Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 29th, 2019

Purdue foreign arm caught up in opioid probe in Europe

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Smoking cigarettes is devastating to one’s health, and so federal and state governments in the US took steps to cut down on cigarette sales to the young (because if people don’t get addicted when they are too young to make rational decisions, most will never take up smoking as an adult). That put a squeeze on cigarette industry profits, so cigarette companies moved their marketing efforts to countries that lacked such laws. Note that they had zero concern about how their product caused illness and death: it was all about profit.

Now that same strategy is happening with opioids as the US belatedly takes some steps to stop the carnage. Claire Galofaro and Frances D’Emilio report for AP:

PARMA, Italy (AP) — The police huddled for hours each day, headphones on, eavesdropping on the doctor. They’d tapped his cellphone, bugged his office, planted a camera in a trattoria.

They heard him boast about his power to help Big Pharma make millions pushing painkillers, and about all the money they say he was paid in exchange.

Now Dr. Guido Fanelli is at the center of a sprawling corruption case alleging he took kickbacks from an alliance of pharmaceutical executives he nicknamed “The Pain League.” Its members, police say, included managers with Mundipharma — the international arm of Purdue Pharma, which is facing some 2,000 lawsuits in the United States over its role in the opioid crisis that has claimed 400,000 lives in two decades.

This is the first known case outside the U.S. where employees of the pharmaceutical empire owned by the Sackler family have been criminally implicated, more than a decade after Purdue executives were convicted over misleading the American public about the addictiveness of OxyContin.

Hundreds of pages of investigative files obtained by The Associated Press detail how Fanelli helped executives from Mundipharma’s Italian branch and other companies promote painkillers by writing papers, organizing conferences and working to counter government warnings that opioid consumption was spiking and that physicians should be cautious. The message trumpeted, the AP found, was that there is an epidemic of chronic pain, addiction fears are exaggerated and not prescribing opioids can amount to neglecting the suffering of patients.

Those are the same practices, experts say, that the pharmaceutical industry employed in the U.S. beginning in the 1990s that helped pave the road to disaster.

What Italian police overheard on their wiretaps offers a look at how pharmaceutical executives still pushed opioids abroad even after the cause and consequence of the American epidemic had become apparent.

As the U.S. market contracts, opioid consumption is climbing overseas. Canada and Australia are already following America’s catastrophic course, with rising rates of addiction and death. Others may be on the cusp of crisis: Researchers in Brazil report that prescription opioid sales have skyrocketed 465 percent in six years. Overdose deaths are going upin Sweden, Norway, Ireland and England, fueled by prescription painkillers and the illicit drug trade.

Opioid consumption has increased in Italy, too, though authorities say widespread addiction has not taken root in this country with historically strict regulations and a cultural skepticism of the drugs — both of which Fanelli apparently worked to reverse.

“It makes me feel sick more than anything else,” U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark said when she learned of the investigation from the AP.

Clark sent a letter to the World Health Organization in 2017, warning of “deceptive and dangerous practices” of Mundipharma and Purdue and imploring the agency to act — before the American epidemic becomes a pandemic.

“We don’t want to be proven right,” she said.

Two Mundipharma managers accepted plea bargains in January in connection to allegations that they paid the doctor to help sell more drugs. A lawyer representing them said the pleas are not an admission of guilt. The company’s Italian branch was fined. A spokesman for Mundipharma Europe said the corporation did not admit wrongdoing and denied it endorsed any message minimizing addiction risks. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it exemplifies the dangers of unregulated capitalism: so long as they can make a profit, corporations are willing to do anything at all, regardless of how harmful it is to the pubic (cf. Facebook).

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2019 at 2:19 pm

Why would politicians pass abortion bans that their voters oppose?

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Simple ignorance, it seems: legislators simply do not know what their constituents want and/or project their own opinions onto their constituency. Leah Stokes reports in the Washington Post:

Alabama’s law banning abortions even in the case of rape and incest has attracted big headlines. But the state is not alone in trying to all but eliminate abortion rights. Since the beginning of the year, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Utah have passed similar laws.

But most Americans — including four out of five people in Alabama — oppose these laws. Why would politicians pass abortion bans opposed by their voters?

One explanation is that politicians don’t know what the public wants, or so my research suggests. And with public opinion against them, these laws may fail in their goal of toppling Roe v. Wade. Despite the Kavanaugh-bolstered Supreme Court, research also suggests that public opinion still matters for judicial decisions.

Public opinion on abortion

For over 40 years, public opinion on women’s right to access abortion has been remarkably stable. In 2018, a Gallup poll found 79 percent of Americans supported abortion in at least some circumstances. When asked about the Roe v. Wadedecision, only 23 percent supported overturning it. If anything, support for abortion access has been growing in recent years.

The same holds when Americans are asked whether they support banning abortion. Using data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, Data for Progress estimated state-by-state support for abortion bans. In no state did even 25 percent of people support banning abortion. Even in Alabama, only one in five people support abortion bans.

In other words, over many decades, across numerous surveys, no matter how the questions are asked, the vast majority of the public supports women’s access to abortions, under at least some circumstances.

Do politicians know this?

Politicians don’t have an accurate view of what their constituents want

Why are state legislators passing laws that the vast majority of their constituents disagree with? One explanation is that state legislators do not actually know what their constituents want.

To understand whether state politicians know what the public wants on abortion, I fielded a survey with Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Matto Mildenberger in 2017. In this survey, we asked state legislators across the country what proportion of their constituents supported banning abortions. In total, 204 state politicians responded to that question in our survey. Using standard techniques, we then estimated what proportion of people living in each politician’s district in fact supported banning abortions. We could then compare politicians’ perceptions of public opinion to actual public support.

On average, we found that state legislators overestimated their districts’ support for abortion bans by 15 percentage points. In other words, many state legislators believe that a majority of their constituents want them to ban abortions, when in fact they do not.

We are not the only researchers to find this result. In 2014, David Broockman and Christopher Skovron similarly asked almost 2,000 state politicians across the country about what proportion of their constituents supported always making abortion legal. They found that politicians underestimated public support for abortion access by almost 10 percentage points. Republican politicians were even less likely to correctly estimate public support for abortion access.

These findings hold for many issues, not just abortion. In the same research project, my co-authors and I have found that state politicians misperceive what their citizens want on everything from clean energy to background checks for gun sales to support for raising the minimum wage.

Why are state legislators getting public opinion wrong? In a research paper examining senior congressional staff, my co-authors and I found that political elites were substituting their own beliefs for the public’s beliefs. That may be true on abortion laws; politicians who personally oppose abortion access are likely projecting those views onto their constituents.

The role of public opinion in American democracy

These recent state laws represent the most aggressive attempts to limit women’s rights. But they are far from the only attempts to rollback abortion access. Since 2011, statehouses have passed hundreds of laws that limit abortion access in other, more subtle ways. In many cases, these laws are out of sync with public opinion.

And that suggests that these laws may have a hard time reaching the Supreme Court. In a democracy, public opinion influences policy and institutions — including the courts, according to a significant amount of research. Many commentators believe that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. may be particularly concerned about the legitimacy of the court as an institution if Roe v. Wade is dismantled directly. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2019 at 1:49 pm

New vegetable to me: Banana flower

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I can’t wait to try it. Here’s some info.

Also: beets. Last time I steamed beets, the recipe said 15 minutes and it took at least an hour. I bought more beets, and when I quartered these, I noticed that—unlike the earlier batch—they were easy to cut. That earlier batch was closer to wood. So I steamed these 15 minutes, and they were fine. I just had bought a woody batch of beets.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2019 at 11:53 am

Posted in Food, Plant-based diet

What a difference a blade can make: Antica Barbieria Colla and my other Baby Smooth

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The Kent Infinity i quite a nice synthetic, on the resilient side, and it made a good lather from my Antica Barbieria Colla shaving soap, though I used a little too much water (insufficient shaking for a synthetic brush) so the consistency was not quite so thick as I like.

My original Baby Smooth has, instead of a Derby Extra blade I used yesterday in the new Baby Smooth, a Personna Lab Blue, and I have to say the shave was nicer in the experience: a better feel, smoother cutting.

A small dab of ABC aftershave milk finished the job. It had separated a little, so I gave it a good shake: thus the bubbles in the bottle.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2019 at 7:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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