THE FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR

usc-mba-female-entrepreneurship.png

Female entrepreneurs are taking the world by storm. In fact, among Generation Y entrepreneurs, women are more successful than men. But what makes them so successful? And how are they improving the business landscape as a whole? This infographic from USC Marshall outlines those positive points, from job creation to career growth.

The infographic also includes other fun facts about female entrepreneurship, like the geographic regions where it’s most concentrated, and other tidbits on revenue and valuation. It look a somewhat difficult-to-broach topic around which there’s a lot of conflicting information, and incorporated the facts into a well-designed visual.

It has consistent style and lighting, and we love infographics than can seamlessly incorporate a map. Being able to share geographic statistics in visual way is key — and, it helps people digest a big chunk of data. But our favorite part has to be the use of pictogram charts — where each icon represents a specific value — to make it easier for the viewer to visual the data. Pictogram charts can help you achieve a more representational view of your data, and even overcome differences in language, culture, or education, according to The Data Visualization Catalogue.

Advertisements

GIVING TUESDAY

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any bigger, #GivingTuesday 2016 raised $168 million, crushing last year’s $116 million tally. Since its beginning in 2012, the global day of giving has grown steadily each year. The modern-day charity tradition mobilizes millions of people worldwide to donate to nonprofit organizations the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Classy’s nonprofit partners raised $6,476,867 this year—90 percent more than in 2015. Such tremendous growth is yet another reason we are so proud to work with these amazing organizations. In the spirit of giving back, Classy refunded all our transaction fees on #GivingTuesday, totaling $94,932.

Check out this infographic to find out why this was the biggest #GivingTuesday ever!

VACATIONS ARE A MUST

Vacations are a must: Proven reasons why you need more time off

Vacations are great and all, but there’s one little problem: We don’t take enough of them. In fact, U.S. employees only use 51 percent of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off. And to top things off, of those who do pack their bags and head out on a trip, 61 percent work while on vacation (despite complaints from family members). So why do we leave paid time off on the table? We fear returning to a ton of work, worry no one else can do our job while we’re gone, can’t financially afford to go away, and don’t want to be seen as replaceable. But research shows vacations are good for us. Taking time off can improve happiness, well-being, mental health, relationships, and productivity and reduce stress. Check out the infographic above to learn more about the benefits of vacations.

CELLPHONE ADDICTION

The cell phone addiction is a growing concern in our time. iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones have become a vital part of the modern world and important tools at any given moment. Yeah, it is a highly entertaining and informative medium. But the problem is that many people develop an addiction to their cell phones, especially to such features like games or instant messaging. Our addiction to cell phones is considered to be as powerful as drug or alcohol addiction.

Despite the fact that cell phones give such a great opportunity as unlimited access to any information you need and the possibility to connect with others, there are many harmful and disturbing effects of phone dependence. Here is an infographic that presents 15 Terrifying Statistics On Your Cellphone Addiction.

MUSIC AND PRODUCTIVITY

 

Music has the ability to influence how we experience things around us, and happy tunes can make work more enjoyable.

If you listen to music at work, you’re in good company. In fact, 61% of employees listen to music at work to make them happier and more productive.

And according to research, it works! Studies show that 90% of workers perform better when listening to music, and 88% of employees produce more accurate work when listening to music.

Listening to music not only boosts workplace efficiency, it can also improve your mental and emotional well-being.

65% of business owners agree that music makes employees more productive, and 77% of small- and medium-sized business owners believe that playing music increases employee morale.

In certain industries, such as retail and hospitality, music has an even greater impact on employee performance and attitude. Happy employees provide better customer service, and improved customer experience can lead to more revenue and word of mouth marketing.

In fact, 40% of business owners believe that playing music can actually increase sales, and research shows that without music, 25% of retailers and 33% of hospitality companies would actually lose business.

So if you want to boost your revenue, you may want to grab some headphones, find your favorite station, and get down to business.

Have you ever started crying while listening to a sad ballad or tapped your foot along to a happy tune?

Music arouses emotion from the nucleus accumbens, a major player in the brain’s reward circuit. The nucleus accumbens operates on two neurotransmitters: dopamine, which helps regulate emotional responses, and serotonin, which can affect mood and social behavior.

This is why songs can instantly grab our emotions and transport us back to a certain time and place.

An experiment at McGill College found that listening to music activates the same brain structures and regions linked to other euphoric stimuli, such as food, sex, and drugs. Blood rises and falls with the swells of music in areas of the brain associated with reward, emotion, and arousal.

In addition, music activates that motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls voluntary movements. So if you find yourself moving to the beat of a song, you can thank your motor cortex.

Music also stimulates memories from the hippocampus, the center of memory, learning, and emotion located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain. This is why listening to a particular song can take you on a walk down memory lane.

Ever wonder why people are so passionate about music?

Music releases dopamine in the reward center of the brain, the same chemical released when you eat your favorite food or when you get a new follower on social media. And it makes you want more!

This is also why finding new music you love is so exciting. Listening to pleasurable music releases dopamine, and dopamine increases happiness.

People also love music because they can express their personalities and opinions through the music they listen to. And they can often relate song lyrics to experiences in their own lives.

Listening to music also has a multitude of health benefits. It:

Reduces stress and anxiety
Decreases pain
Improves immune function
Aids memory
Increases motivation

According to neuroscientists, listening to music magnifies positive emotion through the reward centers of the brain, and it stimulates hits of dopamine that can distract you from painful or stressful situations.

Music therapy is also beneficial for dementia patients, helping them recall memories and emotions.

Music provides a great escape in noisy office environments, and it can help you drown out distractions to keep you at the peak of productivity.

However, how do different genres of music impact productivity?

Ambient music: improves accuracy of data entry in 92% of people
Dance music: improves proofreading speed by 20%
Classical music: improves accuracy by 12%
Pop music: reduces mistakes by 14%

In addition, 58% of people completed tasks more quickly when listening to pop music. So if you need to get a job done quickly, play your favorite pop tunes.

Ambient noise is also great for sparking creativity and improving concentration.

While music is helpful for boosting productivity, it’s also beneficial to change the station or turn music off completely depending on the tasks you need to accomplish.

If you need to learn new things, you want music without lyrics since lyrics can interfere with your ability to retain new information.

When you listen to music with lyrics, your brain has to process auditory data on top of the information and facts you’re trying to learn. This multitasking can cause your brain to interpret the information incorrectly or make mistakes about what it needs to store.

In addition, if your work requires deep focus, it’s best to choose familiar songs. New music can surprise and distract you from your work if it’s more interesting than the task you need to accomplish.

Finally, if your work requires linguistic processing, it’s best to choose music without lyrics to avoid confusion and keep your mind free of potential distractions.

MODES OF LEARNING

How to Keep Learning (When You Are Not That Young)

At some point in our lives, we all notice that learning does not come as easily as it used to. We start wondering if it is too late or we are too old. But what if there are ways to keep learning even when you are not that young? Would you want to?

Bridging What You Know To What You Don’t Know

If everything that can be learned is an ocean, then what you have learned so far is a bridge. But it does not bridge over the entire ocean. What it does do though is give you an opportunity to extend what you know to things you don’t. In fact, by learning one thing you can bridge to everything else that can be learned.

Learning Styles

Do you know your learning style? Even if you know your learning style, do you seek out the types of learning tools that suit your style? If you are a visual learner, for example, do you visualize your thoughts, write visual notes, or visualize your work product?

Friends Teach You the Most

By our mid-twenties most of us have already chosen the types of people we like and get along with. We understand them. Ironically, these are not the people we would learn from the most. They already agree with us, they share the same habits, they probably have similar skills. Being around people who are not like us would be uncomfortable, even painful, but they would show you the limitations of what you have learned so far.

Reconstruct your learning experience

Remember how you learned when you were a kid? You probably don’t remember exactly because of memory biases. But if you look at your writing and drawings from your childhood, you can reconstruct your thoughts and transport yourself back into that hyper-learning state of mind.

Explore your weaknesses

Are you still great at writing but bad a math? Why is that? When did it start? Have you tried to use math as an adult for your work? Look at a math textbook now that you are an adult. Does it still look scary? Why is it scary? Those questions will point you in the right direction. Do this analysis for everything you consider yourself bad at.

Study biographies of super-learners

“Super-learners” is another way of saying “late bloomers”. People who have a talent for what they do are not necessarily super-learners. Early success is a bad teacher. The people who succeeded later in life, however, most likely did so because they kept on learning as adults without the early manifestation of talent. Study their biographies. 

Teach yourself

If you suffered from a bad teacher, rediscover your ability to be your own teacher. You know yourself best by now. Now that you have lived with yourself for a few decades, you know how to interest yourself in learning and how to reward yourself. If you received negative feedback from a teacher before, you might find that they just didn’t find the right approach to you. Now you are not dependent on another adult to teach you. Now are your own teacher.

Learn a foreign language

Learning foreign languages challenges you to relearn fundamental truths about life. The more “foreign” a language is the more it will challenge what you think you already know. Being fluent in a foreign language will change you in ways you never thought possible.

Work With Young People

Watching young people learn will remind you of your pre-knowledge self. What were you like before you learned to talk? Do you remember how you didn’t know anything at all and then you learned somehow? Did you think in pictures or in words? What did your train of thought look like? Sequential or multi-threaded like a tree?

Become an Early Adopter

Using new software challenges you to interact with new interfaces, reshaping your habits. Unlike the physical world, in the digital world the speed and convenience of doing things changes fast. New interfaces simplify tasks and optimize our thinking about them. Interface designers spend their time to figure out how to make your brain react faster and go through fewer steps to accomplish what you want. By adopting a new interface you upgrade your brain. So do it often and it will become a skill in itself.

Artificial Intelligence

Learning about artificial intelligence shows a world where leaning is non-judgmental because the machine is the one doing the learning. Do AI algorithms make mistakes? Sure. We call them errors. We have separate names for people making mistakes and machines making mistakes. We judge people. We do not judge machines. When we get passed the judgement, we can see that the real key to learning is

  1. detecting errors,
  2. learning why they happened,
  3. changing our algorithm to avoid those errors.

For machines error detection and finding their cause sound matter-of-fact. For people? Instead of analyzing our errors we might dwell on them or ignore them. We take errors personally. We are afraid they are not a glitch but an attribute of our character. We are afraid that our errors are unfixable. But if errors are the key to learning in machines, why is human learning any different?

Adopt ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5)

Explain Like I’m 5 is is devoted to explaining things to adults in a non-judgmental, non-condescending way. The reason why you should be unashamed to ask others to explain is that most people, no matter how successful, have deep knowledge in some limited area. People who are great in technical disciplines might have a fifth grader’s ability to draw and a very limited ability to distinguish colors, for example. An adult designer might have a hard time figuring out middle school math.

Of course, people will be surprised at your ignorance. Of course, they might not even realize their own. Tell them about ELI5. Ask them what they were like before they learned what they are so good at now. Both of you will learn from that.

Keep learning!

Mass production of uneducated college graduates is a result of the expansion of college education for all. Colleges exploit students and adjunct professors to serve a few tenured professors. Those who can’t do, teach. Colleges are frauds. Ivy league schools sold their souls to Islam with huge donations from Arab princes. Administrators rob the funds, professors trade grades for bribes and sex, and students dumb down!  Anyone who wants to learn anything can do it much better on the Internet, without retreating to fraudulent concentration camps, called campuses. Allons enfants de la Patrie! The college bubble is just about to burst. Kids are being sold on the claim that college degrees are simply a must for future employment but this nonsense has become an artifact of history.

Since WWII, college has falsely been sold as the guarantee of better employment and higher salaries. But the costs outweigh the benefits. There are several problems with college today, not the least of which is its exorbitant costs. Kids are graduating sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, a debt many won’t be able to satisfy for decades. Some will never pay it all off. The result is that the costs are fast outweighing the benefits and it won’t be long before people just stop indulging this pointless waste of time and money and will just start to go right into the work force out of High School.

Then there are the useless degrees many kids are being fooled into achieving, packed with class work that is utterly meaningless to life or business. Classes such as black heritage, minority studies, and gay studies, these pseudo-degrees aren’t worth the sheepskins upon which they are printed. With these troubles on the horizon, employers are fast dropping requirements for degrees for all positions.

More than half of all recent college graduates are working in jobs that do not even require a college degree. Most Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. Most college graduates have not been able to find a job in their chosen field. In the United States today, approximately half million cashiers, half million waiters, and more than 200,000 janitors have college degrees. Only half of all law school graduates are able to find a full-time job that requires a law degree.

There was a time when campus life meant dorm parties, Frisbees on the lawn and entering a world of ideas. Today’s campus, however, is a joyless, politically correct gulag where students are taught to confess their crimes of privilege and inform on fellow students.

Free speech died first on campus when the great works of literature were censored because they could be offensive, when comedians began to fear to visit because they might offend someone and when students became afraid to discuss ideas, dress up for a party or even tell a joke.

Now, today’s students know that Bias Response Teams on hundreds of campuses are encouraging students to inform on each other. That a casual remark or humorous tweet could cost them their future.

We are continuing its fight against campus fascism by defying political correctness. We have stood in stalwart opposition to the brainwashing of students by faculty and radical hate groups. And we are taking a firm stand against the politically correct intimidation and harassment of students. It’s time to take back the campus for free speech from the Bias Response Teams.

On campuses across the country, everything has been turned upside down. Discussion has become indoctrination, civil rights has turned into racism and anti-fascism has become P.C. fascism.

When administrators encourage students to monitor and inform on each other to frighten them into watching what they say, then fascism has come to campus in the guise of fighting fascism.

We will go on resisting politically correct fascism by taking risks on campuses to fight for free speech. Our speakers can’t appear on campuses without security. Sometimes they aren’t allowed to speak at all. But we will go on fighting to ensure that, in the land of the First Amendment, students will be permitted to engage in the free exchange of ideas at their institutions of higher learning. We will not rest until free speech is restored to every college campus in Occident.

INSIDE DRUG RESEARCH


 

Amid today’s interparty rancor, health care experts looked back on Monday at more tranquil times — say, December 2016 — when Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass legislation to fight cancer and other diseases, to boost research funding, and to speed potentially life-saving innovations to market.

Panelists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health wondered whether the legislation, signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 13, will live up to its promise. The 21st Century Cures Act authorizes $6.3 billion over 10 years in additional research spending, much of it for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is a major funding source for academic studies around the country.

The act authorized such spending, yet panelists pointed out that doesn’t mean the money definitely will be in the budget, because it still must survive the scrutiny of both the new administration and Congress.

Some panelists also cautioned that the act’s promise to speed new drug approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — intended to get new treatments to patients quicker — may yet have a downside. Running clinical trials takes time. By speeding the process, compounds may get onto the market that are not as thoroughly tested as in the past. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said mere ineffectiveness is not the worst thing that can happen with a new drug. In the past, people have been harmed by flawed compounds and medical devices meant to help.

“I hope we don’t do that in the future, but I fear we will,” Brawley said.

Brawley described the act as a compromise, and he and other panelists hailed its promised increase in research funding. The funding is allocated mainly to brain research, precision medicine, and regenerative medicine. It also will support the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot,” named after former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

Aaron Kesselheim, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics and the Law, pointed out that NIH funding has held roughly flat for more than a decade, resulting in a decline, when inflation is considered, of 22 percent.

Jeffrey Drazen, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said it would be “wonderful” if the promised funding is actually approved, but he warned of a continuing concern that funding would fluctuate year to year, which would disrupt research begun when funding is up, forcing abandonment of potentially promising new ideas.

“The NIH is undergoing a slow strangulation,” Drazen said. “Money is what drives research. You need the resources when you have an idea.”

Drazen and the other panelists spoke at The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The event, “The 21st Century Cures Act: Implications for Research and Drug Development,” was co-sponsored by the medical news web site STAT.

Both Kesselheim and Brawley raised some concern about speeding up the FDA’s drug approval process, saying that will result in decisions based on less-rigorous science. Brawley said that means more drugs will be approved whose negative or harmful effects won’t be detected until they’re in broader use. That is why, he said, the FDA should boost post-approval monitoring so that drugs that prove harmful once on the market can be quickly detected and recalled.

“Many parts of the bill overemphasize speed over science,” Kesselheim said.

However, Pamela Tenaerts, executive director of the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative, disputed whether a faster approval process means a less rigorous one. The shift does allow the agency to consider additional evidence, such as patient experience, which she said would provide potentially valuable perspective about how a drug performs in the real world. She agreed, however, that smaller trials are not as revealing as large clinical trials, and that it’s important that patients enrolled be apprised of risks involved.

“Smaller numbers come with greater unknowns,” Tenaerts said.

The changed medical and health care landscape may also make it tougher to run large clinical trials, Brawley said. In the 1980s, when he did a lung cancer trial, there were believed to be two major types of lung cancer, and researchers were able to run trials with 200 subjects each. Genetic testing has since revealed that there are about 80 types of lung cancer and it’s harder to find people with each subtype, meaning that trials on specific types are much smaller, and so their conclusions have less scientific rigor.

Much of the law’s success, Brawley and Drazen said, will hinge on the abilities of FDA officials to wield the additional flexibility that the statute allows them to grant wisely.

“I look at the current FDA and see some wise people there with a good track record,” Brawley said. “I think they’ve walked a very fine tightrope.”

Pharmacovigilance is the collection, detection, assessment, monitoring, and prevention of adverse effects with pharmaceutical products. Pharmacovigilance heavily focuses on adverse drug reactions, which are defined as any response to a drug which is noxious and unintended, including lack of efficacy. Medication errors such as overdose and misuse and abuse of a drug are also of interest.

More than 250 million prescriptions for painkillers are written each year in the United States. Enough were prescribed in 2010 to medicate each American adult every four hours for a month. Americans, about 5 percent of the world’s population, account for 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone (Vicodin) consumption, 80 percent of the world’s oxycodone (Percocet and OxyContin) consumption and 65 percent of the world’s hydromorphone (Dilaudid) consumption. All the while the use of illicit drugs, including non-prescribed painkillers, continues to grow.

It’s no longer a secret that the substantial swath of Americans living under the influence of these opiates do so with at least the tacit approval of our political system. Our law enforcement agencies, after all, focus on only a small number of the poorest users (and then only the few who become addicted and engage in crime), and our taxpayer-funded healthcare programs support the epidemic by spending billions annually on these drugs. Moreover, government-sanctioned discussions of the problem typically revolve around addiction-related crime; the devastation the drug has brought to many small, rural communities; the spread of opioid use into the white middle class; or the easy transition to heroin use. Recent negotiations in Congress, touted for their bipartisan nature, are designed to make treatment and the anti-overdose drug Naloxone more available to addicts. There are also proposals to fund school-based educational programs and to limit the practice of “doctor shopping.” Analyses of the root causes of the epidemic as well as the inordinate profits of the pharmaceutical industry are typically left to reporters and filmmakers. But very little attention has addressed a most basic problem: Why are our elected officials not confronting this widespread drug dependence with the goal of limiting it, rather than trying to make addiction treatment more available?

Consider this analogy: Constipation caused by regular opioid use is now so common that there are medications marketed for opioid-induced constipation (OIC). That drug’s consumers are numerous enough to warrant an expensive Super Bowl commercial, one that depicts long-term opioid use as a given, and its amusingly chronic side effect as an easily treatable annoyance. According to the pharmaceutical industry, it’s the unfortunate consequence of long-term use that must be addressed. A second industry commercial mentions several specific side effects of OIC medications: a tear in the stomach or intestine and opioid withdrawal, for example. Another set of drugs designed to treat these symptoms is probably in the works, creating an expanding cycle of pills made to lessen the side effects of other pills, and so on. Though profitable for drug-makers, the pattern avoids the real problem while treating one set of symptoms after another.

This “symptom-response exchange” that occurs in the pharmaceutical industry intertwines with a similar symptom-response exchange taking place in the social world, where systemic problems are ignored while symptoms are addressed: A lack of jobs is responded to with medications; resulting crime elicits prison, which weakens families; broken families are responded to with welfare benefits, which breed dependence; and so on.

Perhaps the public furor elicited by the Buffalo case provides a hint of what would occur on a much wider and more active scale if fewer Americans were chemically numbed, or if their ready access to drugs were threatened, and if they instead confronted what they experience as painful lives. In tentative and understated ways, these otherwise silent Buffalonians pushed back on a system they had found nonresponsive. Previously mute, they found a voice. They demanded to be heard, and this time they were. In the end, they were not denied access to the painkillers that allowed them to get on with life and to be happy, even if for some it meant doing so in “zombie-like” fashion.

The personal assessments of hopelessness by the chronically poor and the former working class reflect what is often an objectively harsh reality, one that includes inferior education, lost jobs, low and stagnant wages, and little prospect of upward mobility. In a sense, the world they grew up in and anticipated living in has vanished. For the hollowed-out middle class, it’s frequently a life filled with the apprehension that accompanies continual change, and the fear of falling into the void that waits below. In this context, readily available and subsidized pain relievers offer an alluring promise of a more tolerable existence. It’s a promise that’s kept more reliably than are similar pledges offered every election cycle by mainstream politicians who are no longer believed.

Certainly, the benefits of widespread opioid use are understood by our elected leaders, especially in an era when respected pundits, viewing angry mobs, speak of a possible need to “restrain democracy.” It’s quite possible that during an era of gross inequality and low-paying, no-benefits jobs, a numbed electorate may be viewed favorably as an apathetic citizenry inclined to accept the status quo, even one that is traumatic, frightening, cruel, unfair, or lonely. It’s a status quo in which former sources of meaning are crippled or dead. Data on marriage and divorce rates, as well as those on non-marital childbearing and marital satisfaction levels, show that for the poor and working class, the family has effectively collapsed; jobs that provide a sense of dignity, control, and the wherewithal to provide for oneself and others, are gone; and religion’s capacity to nurture the spirit has broken down and a vibrant group life of neighborhoods has failed to replace it.

This reality has been ignored by those who helped create it. Only now, as darkness falls on a troubling presidential campaign, is the political class, suddenly worried about its own job security, conceding the devastation their policies have inflicted on so many. Unbalanced, international trade agreements and rampant outsourcing, the voiceless are finally told, might have been mistakes.

But what if they weren’t mistakes? What if these decisions were made with the knowledge that they would benefit the few and hurt the many? What if we have constructed a society in which there cannot be meaningful jobs for all who want them; a nation incapable of making all of its citizens literate; a place in which the sources of stability in families and neighborhoods cannot be resuscitated; one in which houses of worship and voluntary associations can no longer sustain a shared set of altruistic beliefs? What if, unwilling to provide the conditions necessary for contentment, our leaders are settling for a state of indifferent acceptance, one in which, rather than a reasonable income or usable skill set, they offer the disaffected a prescription?

Karl Marx wrote, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” By encouraging compliance and promising relief and contentment after death, religion convinces the exploited and the alienated to endure a burdensome existence. But Marx also believed that religion was a form of protest against those oppressive conditions, one that could become as real as the suffering itself. In this context, opiates may be fulfilling the political function once met by religion by keeping the masses quiet; but it could also be where the “revolution” begins: with the refusal of a small group in Buffalo to allow their comfortably numb lives to be threatened. When that distorted reality is interfered with, as one day it will likely be, the collapse of institutionalized widespread chemical pain relief could prove Marx right, sort of.

Religion’s grip on the lower classes has loosened considerably and may soon lack the ability to placate an expansive and increasingly diverse category of people. Soon, the truth in the metaphor underlying Marx’s observation may be reversed, with opiates becoming the religion of the masses, tied to shared beliefs, common rituals, and sacred objects. It may be the opioid epidemic that is the sigh of the oppressed creature, a lament for what has been lost, a distorted vision of a contented life worth rebelling for, a cry for change.

Marx believed that the premise of all criticism is the criticism of religion, that a critique of religion would lead to the critical assessment of other social institutions. In the United States today, an analysis of the opioid epidemic leads to an understanding of the profit-driven pharmaceutical industry, which in turn triggers a critique of the economy, and then of the political system that facilitates it, and so on.

Many of the Buffalo doctor’s supporters, for example, denounced those politicians who threatened easy access to painkillers, saying they were only trying to make a name for themselves and get votes. Others condemned the profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry for creating such widespread dependence in the first place. One comment cut to the core of the issue by asking what one was to do when life was defined by psychological or physical suffering: “If there is no cure for what a person has, should that person just curl up and suffer? Go from doctor to doctor trying to find some kind of mental relief—even a psychiatrist and therapist for months and years? Go from doctor to doctor for months and years looking for and praying for physical relief? Or just call it quits and find someway to end their life?”

In our secularized world, suffering and praying have lost their cachet; suicide has not, with rates increasing alarmingly among the white working class. For now, those who protest their diminished lives have limited themselves to rowdy displays of support for a man who promises to resurrect what has been lost. In Buffalo, confronted with the unwelcome prospect of viewing reality soberly, a group of people formed a small and angry congregation outside a closed pain management clinic.

 

 

SYMBIOSES INSIDE HUMANS

The richest riskiest symbioses are playing out inside. The human body is home to 100 trillion microbes in mobile constellation. A mere 100 million stars, by comparison, make up the Milky Way. On our skin, encircling our orifices, throughout our guts and even within our cells, their genes outnumber ours by 500 to one. The changing census of these microbial presences, both tourists and residents, is our individualized microbiome. It is shaped by the food we eat, the company we keep, whether we were born vaginally or cut out of our mothers, fed from the breast or the bottle. A rough-and-ready measure of a healthy symbiosis is if our bacterial communities are not seen, smelt or felt. We ignore their mainly reliable, diligent and beneficial labor: they are our silent majority.

The presence of a defensive microbe can force a pathogen to become less virulent. Defensive microbes can also steal vital proteins from pathogens to make themselves stronger, causing the pathogens to evolve to produce fewer such proteins. This, in turn, makes the defensive microbes weaker – but enough damage has already been done to the pathogen to stifle its future growth and virulence.

Humans can start to risk considering microbes as allies. In Occident, infectious disease is no longer the leading cause of death. But to divide bacteria into two flavors, the baddies that make us sick and the goodies found in yogurt drinks, is to oversimplify an intriguing mess. Microbes don’t have static identities, and they don’t behave the same in different parts of our bodies. What’s untroubling in the gut can burn through the urinary tract or, if we’re unlucky, run riot in the blood. This is sepsis, and this can kill you.

 

HIDDEN BENEFITS OF TV DRUG ADS

We have all seen the ads: an earnest employee or parent who complains of fatigue but with the help of a specific drug is able to get back on the job or play catch with the kids in the backyard. These TV pharmaceutical advertisements, known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads, are ubiquitous—with drug makers spending $3 billion dollars a year on them in 2012. Yet they remain controversial among economists and other industry observers.

There’s a longstanding economics question about the effects of ads. Do they provide helpful information or just try to persuade people to buy a particular product.

Some argue that drugmakers use DTC ads mainly to steal business from rivals. This results in a costly arms race that guides consumers toward one of several negligibly differing, expensive branded drugs over equally effective generics. At the extreme, that line of argument supports banning DTC ads.

But other economists suggest DTC ads offer patients important information, boosting overall demand for classes of drugs that can genuinely help people, and ultimately serve a preventative role that benefits society as a whole. After all, some types of drugs, such as cholesterol-lowering statins, provide a broader societal benefit by preventing costly and life-threatening heart attacks.

To get at the true effects of these pharmaceutical ads, Starc took advantage of their displacement during the months preceding the 2008 presidential election, when campaign ads dominated people’s screens instead. Specifically, Starc examined how the absence of DTC ads impacted drug sales of four cholesterol-reducing statins.

The U.S. is unique in allowing DTC ads. New Zealand is the only other country that does. There are a lot of policy implications of this kind of advertising, so we were excited to do the research.

While the ads did cause some people to switch to a different brand-name drug, the overall benefit to society of encouraging consumers to try the drugs outweighs these costs. Given the health and financial benefit of taking a pill versus having a heart attack, she calculates that the benefit of the statin ads is enough to justify all spending on DTC ads.

We know statins reduce the number of heart attacks people have, and large numbers of people on statins are on government-funded Medicare, so if they have a heart attack, that’s very expensive for Medicare to cover. As taxpayers, we’d rather pay the $3 a day for a statin than the high cost of hospitalization for a heart attack.

If you think these ads increase demand for a cost-effective drug, then that’s a practice you don’t want to ban but to encourage. DTC ads for statins boost sales for more than just the single drug being advertised. Ads have positive effects when you consider the category as a whole. When you see a Crestor ad, you’re more likely to get Crestor, but you’re also more likely to potentially get one of the older drugs that’s off-patent, which we can see as positive spillover.

This informational effect of DTC ads, in the case of statins, promotes healthier choices by a larger group of consumers. That the advertising is getting more people to take statins is good from a social standpoint. In fact, the ads do significantly draw prescriptions away from competitors. The findings showed that revenue for branded advertised drugs would have been up to 24% higher in the absence of rival advertising. The “you advertise, so I have to advertise” mentality within the industry may result in more advertising than is truly needed.

Still, because of the overall benefits that statins provide, the value to society of direct-to-consumer advertising is positive on the whole. Meaning, even if companies are prompted to use DTC ads because of competition, the overall impact is good. In fact, banning DTC ads would lower sales of unadvertised drugs by about 4%.