Of the many structural weaknesses in the USA revealed by Covid-19, none is more crucial than the failure of its public healthcare system. The current privatized care for those who can afford it is focused on sickness, adequate but overly costly, while millions are left out and uninsured. One of the basic problems is that healthcare cannot ever be a totally market-based system.
Adam Smith’s famous conditions for markets to exist are that buyers and sellers meet each other in marketplaces with equal power and information and that their transactions must not harm innocent bystanders. The U.S. healthcare system meets none of these requirements for the operation of markets! Buyers (patients) have little power and information, while sellers (providers, practitioners) largely control the system’s functioning whatever harms its outcomes may cause to patients or the general public. Examples include insurance companies gaming their Medicare Advantage plans for extra profits, as reported in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Oct18, 2021. In addition, many thousands of private medical practice groups are now owned by private equity firms.
I discovered the next big error while serving as a member of the cabinet-level Technology Assessment Advisory Council of the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) from 1974 until 1980. By then it was clear that placing most healthcare insurance policies within control of companies and employers, was failing in many ways. These policies took root after World War 2, where they were used to attract employees with these “benefits” while often given in lieu of wage increases. These policies allowed enormous power to accrue to insurance companies to dictate what kind of medicine was practiced and reimbursed, while stultifying job mobility and empowering incumbent corporations.
Massive lobbying by incumbent companies thwarted efforts to provide other choices to employees and patients or to offer publicly-funded options and reduce monopoly pricing power of incumbents and pharmaceutical companies. Libertarian-minded actor, Ronald Reagan was recruited in the 1980s to promote existing market-based healthcare in advertising spots, as a key aspect of U.S. “freedom”, labeling public options as “socialism”. Even after the narrow passage of “Obamacare” in 2010, this battle over the provision of U.S. healthcare persists unabated. Providers and countless intermediaries still use their pricing power to provide today’s unaffordable 18% of U.S. GDP for healthcare, with often poorer outcomes than most other industrial OECD countries which are much less expensive. Still millions in the USA have no access to this system, which even the conservative Peterson Institute and many others, claim is no longer sustainable.
Covid-19 revealed all these unsustainable flaws. The United States demonstrated one of the worst global outcomes in cases and death rates, which continue as the virus mutates and variants proliferate. Even testing was flubbed, as I reported in Let's Restart America: Free Daily Test Now!, April 2020, which was essential to locate cases and transmission rates. Finally, cheap home-test antigen kits will receive some $3 billion of U.S. government funds (Bloomberg Business Week, Oct 18th, 2021). All remedies were rapidly politicized, rather than given the time and consideration required of emerging biomedical research. Meanwhile, hospitals continue to be overloaded, forcing unprecedented rationing and triaging of patients, including those in need of emergency care for accidents or heart attacks. Misinformation campaigns are still widely propagated by social media. The Biden administration’s vaccine programs are remedying the failures, yet the Delta variant has overloaded hospitals and facilities in many states. In the absence of a more holistically managed healthcare system and coordinated leadership, innovations that are life-enhancing and cost-saving are essential. Solutions and scalable interventions can improve population-level resiliency and steer the healthcare system toward prevention and wellness.
Into this U.S. healthcare disaster, a broad, interdisciplinary group of experts, particularly in promoting wellness and prevention approaches, is the Leapfrog group, with which Ethical Markets Media is cooperating and finds highly relevant and worthy of wider attention and understanding. Leapfrog is led by Dr. Russell Jaffe, Ph.D. biotechnologist and well-known expert on preventive, wellness-focused approaches along with Amory Lovins, co-founder, and chief scientist with the Rocky Mountain Institute, famous worldwide for its analyses of viable energy efficiency and options for transitioning the global fossil-fueled Industrial Age economies to lower-cost,100% renewables, solar, wind, geothermal, hydrogen and ocean-based energy systems. Leapfrog’s impressive knowledge network includes well-recognized experts in all relevant fields to buttress its initiatives. Specifically, Leapfrog intends to apply for new clinical trials and approvals of its integrative treatments to lower risks of heart disease and diabetes that are demonstrably more effective than current drugs. As Leapfrog’s Executive Summary states:
There is a global need for paradigm shifts in healthcare toward health promotion, in agriculture to continuously enrich the physical ecosystem, and in understanding how better to work with rather than seek control of nature. Leapfrog exists to bring together each of these systemically, by synthesizing sustainable ecology and natural product advanced drug candidates. Leapfrog is ready, uniquely able, and experienced at the successful implementation of such paradigm-shifting initiatives. Medications can address causes rather than suppress symptoms.
Leapfrog’s fundamental benefits document properly designed and executed clinical trials managed by qualified clinical research organizations (CROs). High tech validated approaches can expand the cardiovascular drug platform (including heart attacks and stroke risks) as well as the metabolic diseases pipeline including diabetes and arthritis. Such approaches are now ready for fast-track trial(s) and widespread commercial application, initially in high blood pressure (hypertension) as reported at the recent American Heart Association annual scientific symposium. Leapfrog documents the added value and synergies achieved by synthesizing:
- halophyte focused regenerative agroecology to restore nature,
- permaculture and biodynamics applied to restore the soil;
- approved medications to restore humanity based on natural products with fundamental, synergies that promote health and reduce risks, redressing the causes of much current chronic disease in conjunction with healthier foods.
Analysis by the Health Studies Collegium working group on health concludes that 40% of the 2.6 million annual deaths in the United States are due to the consequences of just two ‘silent killers’ (high blood pressure and inflammatory repair deficits). This means that a million Americans die annually, prematurely and at current costs exceeding a trillion dollars due to life-style choices that evoke vicious cycles that erode rather than virtuous cycles that renew individual and social infrastructures.
We at Ethical Markets confirm in our research Leapfrog’s focus on the intimate connections between air, soil, water and food quality, digestion, neurohormonal resilience to stress and environmental toxins as well as individual immune defense and repair requirements for lifelong health. Magnesium is fundamental to the medication benefits outlined above. Magnesium balances calcium in all animals. Dramatic drops in soil magnesium have been followed by a comparable drop in available dietary magnesium. Stress and toxins have more than doubled the need for magnesium in little more than a generation. Our research supports Leapfrog’s current clinical initiatives. A unique soft gel achieved triple the uptake compared to any other magnesium preparation with additional advantages of correcting choline and citrate deficits, initially in people with hypertension.
I first learned personally of magnesium depletion in US soils from the research of the Rodale Institute, publishers of Prevention magazine. I personally experience a clinical magnesium deficiency, due to over-emphasis in the 1960s and 1970s of increasing calcium to prevent osteoporosis. At that time, it was rarely coupled with advice to increase magnesium in tandem.
Thus, Ethical Markets agrees that new drug approvals are needed urgently, especially ones that are safer, high value, and sustainable. This includes all five categories needed for drug approval:
- chemistry of the drug candidate (RMJH-111B);
- clinical results;
- non-clinical literature;
Study design and execution, statistical power as well as current marketplace success. Blood pressure reduction results across the Phase 1/2 study population without adverse events were partially presented at the 2021 American Heart Association Hypertension symposium.
The successful safety, tolerability (Phase 1), and efficacy (Phase 2) combined study, whose results have been accepted by the Cardio-Renal Division of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as sufficient to grant permission to proceed to final trial using the 505(b)(2) approval path.
This means that a single Leapfrog-designed, highly focused trial can be submitted for approval within two years rather than the usual four to eight years. The design also shortens the time in clinic and the time to regulatory agency submission of final request for drug approval to the US FDA and the European EMA. The initial target for Leapfrog’s metabolic pipeline application of this core technology is diabetes. Studying risk reduction and clinical outcomes specifically because a greater than 0.3 mg% HgbA1c (hypoglycemia) reduction in extra sugar on body proteins both predicts diabetes risks and qualifies for drug approval.
HgbA1c is a blood test introduced by Paul Gallop in 1967 that is now recognized as the most sensitive, specific, and predictive test of chronic cardiovascular and related diseases such as stroke and heart attacks. In the completed pilot studies, Leapfrog’s approach achieved a more than three-fold greater; more than1.0% reduction in HgbA1c for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics compared to the current American Diabetes Association (ADA) best standard of care. An approved drug that effectively and more safely adds years to the life of those with or at risk of diabetes. This is one of the ‘holy grails’ of biomedical science. Full details are in this Executive Summary.
Ethical Markets’ recent research on halophytes is why we are fully supporting the Leapfrog initiative and I am personally involved, pro bono, in their knowledge network. As Leapfrog also asserts, halophytes are prolific food sources, carbon capturing plants able to withstand brackish water. They are a soil-based food solution to hunger providing quality nutrition while capturing ambient carbon dioxide more efficiently than forests–which are also essential. This food family includes quinoa, amaranth, sea asparagus, China’s best-selling salt-tolerant rice, and buckwheat. These remarkable, hardy plants also restore and enrich local soils so that creatures living in that environment experience a progressive spiral enhancing all aspects of that society.
Failure to rapidly add halophytes to the current global food system of commercially-traded monocultured grains with deficient nutritional value and perilously dependent on the planet’s 3% of dwindling, polluted freshwater is almost criminally-negligent! Hundreds of halophytes are still grown in 22 countries on unused or degraded land without fertilizers or pesticides. These can rapidly expand further the already profitable global switch to plant-based foods and beverages, cell-cultured meats and fish, kelp, and insect-derived animal feed, as well as the use of fermentation to provide inexpensive protein sources for the world’s population. The raising of animals for meat already takes over 50 % of our agricultural land for pasture and feeds, while adding over 15% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Now is the time for cost and outcome effective, evidence-based personalized, proactive, predictive, primary prevention practice protocols married to sustainable environmental actions! Ethical Markets highly recommends Leapfrog’s expertise and prowess through its growing cooperative knowledge network. Results include sustainable successes based on respect for nature, nurture, and wholeness while Transitioning to Science-Based Investing, (2020). Such ethical investing initiatives can help shift the U.S. healthcare disaster in a positive direction. Both markets and money are tools used by humans for centuries, as I point out in Fixing the Money Meme. We need to know when and how to use markets and money correctly, as in a preventive, wellness approach to health; such as guidance providing fitness, dietary advice, and other personal approaches to optimizing wellness. The huge market failures revealed by Covid-19, of the overly institutionalized U.S. insurance, pharmaceutical, and large hospital-focused system will show how it will fall of its own weight.