Archive for October 16th, 2008

Should We Pay Organ Donors?

October 16th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Source: Economist

Last year 7,000 Americans died while waiting for an organ transplant. That’s nearly twice as many deaths as we have sustained in Iraq since the war began. A record 100,000 Americans are waiting to receive a transplant, more than 25% of which have been on lists for 3 years or more.

The mismatch between organ supply and demand is to blame, and this has widened lately due to factors ranging from an aging population to reductions in fatal traffic accidents.

The US has made one significant attempt to increase donor organ supply: an “opt-in” system in which willing donors indicate their preference on drivers’ licenses.  Few providers honor these wishes if surviving family members object.

Back in 1991, the World Health Organization recommended banning trade in organs, because it would exploit the world’s poorest and least educated people. Subsequently India, South Africa and other countries banned the sale of organs, but that had the effect of creating a black market. Horrific organ harvesting scandals have surfaced in these countries, Israel, Kosovo and elsewhere.

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US Space Program in Russia’s Hands

October 16th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: NY Times

For 5 years beginning in 2010, US astronauts looking for a lift into space will have to hitch a ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

That’s because NASA plans to shelve the space shuttle program in 2010, but the next generation of US spacecraft won’t lift-off until 2015, the earliest.

The gap will be associated with thousands of layoffs in Florida. Meanwhile, recent US-Russian antagonism following Russia’s romp in Georgia has highlighted potential risks associated with Russia as a sole-source taxi service to the International Space Station. And of course, China’s space program is moving ahead to a point where it is now likely that the next person to walk on the Moon will be Chinese.

The Bush administration implemented this gap strategy in 2004 to maintain NASA’s annual budget at $17 billion while accelerating development of its new launching program known as Constellation. The goal of Constellation is to return astronauts to the Moon and perhaps Mars and near-Earth asteroids, but none of this will happen before 2020.

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So Far, So Good for J & J

October 16th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: NY Times, Wall Street Journal

What economic downturn? Health care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson posted higher profits in the third quarter thanks to growth in international sales and consumer products.

J & J is the first pharmaceutical company to report quarterly results. Its Q3 profit was $3.31 billion, or $1.17 a share. Excluding special charges, that’s up 7.6% year over year.

Revenues from J & J’s consumer products rose 13% to $4.1 billion, lead by tried-and-true favorites like Listerine mouthwash, Neutrogena skin cream and Aveeno skin care products. Consumer product sales were particularly strong overseas, where they benefited from the weak dollar.

Listerine was part of J & J’s purchase of Pfizer’s consumer-products business two years ago, as was the OTC allergy medicine Zyrtec. The latter helped drive a 14% rise to $1.4 billion in the company’s OTC and nutritionals unit.

“The timing of taking on Pfizer’s consumer business could not have been better,” analyst Rick Wise told the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, J & J’s CFO Dominic Caruso indicated the economic meltdown had not adversely affected the company’s access to credit. “That’s important,” analyst Ronny Gal told the New York Times. “The markets are not frozen for health care companies.”

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