have been widely deployed in rich nations. But the global picture reveals not even a semblance of justice: As of May, low-income nations received just 0.3 percent of the global vaccine supply. At this rate it would take 57 years for them to achieve full vaccination.

This disparity has been dubbed “vaccine apartheid,” and it’s exacerbated by greed. A year after the launch of the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool — a program aimed at encouraging the collaborative exchange of intellectual property, knowledge, and data — “not a single company has donated its technical knowhow,” wrote politicians from India, Kenya, and Bolivia in a June essay for The Guardian. As of that month, the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, a vaccine sharing scheme established to provide developing countries equitable access, had delivered only about 90 million out of a promised 2 billion doses. Currently, pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, and conservative lawmakers continue to oppose proposals for patent waivers that would allow local drug makers to manufacture the vaccines without legal jeopardy. They claim the waivers would slow down existing production, “foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines,” and, as North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr said, “undermine the very innovation we are relying on to bring this pandemic to an end.” more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

A new approach to ensuring drugs are safe
Researchers propose a new empirical method for monitoring and evaluating the safety of drugs already on the market
By Sarah Kuta – In May 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a strict warning for rosiglitazone after studies linked the approved diabetes drug to an increased risk of heart problems. Use of the drug plummeted 78 percent in 15 months; annual sales dropped from $3 billion to $183 million.

In 2013, following additional studies of the drug’s safety, the FDA reversed course and removed restrictions on rosiglitazone. But it was too late to undo the damage caused by their initial warning—sales never recovered, and patients had to resort to taking potentially less suitable medications.

The FDA could have prevented this six-year roller-coaster ride if it had taken a more robust, data-driven approach to its postmarket drug surveillance process, suggests research by Southern Methodist University’s Vishal Ahuja, Texas Tech’s Carlos Alvarez, and Chicago Booth’s John R. Birge and Chad Syverson.

Using rosiglitazone as a retrospective case study, the researchers propose a new empirical method for monitoring and evaluating the safety of drugs already on the market. Their approach uses large, relevant, and reliable longitudinal databases and established econometrics methods to assess the relationships between approved drugs and potentially related adverse health events.

This evaluation method could help prevent incorrect drug recalls and warnings that cause financial consequences for drugmakers, confusion among doctors, and potential harm to patients’ health, the researchers argue. more>

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Idea sharing for a new sense of purpose

By Francisco Jaime Quesado – Diogo Vasconcelos, the Portuguese politician who focused his work on innovation and on the fundamental role of ICT and next-generation broadband and who died a decade ago, was a very innovative entrepreneur and social innovator. He believed that society must have the ambition to push for a better future that would be based on the concept of excellence.

Vasconcelos’ message focused on the idea of rethinking and renewing the concept of an open society in which it would transform into a strategic idea that different civilizations, religions and ideas into direct contact with one another.

This agenda of sharing ideas is the point of departure and the point of arrival of a new way for citizens and institutions to create a new contract of trust, as sharing ideas creates a new sense of purpose.

Society will face a new reality post-pandemic, and public policy figures will have to decide on the most suitable strategy for the development of a new agenda for growth. At a time of uncertainty and uncontrolled global financial crisis as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, an agenda of idea-sharing must focus its attention on launching an agenda of collective intelligence that is centered on effective value creation and citizenship engagement. more>

The Road to Full Employment

Recovery in the U.S. labor market, along with wage growth, may be stronger and faster than expected. Here’s what that could mean for investors.
By Lisa Shalett – With major U.S. stock indexes notching new highs, long-term Treasury yields retreating from recent peaks and lower volatility, investors seem to be embracing an outlook of “just right” economic growth, steady job gains and a patient Federal Reserve committed to helping labor markets heal through ultra-easy monetary policy.

That view is understandable. The U.S. central bank has pledged to remain accommodative, until the economy reaches “maximum employment,” a shift from its historical goal of achieving a “natural” unemployment rate, below which inflation accelerates. Continued Fed dovisheness could support investor appetite for market risk and bolster expectations of lower-for-longer interest rates.

However, we expect a very different dynamic to unfold, as this business cycle progresses—namely, a hotter but shorter economic expansion, with a rapid recovery in labor markets and a burst of wage growth. Such an outcome could push up inflation rates faster than expected and prompt the Fed to raise interest rates, with important implications for portfolio positioning. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

India’s economic recovery from its COVID-19 lockdown
By Chuck Burke – In response to COVID-19’s rise, India ordered most of the country’s 1.3 billion residents to stop working and remain indoors starting in March 2020—the world’s largest lockdown. The government began relaxing restrictions in June, and research finds that while India’s economy improved rapidly in the following months, the outlook for a return to prelockdown levels remained unclear.

In a report for Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, Booth’s Marianne Bertrand and Rebecca Dizon-Ross, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s Kaushik Krishnan, and University of Pennsylvania’s Heather Schofield examined household-level survey data to establish a more comprehensive view of India’s initial recovery than national economic indicators could provide. These charts and maps highlight a selection of their main findings. more>

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