Quotulatiousness

February 18, 2018

The legal loophole that allows profiteering scumbags like Martin Shkreli to gouge the public

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, Health, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The US pharmaceutical market is a long way from a freely competitive environment, largely due to the amount of regulatory oversight required by lawmakers and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among all the regulatory checks and balances, there’s one weird trick that allows predatory companies to reap excess profits legally — the “restricted distribution” loophole:

For immunocompromised adult patients who have the toxoplasmosis parasite, the FDA recommends taking 50 to 75 milligrams of Daraprim a day for up to three weeks, followed by half that dosage for an additional four to five weeks. So at the high end, an adult course of Daraprim therapy for a U.S. patient used to cost around $1,350 total.

While that might not seem cheap, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the cost after Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli’s company, bought the rights to Daraprim and jacked the price up to $750 per pill in 2015. That move increased the cost of one course of treatment to around $75,000.

At that point you might have expected another company to jump in and start offering a generic version of the drug. But Shkreli used a regulatory loophole to keep that from happening.

You see, when a generic manufacturer wants to create a cheap version of a branded drug, it has to buy thousands of doses from the manufacturer in order to run comparison tests. Generic manufacturers use the results of these tests to prove to the FDA that their version is identical to the branded drug that the agency has already approved.

More often than not, the company that holds the marketing and distribution rights to a branded drug will sell those comparison doses to the generic manufacturer without being obstructionist, because that’s the trade-off for receiving a 20-year monopoly by way of a drug patent: The branded manufacturer gets to charge whatever they want for years and years without facing competition, and in exchange for that government-backed monopoly, it’s supposed to sell equivalency samples to generic companies.

But what if the company is run by an unscrupulous asshole like Martin Shkreli? Then it might opt to put the drug into what’s called “restricted distribution,” which means no distributor anywhere can sell comparison samples to a generic manufacturer.

The FDA originally created the concept of restricted distribution to limit the availability of drugs that might be dangerous. Methadone, for instance, was first approved in the 1940s as a painkiller. In the 1970s, the FDA restricted its availability because regulators didn’t want the opioid used for anything other than the treatment of opioid dependence. Even today, methadone can be dispensed only in highly regulated settings and only for one approved reason.

In 2007, Congress empowered the FDA to create an entire system of safety controls beyond restricted distribution, and the agency now requires the manufacturers of certain substances to develop Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) to prevent misuse and abuse of potentially problematic compounds.

The list of approved drugs that the FDA says must have an REMS is here. Daraprim is not on that list. You can’t get high off it. It’s not habit forming. Yes, the FDA label says it can be carcinogenic after long periods of use, and that it might cause birth defects if used in high doses by pregnant women. These potential effects are serious, but there is no post-market data suggesting that Daraprim is causing more harm than benefit in the intended patient population. Shkreli’s company put Daraprim into restricted distribution to boost their profits, not protect patients.

How WWI Got Women to Start Wearing Bras

Filed under: Business, History, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 3 Oct 2016

In this video:

Corsets dominated the undergarments of wealthier women in the Western world for centuries, until WWI. So how did the war help popularize the bra? In a word, or two words in this case: metal shortage. The making of corsets required quite a bit of metal. Thus, in 1917, the U.S. War Industries Board asked American women to help their “men win the war” by not wearing or buying corsets.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p…

February 16, 2018

Games Should Not Cost $60 Anymore – Inflation, Microtransactions, and Publishing – Extra Credits

Filed under: Business, Economics, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Extra Credits
Published on 24 Jan 2018

You would think that paying $60 for a game would be enough, but so many games these days ask for money with DLC, microtransactions, and yes, lootboxes. There’s a reason for that.

February 15, 2018

DicKtionary – D is for Dollars – Hetty Green

Filed under: Business, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

TimeGhost
Published on 14 Feb 2018

D is for dollars, 100 to the penny,
Some have but few, others have many,
Some hoard them too – the frugal and mean,
And none was more frugal than one Hetty Green.

Hosted and Written by: Indy Neidell
Based on a concept by Astrid Deinhard and Indy Neidell
Produced by: Spartacus Olsson
Executive Producers: Bodo Rittenauer, Astrid Deinhard, Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson
Edited by: Bastian Beißwenger

A TimeGhost format produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

February 14, 2018

Repost: “I, Rose” and “A Price is Signal Wrapped Up in an Incentive”

Filed under: Business, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 8 Feb 2015

How is it that people in snowy, chilly cities have access to beautiful, fresh roses every February on Valentine’s Day? The answer lies in how the invisible hand helps coordinate economic activity, Using the example of the rose market, this video explains how dispersed knowledge and self-interested actors lead to a global market for affordable roses.

Published on 8 Feb 2015

Join Professor Tabarrok in exploring the mystery and marvel of prices. We take a look at how oil prices signal the scarcity of oil and the value of its alternative uses. Following up on our previous video, “I, Rose,” we show how the price system allows for people with dispersed knowledge and information about rose production to coordinate global economic activity. This global production of roses reveals how the price system is emergent, and not the product of human design.

February 13, 2018

Elon Musk as Heinlein’s Delos D. Harriman – “Selling the moon is just what Musk is doing”

Filed under: Books, Business, Space — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

I suspect I’d recognize a lot of the books in Colby Cosh‘s collection, as we’re both clearly Robert Heinlein fans. In a column yesterday, he pointed out the strong parallels between Heinlein’s fictional “Man Who Sold the Moon” and his closest counterpart in our timeline, Elon Musk:

Written between 1939 and 1950 for quickie publication in pulp magazines, the Future History is a series of snapshots of what is now an alternate human future — one that features atomic energy, solar system imperialism, and the first steps to deep space, all within a Spenglerian choreography of social progress and occasional resurgent barbarity. It stands with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy as a monument of golden-age science fiction.

[…]

The result, in the key story of the Future History, is an uncannily accurate description of the design and launch of a Saturn V rocket. (Written before 1950, remember.) But because Heinlein happened not to be interested in electronic computers, all the spacefaring in his books is done with the aid of slide rules or Marchant-style mechanical calculators (which, in non-Heinlein history, had to become obsolete before humans could go to Luna at all). Heinlein sends people to colonize the moon, but nobody there has internet, or is conscious of its absence.

Given that his ideas about computers were from the pre-computer era and even the head of IBM thought there’d be a worldwide demand for a very small number of his company’s devices, that’s not surprising at all. In one of his best novels, a single computer runs almost all of the life support, heat, light, transportation and communication systems on Luna … and is self-aware, but lonely. In later works where computers appear, they tend to be individual personalities or even minor characters, but they’re anything but ubiquitous: powerful, but rare.

I suspect the lack of an internet-equivalent derives both from the nature of his conception of how computing would progress and a form of the Star Trek transporter problem – it solves too many plot issues that could otherwise be usefully woven into stories.

The “key story” I just mentioned is called “The Man Who Sold The Moon.” And if you’re one of the people who has been polarized by the promotional legerdemain of Elon Musk — whether you have been antagonized into loathing him, or lured into his explorer-hero cult — you probably need to make a special point of reading that story.

The shock of recognition will, I promise, flip your lid. The story is, inarguably, Musk’s playbook. Its protagonist, the idealistic business tycoon D.D. Harriman, is what Musk sees when he looks in the mirror.

“The Man Who Sold The Moon” is the story of how Harriman makes the first moon landing happen. Engineers and astronauts are present as peripheral characters, but it is a business romance. Harriman is a sophisticated sort of “Mary Sue” — an older chap whose backstory encompasses the youthful interests of the creators of classic pulp science fiction, but who is given a great fortune, built on terrestrial transport and housing, for the purposes of the story.

The Grand Tour: Legally Tesla

Filed under: Business, Humour, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Grand Tour
Published on 12 Feb 2018

In a test of the Tesla Model X, Jeremy Clarkson is joined by lawyers in this legally perilous task.

****These observations about the Tesla Model X are made in Clarkson’s personal capacity and should not be regarded as any statement or opinion by any other person or entity about the general safety, road worthiness, mechanical effectiveness, or any other standards of the vehicle about this specific model or any other Tesla vehicle.

February 11, 2018

Bay area food entrepreneurs shut down by local health authorities

Filed under: Business, Government, Health, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Reason, Baylen Linnekin recounts the rise and fall of Josephine, an online operation intended to connect home cooks with willing buyers:

A dozen or so years ago, as my friend Dave was planning a move from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, he used the need to clean out his fridge before the move as an excuse to offer a half-empty jar of homemade kimchi for sale on Craigslist. While I don’t think the kimchi sold, Dave’s effort opened my eyes to the seemingly limitless possibilities of homemade online food sales.

The truth is that while those possibilities are limited theoretically only by imagination, they very often bump up in the real world against — to paraphrase Waylon Jennings — the limits of what the law will allow.

That truth was evident last week, when Bay Area food startup Josephine announced it will close its doors in March.

As I described in a Sacramento Bee op-ed in support of Josephine last year, the company launched nearly four years ago with a mission to provide cooks who are typically underrepresented in restaurant leadership — including women and immigrants — with a platform by which to sell home-cooked meals with their neighbors.

It’s a cool idea. And it worked quite well for a time. That is, as I noted, until local health officials “sent cease-and-desist letters to several Josephine cooks.”

Josephine responded by trying to work with lawmakers and regulators, pushing a bill in the state legislature that would provide some legal avenue for its cooks. Despite the fact that the bill is now moving through the California legislature, the company decided its passage would be too late for Josephine and its funders.

Josephine didn’t have to die. The regulations that have made it impossible for the company to operate should have died instead. But its fate mimics that of other similar home-food startups. A similar New York-based startup, Umi Kitchen, flamed out last year after just four months of operations. I wrote an appreciation of Forage Underground Market, the inventive San Francisco food swap that was shuttered by California state and local health authorities, way back in 2012. And I predicted at the time the food underground movement was just beginning to blossom.

Sriracha Sauce and the Surprisingly Heartwarming Story Behind It

Filed under: Business, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 18 Jan 2018

In this video:

The genesis of Sriracha hot sauce (pronounced sir-ah-cha, contrary to what many think) becoming the condiment staple it is today can be traced back to 1975 and an unassuming Vietnamese refuge called David Tran – the founder and current CEO of Huy Fong Foods.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p…

February 10, 2018

Protecting (some) women from their own decisions

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kirio Birks on the Formula One “grid girls”:

Objectification, we are told, is degrading. Why? Because any job that requires employees to be sexually attractive and gazed upon for that reason necessarily dehumanises them. It encourages others to treat them as pretty ‘things’ rather than as autonomous people with their own lives, passions, thoughts, and desires. Or so the thinking goes. ‘Grid Girls’ – models employed by Formula One for promotional purposes – have just discovered that their role is to be discontinued. As Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations explained: “While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”

But in their hurry to spare Grid Girls the indignity of the male gaze, nobody making this argument seems to have stopped to wonder whether Grid Girls might have an interest in defending what they do. Instead, a collective of ostensibly progressive voices leapt to their defence without bothering to ask the girls themselves if they needed defending at all. In response, Formula One abandoned its Grid Girls so that it can be seen to be moving with the times and hip to contemporary mores. In doing so, Formula One’s executives have implicitly conceded that they have spent too long objectifying women instead of empowering them. They would like it to known that they’d rather see women driving the cars, or as members of the engineering teams, or just about anywhere other than track-side holding a driver’s name-board and looking beautiful.

What baffles me is that a move supposed to empower women came at the expense of other women, and only because a minority of outsiders found Grid Girls inappropriate, problematic, and otherwise an offence against good taste. But even if Grid Girls are being objectified, then – contra the explanation offered above – it’s not at all clear that objectification is wrong in and of itself. It is acceptable to use people as a means to an end – that’s called employment. Grid Girls obviously know that they will be objectified and they make an autonomous, informed decision to take the job anyway. They are not harmed, they are paid for their time and their work, and many of them have come forward to say, with understandable indignation, that they enjoy what they do. Needless to say, this has not impressed those feminists who applauded their redundancies. But surely a woman has a right to be the object of somebody else’s desire if she wants and surely it doesn’t matter if she is being paid for it?

Opponents may suggest that Grid Girls have internalised their own oppression in a society shaped by patriarchal values, but not without making two claims: (1) that Grid Girls are unable to adequately think for themselves because of the society they live in and (2) that thinking for yourself is only evidenced by acknowledging the existence of a patriarchal status quo and resisting it.

February 9, 2018

DicKtionary – C is for Car – Henry Ford

Filed under: Business, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

TimeGhost
Published on 8 Feb 2018

C is for car – the automobiles
And nothing is cooler than a boss set of wheels,
From selling some cars, this man made a horde,
Mechanic and boss man, here’s Henry Ford.

Hosted and Written by: Indy Neidell
Based on a concept by Astrid Deinhard and Indy Neidell
Produced by: Spartacus Olsson
Executive Producers: Bodo Rittenauer, Astrid Deinhard, Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson
Camera by: Ryan
Edited by: Bastian Beißwenger

A TimeGhost documentary format produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

February 7, 2018

QotD: You are not the customer … you’re the product

Filed under: Business, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As we enter the third 24-hour period of relentless media coverage, the part where even the local TV stations have custom bumpers for the incident with distinctive theme music, let’s make sure we have some things clear.

TV news does not sell news to you.

TV news sells commercial time to corporations and your eyeballs are the poker chips in the card game.

Atrocities (and let’s keep our terminology straight: hurricanes and earthquakes are tragedies, this was an atrocity) are like a Double Bonus Round in the Eyeball Delivery Sweepstakes for FOXNews and CNN and MSNBC.

And all this attention is just incentivizing the next Eyeball Deliverer out there, patiently loading magazines (or mixing fertilizer, or dumping powder into pressure cookers, or studying a flight manual, or filling jerry cans…)

And, yes, ironically this post is just more attention being paid, and by complaining about the problem I make myself a part of it. It’s a hell of a thing.

Tamara Keel, “Terminology, again”, View From The Porch, 2016-06-14.

February 3, 2018

Arizona’s legally protected blow-drying cartel

Filed under: Business, Government, Health, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Eric Boehm reports on the fantastic lengths protected businesses will go to to protect themselves from “unlicensed” competitors, even in such areas as hair drying:

Brandy Wells never anticipated the amount of vitriolic abuse she would receive over — of all things — her public support of a proposal to let people blow-dry hair without a state-issued license.

“I’ve been called a cunt, a bitch, an ass, trashy, a puppet, a pawn, repugnant,” Wells says. “And my favorite: ‘your logic on deregulation of cosmetology is much like your hair, dull and flat.'”

Wells says she’s received several attacks from cosmetologists on social media accusing her of being “uneducated” or “clueless” about cosmetology because she doesn’t work in the industry. It’s true that Wells isn’t a licensed cosmetologist (though she does, in fact, know how to use a blow-dryer, she confirmed to Reason), but that’s actually the precise reason why she’s speaking up.

Wells serves as the lone “public member” of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology. That means she is the only member of the seven-person board who does not work in some capacity as a cosmetologist or with a connection to a cosmetology school. Last month, she voiced her support for House Bill 2011, which would removing blow-drying from the state’s cosmetology licensing requirements. Under current law, using a blow-dryer on someone else’s hair, for money, requires more than 1,000 hours of training and an expensive state-issued license. Blow-drying hair without a license could — incredibly — land you in jail for up to six months.

In response, Wells says, members of the cosmetology profession have sent messages to her employer, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, suggesting that she should be fired — fired because she thinks people can safely blow-dry hair without 1,000 hours of training!

The cosmetology board is “a group of special interest bullies,” said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, in his recent State of the State address. The board, Ducey said, “is going after people who simply want to make a living blow-drying hair. No scissors involved.”

This week, the fight over the so-called “blow-dry bill” spilled into the state legislature. The state House Military, Veterans, and Regulatory Affairs Committee held its first hearing on the bill, and licensed cosmetologists packed the room to speak one-by-one about the potential dangers of letting unlicensed professionals blow-dry hair

January 31, 2018

“Bitcoin is, of course, a mania – a delusion of the sort that human societies are prone to”

Filed under: Business, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Tim Worstall looks at some historical manias and explains how even the maddest of them can yield long-term economic benefits (to society as a whole, if not to individual maniacs):

The UK’s railway mania, the tulip bubble, the dot com boom and other collective economic madness – such as bitcoin – might lose people a lot of money, but they often lay down important foundations

Bitcoin is, of course, a mania – a delusion of the sort that human societies are prone to. This is fighting talk from someone who declared in 2011 that bitcoin was all over. Being wrong is not interesting – it is rare things which are interesting, not common ones – but the psychology and economics here are important.

The classic text on this topic is Charles McKay’s Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. Human societies are prone to manias which seem to defy any sense or reasonableness. Certainly markets can be so overcome, although the witch burnings show that it’s not purely an economic phenomenon.

The South Sea Bubble, Tulip mania, railway shares, the dotcom boom and now bitcoin are all part of that same psychological failing of not recognising that prices can and will fall as well as rise. That is the classical interpretation of the McKay book and observation, but modern studies take a more nuanced view.

South Sea and the Mississippi Company bubble were simply speculative frenzies, but the tulip story – while appearing very similar – can be read another way.

It is still true, for example, that a few sheds near Schipol, just outside Amsterdam, are the centre of the world’s trade in cut flowers – the result of that historical episode where a single tulip bulb became worth more than a year’s wages.

We can, and some do, take tourist trips to see the fields of those very tulips today. Modern researchers point out that the tulip was near unknown in Europe, the first examples only just having arrived from Turkey.

The art of cross-pollinating tulips to gain desirable characteristics was only just becoming generally known, and Europe was reaching a stage of wealth where the purely ornamental was becoming valuable.

Yes, the speculation in prices was ludicrous – although the weird stuff was in futures and options markets, not the physical trade, and the absurd prices never actually happened – but the end result of the frenzy was still that the tulip and flower market became and is centred in The Netherlands.

QotD: “Enhancing the user experience”

Filed under: Business, Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Once upon a time, computers weren’t all constantly connected to the intertubes. What we call “air-gapped” these days was the normal state of machines back in the desktop beige box days.

Back then, when you bought a program it came in a cardboard box on physical media. You would install it on your computer and it would work the same way from the day you installed it to the day you stopped using it. Nobody could rearrange the menus on WordPerfect or change the buttons in Secret Weapons of the Lufwaffe … Good times.

Nowadays, half the software you interact with doesn’t even reside on your PC. Further, there are whole departments at, say, Facebook or Blizzard or Google whose entire job is to “enhance the user experience”. If they’re not constantly dicking around, adding and removing features, changing what buttons do, moving things around … then they’re not doing their jobs.

We have incentivized instability.

Tamara Keel, “Tinkering for tinkering’s sake…”, View From The Porch, 2018-01-10.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress