- The alarming costs of one disease… and Medicare doesn’t cover them
- The “biological equivalent of using duct tape”… and a treatment that really works
- The big lie about the federal budget deficit
- How not to solve a housing shortage
- Just say no to a marijuana cartel
- More Keystone maneuverings… the advantages (for the government) of banning cash… second thoughts on Social Security vs. gold… and more!
“It’s a terribly expensive disease,” says Virginia Benson.
Ms. Benson’s husband, George, had a long career as a psychiatrist. Now at 91, George lives at a nursing home in the St. Louis suburbs. Virginia can no longer take care of him.
Not that his medical expenses amount to much. “It’s exclusively care costs,” Virginia tells The New York Times.
“The first home he lived in cost $6,000 a month,” says the paper. “Mrs. Benson found a less expensive one for veterans that cost $2,000 a month. After a two-year wait, he got in.”
George has Alzheimer’s. It is, indeed, an expensive disease.
But only in the last few days have we gotten perspective on just how expensive it can be.
Researchers at Mount Sinai in New York published an eye-opening paper last week. It calculated the total cost of care in the final five years of life for a typical Medicare patient suffering one of three diseases that are leading killers of Americans…
Dementia — of which Alzheimer’s is the most common type — really stands out on that short list.
Yet with all three diseases, Medicare covered about the same amount — just under $100,000.
“What most jumped out at me,” Mount Sinai’s Dr. Diane Meier tells PBS, “is the realization that so much of health care is not covered by Medicare or by regular insurance, and that a great deal of the needs of older adults who need help during the day, particularly those who have memory problems, come right out of the pockets of the patient and the family.”
A dementia patient needs constant help with the basic “activities of daily life” — eating, dressing, bathing… and constant supervision to make sure he or she doesn’t wander off or get hurt. Medicare doesn’t pay for that.
And yet the expense can’t be avoided. “I have often felt a little guilty about putting him in care,” says Virginia Benson, “but they said, ‘It takes three shifts of us to take care of him.’ ”
There’s another critical difference between heart disease and cancer on the one hand and Alzheimer’s on the other.
“Between heart disease and cancer, we have dozens of different therapies,” says our Ray Blanco. “Last year alone, we saw at least 10 FDA approvals for drugs designed to help cancer patients.”
But Alzheimer’s? “We have had only five drugs approved — ever — and none of them actually does anything to stop or reverse its crushing effects,” Ray tells us. “And technically, it’s only four drugs, since the most recent FDA approval is for a combination of two older drugs.”
That approval came last year. All the others came between 1996-2000. Again, “all of these drugs are the biological equivalents of using duct tape for repairs.”
Ray’s take on the Sinai study? “It’s really expensive having nothing that actually works.”
Only three days from now, we might have definitive evidence of something that does work.
As we mentioned yesterday, Ray has been following a group of maverick scientists for eight years — taking the road less traveled to a revolutionary Alzheimer’s drug. To date, they appear to be succeeding where pharma giants like Pfizer and Eli Lilly have failed spectacularly.
“The drug works deep in the disease process that causes Alzheimer’s,” Ray explains. “All the evidence I’ve seen to date shows that it might work like the biological equivalent of running a reboot on a computer that’s slowed down because of too much junk in the system. ‘Rebooting’ brain cells with this drug appears to help them restart their repair mechanisms, reduce inflammation and deal with the effects of oxidative stress and piles and piles of junk pieces of protein called amyloid beta.
“By working far upstream in the complex disease process that causes Alzheimer’s, this tiny biotech might just change history.”
On Saturday, the CEO will deliver final results of a Phase 2a trial at a scientific conference in Europe. If they’re as good as the preliminary results — in which the drug helped 83% of patients — the share price stands to rocket up first thing Monday morning.
That would mean a handsome windfall to anyone who buys before this week is over. If you’re eager for the rest of the story, Ray tells you much more about this drug’s potential when you follow this link.
Today probably won’t be the day the major U.S. stock indexes set a record. At last check, the S&P 500 rests a hair above 2,100 — nine points lower than yesterday and 33 points below the record close last May.
Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen told Congress this morning that raising the fed funds rate next month is still a “live possibility,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding — especially weak GDP and inflation well below the Fed’s 2% target. Evidently, the pretense of hawkishness must still be maintained at all costs.
The 10-year Treasury yield is at 2.24% — a six-week high. Gold is at $1,113 — a five-week low.
For the record: The national debt totals $18,492,091,120,833.99.
As you might recall, the figure was held in suspension since March at roughly $18.15 trillion as the Treasury resorted to “extraordinary measures” to stay below the debt ceiling. But under the zombie budget agreed to by the White House and Congress last week, there’s no debt ceiling until March 2017.
The figure we just cited is as of Monday, Nov. 2, the most recent available. On Nov. 2 of last year, the national debt was $17,937,160,394,872.60.
So in the space of 12 months, the national debt grew $555 billion. Which casts suspicion on the government’s claim last month that the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2015 was $439 billion, no?
Crude is tumbling nearly 3% today, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate fetching $46.50. The Energy Department is out with its weekly inventory numbers — up again this week.
Meanwhile, President Obama says he’ll be the decider when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline extension. He’s promising an up-or-down decision before the end of his term, regardless of pipeline operator TransCanada’s request for a delay.
The free market won a referendum in San Francisco… and got a mixed result in Ohio.
Voters in San Francisco rejected a ballot measure yesterday cracking down on Airbnb and other companies that let people use the Internet to rent out spare rooms. The margin was 55%-45%.
Proposition F would have limited short-term room rentals to 75 days a year… and it also allowed anyone living within 100 feet of a suspected illegal rental to sue both the owner of the property and the website that arranged the rental.
“This thing was a guaranteed lawsuit generator,” writes Scott Shackford at Reason. “Whatever the cure for San Francisco’s housing crisis is, this clearly isn’t it. The outcome, as always when the government tries to ban people from doing something they want to do, would have been a black market.”
Meanwhile, a $20 million investment by a cartel hoping to control a legal marijuana trade in Ohio has gone up in smoke.
That’s how much the people behind “ResponsibleOhio” spent to back a referendum on the ballot legalizing pot. Many supporters of legal weed were turned off by the fact the referendum specified only 10 locations in the state where pot could be grown — sites controlled by 10 groups of investors including boy band sensation Nick Lachey.
As we mentioned two months ago, key to the campaign was — we kid you not — a traveling bus tour featuring a mascot named Buddie…
Voters rejected the referendum nearly two-to-one.
“A constitutionally mandated oligopoly for an agricultural product… seems un-American,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance. It “sticks in the craws of both liberals and conservatives.” The DPA is a pro-legalization outfit but stayed neutral on this one…
“I imagine the powers that be would love to ban all physical forms of currency,” a reader continues our war on cash thread.
“This would conceivably force everyone to have a digital account to hold their digital credits. This would let them in times of Greece-, Cyprus- and Iceland-type financial messes haircut everyone with a few keystrokes for whatever bail-in amount they felt you should shoulder.
“Pretty sure if cash were eliminated, the banks would immediately stop paying interest on any type of savings instrument. If you had no choice but to have a digital account to hold your digital currency, they would no longer need to entice you to put your cash with them. In fact, they would probably start charging you for maintaining that digital account. So we would be taxed on the money we earn, taxed on the money we spend, taxed annually on certain stuff we already purchased and paid tax on and soon on money we don’t spend! WTH?
“I can imagine some other negatives as well. If all currency were digital, the government could easily control what you can buy and in what quantity by denying purchases at their discretion. I could even imagine taxing our purchases based on what they feel is our ability to pay. So the minimum-wage single mom in front of you in the checkout line might be assessed a 3% sales tax while you with your five times minimum wage and substantial savings might be assessed a 15% or higher sales tax. Don’t like Obamacare? Too bad! They will just assign you a policy of their choosing and debit you automatically. Same goes for anything else they dictate you must have whether you want it or not.
“Might be able to eliminate annual tax filings with the IRS, though! If all transactions are digital and tracked, then the government could conceivably know what you earned, what you paid in taxes, all your expenses and whether or not you owe more or are due a refund.”
“Our perception of Social Security seems to be as distorted as the current state of retirement based on zero interest rate policy,” a reader responds to recent topics here.
“In my not-so-privileged public education, I distinctly recall both junior high civics and high school history teachers labeling it as ‘transfer payments.’ That said, I can still treat it like a poorly run fund that I was forced to buy into via payroll deduction. The fact that it blends odd transfers into the mix and that the political winds move the lines based on current sensibilities is a detail that, due to fortune, is irrelevant to me (and, hopefully, many others reading The 5).
“It would be nice to see benefits received equaling everything I paid in, but again, I have already built in the discount. Sure, it’s irksome that I didn’t get a choice of an alternative investment, but the rules were well set before I started delivering papers at 14, so feigning surprise now is just whining.
“But for your reader who thinks that filing early and plunging the take into their precious metals cache, be aware that those retiring at 62 will need an alternate source of income beyond the subpoverty $16,000 or so they will allow in earnings before recovering 50 cents on every dollar thereafter. Planning on living on your exempted nonearned income and savings while you do it? OK, now you’re moving Jell-O.
“You could have taken that money and invested in gold, art or farmland on the edge of the permafrost thaw instead of the SS take. All you’re doing is moving around the wealth you already have.
“As for the mortality rate solution to the math problem: Isn’t that play already in motion with the near ubiquity of GMO foods? Wouldn’t those mortality rates show up just in time? Did we really think that crony capitalism worked in only one direction? The empire helps Monsanto, and Monsanto helps the empire.”
The 5: Conspiratorial, you are. Not that we disagree…
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. One more comment from Dr. Diane Meier at Mount Sinai: “I have had many families who bankrupted their — for example, their parents’ savings, completely spent down all their parents’ savings, and then ended up spending their own savings.
“Their child’s college savings account, for example, the money they had been saving for a mortgage had to be spent for the care of their parent who had Alzheimer’s disease.”
Imagine the suffering that could be relieved with an Alzheimer’s treatment that actually worked — not just the suffering of the patients, but the financial pain Alzheimer’s inflicts on far too many families.
That’s the promise of the treatment that will likely be the sensation of a scientific conference in Europe this Saturday. You can imagine the investment potential, too.
By the time the market opens on Monday, it might be too late to act — the share price will have run up.
So time is of the essence — details here.