Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cholesterol Drugs Vytorin & Crestor - Useless? 

I have slightly high cholesterol, so my doc reckons the answer is going on cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of my life. No thanks! I feel further vindicated when reading this:

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) approved a new type of cholesterol-lowering medicine in 2002, it did so on the basis of a handful of clinical trials covering a total of 3,900 patients. None of the patients took the medicine for more than 12 weeks, and the trials offered no evidence that it had reduced heart attacks or cardiovascular disease, the goal of any cholesterol drug.

The lack of evidence has not stopped doctors from heavily prescribing that drug, whether in a stand-alone form sold as Zetia or as a combination medicine called Vytorin. Aided by extensive consumer advertising, sales of the medicines reached $5.2 billion last year, making them among the best-selling drugs in the world. More than three million people worldwide take either drug every day.

Yet there is still no proof that the drugs help patients live longer or avoid heart attacks. This year Vytorin has failed two clinical trials meant to show its benefits. Worse, scientists are debating whether there is a link between the drugs and cancer.

and this:

In a separate study, the researchers gave 4574 patients either placebo or AstraZeneca's Crestor, which belongs to a class of cholesterol-lowering medicines known as statins. High levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The patients did equally well on both pills.

"There is no indication for using statins on top of other treatments for heart failure patients," Dr Tognoni said. The medicine brought in $US2.8 billion last year for London-based AstraZeneca.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Myki - Where's the Benefit? 

The original automated ticketing system for Melbourne's public transport seemed to have had three goals:

1. Replace tram conductors (humans = inefficiency)
2. Work out which new private company gets which percentage of ticket sales
3. Get a better understanding of journeys travelled

The results were quite different:

1. The tram service no longer has conductors, which means many travellers, including a lot of tourists, are lacking the help they need in using the service
2. Privatising was a joke - people go where they need to go, they don't choose the company with the best logo - there was and is no need for competition
3. Whatever they learned, services have not changed or improved from this knowledge. Plus a few interns with clipboards and clickers could have achieved almost as much

So basically we spent hundreds of millions to replace conductors with machines, to provide a lesser service, and cause the unemployment of 500 workers

Now the new ticketing system is established, we should just leave it alone - it is functioning.

But no! A replacement is being introduced next year called Myki, and it is only costing $850 million to install, and $550 million to run for 10 years. That is over a billion dollars, with the only benefit I can see is that you can store credits on card.


1. Many users don't have spare cash to store as credits for public transport
2. Those with spare cash are typically commuters who work 5 days a week, and buy monthly tickets anyway - virtually the same thing

150,000 Melbournites use public transport to get to work each day. That divides easily into the $1.5 billion being spent - $10,000 per user, or $1,000 per year, or $20 per week.

Would you pay $20 a week to have a smartcard, even it it worked in payphones and at 7/11?

No. But you are paying it, via your taxes.


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Global Warming - A Good Thing? 

I think global warming is a good thing.

I think it will inspire new technologies that not only will be good for the environment, but will greatly improve our standards of living.

Using fossil fuels is terribly inefficient, and is far more efficient at large scales - you or I are unlikely to be able to dig for coal or oil in our backyard.

Eco-friendly energy production tends to scale downwards well - anyone can place a turbine in a stream, or put up a small wind turbine.

Solar power technology
is almost at the point where it will make sense to install, because the long-term average cost will be the same as mains electricity. It looks like it will get there even if governments do not do the right thing and subsidise it (only some do).

Once we reach that point, everyone who doesn't live day-by-day will install it. The cash-strapped might be able to pay for it in installments equivalent to their current power bill.

Then it will be a huge industry, and the combination of large-scale production and competition will create enormous increases in cost reduction and efficiency.

I predict that in 10-20 years from now we will consider solar energy to be virtually free. For the first time in history, the cost of running something will not be a consideration. While this will greatly benefit the third world, it will be a nightmare in the west - one example, imagine if cars cost nothing to run!

Actually, the more I think about it, the more it sounds like the benefits of free energy could be negated, because there will be less constraints on so many things - like armed forces. Imagine 10,000 un-manned solar drones with laser weapons!

Here's an example of what the future holds - this rubbish bin has a built-in solar-powered compacter. So for the price of free (even if it is always cloudy), you can fit in 5x more trash, which means 1/5 as many garbage trucks...

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