Issue 8: AMA and Blockchain, Marijuana Breathalyzer, and more

AMA Joins Hype. Dumps Money into Blockchain
The American Medical Association announced on January 3rd that their tech incubator (who knew they had one) Health2047 is pouring close to $10 million into healthcare startup Akiri. Akiri's convoluted press release essentially states that the company aims to create a network in which hospitals, pharmacies, and other players privy to private healthcare data can exchange access codes to obtain healthcare information. Akiri is billing itself as a "network as a service" platform. Confused about blockchain? We got you...
Picture taken from CoinTelegraph: a site dedicated to cryptocurrency news.
WTF is Blockchain? ELI5
Diagram taken from World Economic Forum and Financial Times
Let me give you an example to explain why blockchain is important. If John sends Sarah $50 dollars traditionally he would use a service like Venmo. The thing about Venmo (or any other similar service) is that the transfer of money has to first be approved by a central authority such as a bank that John uses and could take days to process. Another issue is that John is trusting his bank to keep a record of the transaction. In essence he is placing blind trust in his bank not to fu!k him. Blockchain allows John to send $50 to Sarah (almost) instantaneously without the need of a bank. The transaction is recorded by a decentralized network of computers, recorded in a public ledger that can be seen by anyone, and is recorded in a ledger that cannot be altered or corrupted once the transaction is complete. The transactions that John and Sarah make with each other are organized into discrete "blocks" of data and each block of data is connected in a chain to the next block of data, hence the term blockchain.

For a much longer and extremely well written explanation of blockchain/bitcoin go HERE.

WHY Should I care? 
Billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen
Blockchain technology is in it's infancy like the internet circa 1999. Similar to how we use the internet everyday it's highly likely that the blockchain will be the backbone on which a majority of the world sends payments. Billionaire venture capitalist and founder of the first internet browser, Marc Andreessen, wrote a piece for the NYT back in 2014 explaining why the blockchain is the new internet that you should def check out HERE.

Spark Therapeutics Invents Blindness Cure. Only $850K
Philadelphia based Spark Therapeutics recently announced they will be selling a newly discovered gene therapy treatment called Luxturna for retinal dystrophy, which affects about a thousand people in the USA. Luxturna administration will involve a 45 minute microsurgery procedure in which a small needle inserts a replacement gene into retinal tissue. Note: this will improve vision, but not fully restore it. They will be charging patients $425,000 per eye or a total of $850K for both eyes. The high price tag makes it one of the most expensive treatments in the WORLD. Sparking further outrage Spark CEO, Jeffrey Marrazzo, stated that they were originally going to charge more than a million dollars for the treatment, but decided to lower the price because per Mr. Marrazzo, "We wanted to balance the value and affordability concerns with a responsible price that would ensure access to patients". Geez Jeff. Not much of a discount. Spark Therapeutics puts new meaning into the phrase blind robbery.

Marijuana Breathalyzer May Help Po-Po Pull Over Potheads

California recently legalized recreational marijuana at the start of the New Year much to the fans of Taco Bell everywhere. One problem though: driving under the influence of any substance, even pot, is still illegal in Cali. Traditionally police officers have had to rely on their sense of smell and body language cues to make arrests of stoned drivers. However, Hound Labs, an Oakland based company recently announced that they have created a new breathalyzer that can detect both THC and alcohol levels with high sensitivity. They expect to start selling their device for a price tag of between $500-$1000 next year. Interestingly their CEO works as an ED doc, deputy sheriff, professor, and SWAT team member. 

UV Sense: World's Smallest Sensor 
A team at Northwestern in collaboration with L'Oreal recently announced that they have created the world's smallest sensor that can fit on a fingernail and measure UV sun exposure. The idea is to use the device, called UV sense, to give users a real time estimate of how much sunlight they are getting and whether it is safe or not to be outside. The sensor records sunlight exposure and relays that info to a smartphone app that the user can download. By using the sensor the team hopes that they can decrease the incidence of dangerous skin cancers such as melanoma. Per the team UV sense is lighter than a raindrop, smaller in circumference than a single M&M, waterproof, and can be customized to come in any color or design.

Phillip Morris Wants to Stop Selling Cigarettes
Phillip Morris, one of the largest cigarette companies in the world, recently announced that it would stop selling it's flagship product - cigarettes. Phillip Morris first announced it's intention as a New Years resolution, but recently they have released further commentary backing their intentions. Basically the tobacco titan wants to shift towards e-cigs and new methods of smoking tobacco, which they believe will be healthier. This sounds great on (rolling) paper, but Phillip Morris has a history of breaking promises. Back in 1997 the CEO said that if the company was presented with scientific evidence that smoking causes lung cancer they would "shut production down instantly". The relationship between smoking and lung cancer was already established in a report by the Surgeon General back in the 1960's, and scientific evidence since then has unequivocally stated that 90% of lung cancers are directly caused by smoking. We think Phillip Morris is just blowing smoke in our face.

Donald Trump Mental Health. Psychiatrists Pissed
Image taken from
Last year a group of more than 27 psychiatrists including prominent forensic psychiatrists from Yale School of Medicine came forward to claim that the POTUS DT was undergoing a state of mental deterioration and posed a threat to the country. Their article in the NYT stated, "We are currently witnessing more that his usual state of instability - in fact, a pattern of decompensation: increasing loss of touch with reality, marked signs of volatility and unpredictable behavior, and an attraction to violence as a means of coping. These characteristics place our country and the world at extreme risk of danger".

The anti-Trump psychiatrists even wrote a book that became a best-seller, but, then the American Psychiatric Association straight up tore the book a new hole. The APA called the book "tawdry, indulgent, fatuous, tabloid psychiatry" and alleged that the anti-trump psychiatrists were violating the Goldwater Rule. is that? We got you.

The Goldwater Rule
The Goldwater Rule states that mental health physicians cannot diagnose anyone that they have not PERSONALLY evaluated. The rule was created back in 1973 by the APA after a piece in Fact magazine criticized then Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The essay criticized Mr. Goldwater as being mentally unstable and cited the opinions of hundreds of psychiatrists. Goldwater, a five time senator, inventor, and businessman was not the most conventional politician and often spoke whatever popped into his head. Similar to Trump, Goldwater was criticized as being a demagogue, a leader of right wing extremists, racist, and likely to lead the US into a catastrophic nuclear war. What a lot of people don't know is that in March 2017 the APA made the Goldwater Rule even more strict by stating that NO mental health professional can make ANY comment regarding the mental health of a public figure. The new rule doesn't really give psychiatrists much room to comment on Trump so they are in effect being gagged by their own professional organization. We will have to wait and see how the psych fight plays out...