Issue 47: Rutgers stops mosquitoes, Insulin prices skyrocket, swipe right if melanoma and more

Rutgers Fights Mosquito Born Diseases
Rutgers University in New Jersey 

Perhaps the worst sound to hear when you’re trying to sleep is that whiny little bzzzzzt sound that a bloodthirsty mosquito makes right in your ear before it tries to bite you. Aside from being the one of the most annoying insects known to man, mosquitoes like the Asian tiger mosquito also carry diseases like chikungunya, yellow fever, dengue fever, and Zika. So Rutgers University pretty much became my personal hero when it led a project that reduced the population of the Asian tiger mosquito in Maryland neighborhoods by 76% on average. In the Citizen AcTS project, hundreds of homeowners purchased oviposition traps and set them up in their yards. The traps kill mosquitoes using canola oil (the use of which allowed the the trap to be pretty inexpensive with a price of $15). It’s an awesome public health initiative because people can opt into it without having to wait for the government to step up and take action. The success of the project has inspired communities in other states like New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina to give it a go too. Who could blame them for wanting to enjoy summer barbecues and late night walks without swatting at mosquitoes the whole time!

Stanford Allergy Test Costs $48k


The homies at NPR are reporting that Stanford Hospital (shoutout to Stanford btw) recently charged a woman more than $48,000 for allergy testing. The patient's insurance Anthem Blue Cross was able to negotiate the price down to around $11,000 leaving the poor patient (who happened to be an English Professor) responsible for more than $3k. If this seems fu!king crazy to you that's because it is. But Stanford is not the only hospital taking advantage of it's huge reach to charge whatever they feel like. This is a trend seen at many hospitals that have consolidated and become larger in size. Unfortunately as more and more hospital chains/clinics merge with each other they will have more power over what they can get away with and ultimately we will be left to pay the bill.

Insulin Prices Skyrocket thanks to no competition

Insulin Vial

Insulin is getting more expensive and yes it's because of greed. The $22 billion dollar insulin market is controlled by only 3 players: Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi. The lowest price you can get for just one vial is now $270. Although to be fair apparently you can get an older version of the drug from Walmart for $25 a vial although it's unclear how many patients are willing to try it despite lower prices. Insulin has been around since the early 1920's however there is no generic manufacturer on the market. This has allowed the 3 big pharma companies to raise the prices egregiously. The price on NovoLog has increased in price by more than 350% from 2001 to 2016. Unfortunately the high prices have prevented some patients from getting access to the drug. One survey showed that 45% of patients lacked access to the drug because of increasing costs.

China wants to use rhino horns and tiger bones for medicine

Rhino horn. Image from National Geographic 

China is going hard on its mission to grow the traditional Chinese medicine industry. The only downside is that it may come at the cost of wildlife. China has lifted a 25 year long ban on the use of rhino and tiger parts for the use in medical treatment and research. Rhino horns and tiger bones taken from animals in captivity can now be used to bolster medical discovery. As you can imagine environmentalists are freaking pissed. And they have good right to be. Rhinos and tigers are currently an endangered species with China being the largest black market for illegal rhino horn on the planet. Currently it's estimated that there are only 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers left in the wild globally.

Swipe Right if Melanoma


Tinder told me I have skin cancer. Well maybe not exactly. Researchers at the University of West Virginia Medical School have created an app similar to Tinder except that it's main purpose is to teach med students the difference between melanoma and benign lesions. Swipe right it's cancerous and swipe left if it's benign. Finally a team of researchers that understand medical students. Apparently the app has helped med students retain information much better in the short term. Although as with the actual Tinder researchers are still skeptical if that memory will last.

Surgeons think med students are useless because they spend too much time swiping

sad surgeon

Attending surgeons known to burst out yelling at anyone in a 10 foot radius after years of being miserable have recently lamented the fact that millennial med students can't suture like they used to. Professor Kneebone (yes that's his real name) of Imperial College London says that med students spend so much time swiping and clicking on screens that they have lost the ability to work with their hands. Reportedly Dr. Kneebone thinks that the only good thing med students are useful for is retracting.