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Friday, January 10, 2014



January 10, 2014

L.A. Times/Business Section

Forest to buy Aptalis Pharma

Forest Laboratories Inc. will buy Aptalis Pharma for $2.9 billion, adding treatments for gastrointestinal ailments and cystic fibrosis.  Aptalis generated $688 billion in sales in the 12 months ended in September 2013.Forest Laboratories, with $3.09 billion in sales in the last fiscal year, is seeking new products after the loss of patent protection for its former top seller, the antidepressant Lexapro.  Forest shares jumped 18% to $69.30, the company's biggest one-day advance since 1980

DECEMBER 1, 2013

Healthful eating has taken a dive, poll finds. As reported by Emily Alpert Reyes ( for the Los Angeles Times. Summarized and paraphrased by me, Graham Becker.

For most of this year, 2013, healthful eating has been at its lowest point since 2008, according to the Gallup-Healthways poll. In a poll of 150,000 Americans, we're eating worse than previously. You know what they say: Calories are cheap. It's food that's expensive. The survey found that every month this year, Americans said they were eating worse than during the same months in 2012. For instance, 63.4% of Americans surveyed this September said they were eating healthfully, compared with 67.6% in September of 2012. When asked about eating their fruits and veggies, fewer Americans said they were regularly eating at least five servings of fruits and veggies compared with last year. The only exceptions were in March and October.

NOVEMBER 24, 2013 As reported in the L.A. Times by Paraphrased by me, Graham

"Spending on drugs may top $1 Trillion"

Global spending on pharmaceuticals is expected to surpass $1 trillion for the first time next year, thanks to demand in China and other emerging markets, according to a new forecast from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

More than two-thirds of all pharmaceutical drug spending occurs in eight countries: The U.S., Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain, Japan and China, the institute found.

In the next five years, drug spending is expected to grow in China and other developing countries, while the U.S. will continue to lead the world in per capita spending on pharmaceuticals. Patients in the developing world are primarily buying generics, which sell for a fraction of the cost of brand-name drugs. The increase in doctors' diagnoses and prescriptions across large populations is driving the surge in drug spending, the institute found.


RESEARCH: People who eat a diet rich in nuts are less likely to die of heart disease or cancer.

NOVEMBER 16, 2013

Article: L.A. Times/November 16, 2013/Business Section

"Putting Big Mac on the fast track"
McDonald's will add a third window
at some of its eateries to cut
service time to cars

Article by: Tiffany Hsu Summarized by Graham Becker

McDonald's is trying to put the fast back in fast food.

McDonald's opened its first drive-through in 1975. Back then, fast food restaurants in general derived 40% of their sales from drive-throughs; today, it's easily 65%, according to John A. Gordon, principal with Pacific Management Consulting Group.

In the year ending in September, there were 47.9 BILLION total visits to quick-service restaurants, a 1% increase from the previous year. In the same period, drive-through visits dropped by 1% to 12.3 BILLION visits.

McDonald's told investors this week that it plans to spend $3 BILLION opening as many as 1,600 new restaurants in the next year while revamping 1,000 other locations. The company already has more than 14,000 restaurants in the country, which together generate more than 30% of McDonald's total revenue.

NOVEMBER 13, 2013


My Editorial Note: They did it in 2001 and they're doing it again...It amazes me, the arrogance in some corners of modern medicine. That we as a species have lived approximately 200,000 years only to find out we need statins. As if nature deliberately left some ingredient for good health out of the equation. Billions of years of life on earth and these corners have the audacity to claim victory. More doctors convincing us that statin treatment is the way to control our lives (and our fear of death). With a $21 BILLION DOLLARS a year business at stake, and with generics coming onto the market, modern medicine and big pharma again conspire to create new, broader guidelines that will try to double the number of Americans on statins, from 36 million to 70 million. These new guidelines will go far to see that drug makers and modern medicine will continue to sustain their growth and profits for their shareholders.

Hoowee, I'm living in an upside-down world. Here's the article, summarized by me.

Front Page: Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2013
Reported by Melissa Healy

"Wider use of statin drugs urged" by Melissa Healy

The nation's cardiologists have rewritten the guidebook on how Americans should be treated with statins and unveiled a plan that could double the number of paitients taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs to about 70 million.

The new approach, presented Tuesday November 12, 2013, by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, represents a stark shift from the way doctors have prescribed the popular drugs for most of the last decade.

Cardiologists will now urge doctors to focus their efforts on a wider range of at-risk patients, many of them still healthy, to drive down their odds of a heart attack or stroke. At the same time, doctors are being instructed to discontinue their efforts to meet strict targets for LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins), the "bad" cholesterol that's most closely linked to disease risk.

According to IMS Health, a research firm that tracks prescription drug trends, in 2012, Americans filled 255 MILLION PRESCRIPTIONS for these and other cholesterol-lowering drugs. Yearly spending on this class of drugs peaked at $21.3 BILLION DOLLARS in 2011, declining since then as more of those brand-name medications become available as generics.

Until now, treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs in the U.S. has generally been limited to patients with a 20% probability of a heart attack over the next decade - about 36 million Americans. According to the authors, the expanded guidelines would roughly double that figure to 70 million.

By explicitly counting stroke-prevention among statins' benefits for the first time, Dr. Neil Stone, chief author of the new guidelines along with the other contributing authors, hope to extend statin therapy to more of the patients who are most susceptible to stroke, including women, African Americans and the very elderly.

According to Dr. Stone, a cardiologist and professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, "Statins treat risk, not only cholesterol. They (statins) lower risk by lowering cholesterol."

Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic and not involved in the drafting of the current recommendations, said "The result should be fewer premature deaths and patients disabled by heart attacks and strokes, though it will take years before such reductions can be tallied."

Doctors will now be switching to new tools to identify patients newly eligible to take statins, including the "cardiovascular risk calculator" available online.

Although current treatment practice, according to Dr. Michael Johansen, a professor of family medicine at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, targeting primarily LDL cholesterol, "haven't been shown to make people live longer or happier lives," Dr. Johansen called the new guidelines "far simpler and more effective to implement" than the current approach.

The new guidelines will be published in the 'Journal of the American College of Cardiology' and in the American Heart Association journal 'Circulation.'

NOVEMBER 8, 2013


Drug Maker Salix to buy Santarus

Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., based in Raleigh, N.C., will buy San Diego-based Santarus Inc. for about $2.12 BILLION DOLLARS to add to its roster of drugs focused on gastrointestinal disorders. In after-hours trading, Salix shares rose 9.4% to $78/share, while Santarus stock rose 37% to $31.90 per share.

November 5, 2013

L.A. Times/Times Staff and wire Reports

Johnson and Johnson and its subsidiaries have agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations that the company promoted powerful psychiatric drugs of unapproved uses in children, seniors and disabled patients, the Justice Department announced November 4, 2013.

the allegations include paying kickbacks to physicians and pharmacies to recommend and prescribe Risperdal and Invega, both anti-psychotic drugs, and Natrecor whcih is used to treat heart failure.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said, Motivated by profit, these companies made false claims that jeopardized the health of California's most vulnerable patients...and left California taxpayers with t eh bill." California's share of the civil damages is $89 million.

The agreement is the third-largest U.S. settlement involving a drug maker and the latest in a string of legal actions against drug firms that allegedly put profits ahead of patients.

Although doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines for any use, drug makers cannot promote them in any way that is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The pharmaceutical industry has been known for overly aggressive marketing tactics, which include pushing medicines for uanpproved, or off-label, uses. The off-label prescribing of Risperdal added to millions of dollars in federal and state spending by health programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veteran's affairs.


January 10, 2014  News Item in L.A. Times Business Section: "Monsanto profit beats forecasts"

Monsanto Co., the world's largest seed company, reported fiscal first quarter earnings that topped analysts' estimates on rising sales of engineered soybean seeds and Roundup herbicide.  Revenue rose 6.9% to $3.14 billion.


IN PLAIN CHEERIOS, NO MORE GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms)

January 4, 2014, L.A. Times article by David Pierson,

Summarized by me, Graham Becker

General Mills stops using bioengineered corn starch and sugar can in plain Cheerios.  Whole-grain oats, the chief ingredient in the cereal, are not affected by the change because oats are not available in genetically modified varieties.

General Mills uses GMO corn, soy, and beet sugar in many of its cereals.  This decision will only affect original Cheerios (usually a child's first finger food) and will not affect Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch because genetically engineered ingredients are so pervasive in their sourcing and manufacture.

Genetically Modified food is one of the most divisive issues in America today.  Farmers have always bred crops for special traits such as drought tolerance.  But genetic engineering takes place in a lab where plant genes are altered.

Proponents laud the innovation as a way to boost yields, build disease resistance and feed hungry nations.

Today, according to the U.S.Department of Agriculture, 93% of all soybeans and 90% of all corn grown in the United States are genetically modified varietals.

According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, up to 80% of processed foods in America contain genetically engineered ingredients.

There is no definitive science showing such foods are harmful to human health when consumed.

A June ABC News poll found that 93% of Americans favored GMO labeling laws and more that 50% believed GMO's to be unsafe for human consumption.

General Mills spent $2 million defeating the 2012 GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington. General Mills opposes state-by-state labeling laws because it would be too costly to fight.

64 countries, including all those in the European Union, Japan and Australia, require food manufacturers to indicate to consumers if their products contain GMO's.

Currently, there are no national labeling laws in the U.S.

General Mills supports a national initiative.

It is reported that Ben and Jerry's as well as Chipotle restaurant will be eliminating GMO's from their formulations this year, 2014.

More on GMO's...researched and reported by Graham Becker


We now have agricultural scientists working for companies who are patenting scientifically altered and genetically modified seeds and fish. Companies large and small want to patent and own their company's creation of genetically modified seeds and now fish that they've created. Farmers planting these crops have just been told by the courts in the U.S. that they can't breed their own seeds from the seeds they have bought from this or any company creating these organisms. Farmers have to continue buying a new stock of seeds every growing season. It's against the law for them not to and farmers therefore can only use this company's seeds. They must buy their seeds from the company store, so to speak.

These seeds are unique in that nature left it to scientists to create a "better" seed. Corn and soy are two of these crops that are being genetically modified. As to the health consequences of eating scientifically altered, genetically modified food, no one really knows. It could be just fine, I don't know. There is at least one observation that bees are also averse to these new crops for some reason and some people have concluded that honey bees - needed for pollination - are treating these new crops as biological deserts.

These new seeds are bred to be resistant to pesticides; coincidentally, one company's own brand. My limited understanding is that the crop doesn't die as a result of being treated with the pesticides, only the infestation is prevented. It is theorized that the bees, just doing their beezness, so to speak, are impacted by the crops systemic pesticides.

Scientists are also working on making crops more drought resistant through chemistry.

In a similar way, scientists have created the current type of wheat we eat, called dwarf wheat. It isn't our ancestor's wheat, mind you, it's a modern incarnation and invention of a grain that didn't exist until we made it in a lab. The ancient grain is no longer a part of our food choices. Dwarf wheat was bred to be shorter in stature than the ancient wheat, grow faster, get harvested more quickly, and repeat. On top of that crop invention, we then pulverize the grain, add back some vitamins and minerals and even more gluten in some cases, and then we form stuff, put in a box and call it food. Just look around you (or is that 'a round you') and you'll see what I'm talking about. We're eating more dead food than our bodies can metabolize safely. We've become a danger to ourselves, methinks.