Fatal diabetes treatments and the future of data storage

in January 7th, 2022

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The fatal result of marketing extreme diabetes treatments

Mon Nov 29

For decades, big pharma has pushed diabetes patients towards one goal: lowering their A1c score to less than seven percent. That’s because studies from the 1990s showed benefits to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients when their A1c score, a measure of blood sugar averaged over three months, was kept low. But some tests within those studies warned of problems for certain patients. Still, drug companies soon after began heavily promoting new insulin formulations that would lower A1c levels for all diabetes patients with the promise of longer, healthier lives.

Instead, some have died from the over 50 A1c-lowering medications introduced since 2002. The low A1c score was even promoted by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) who incentivized doctors to push patients to lower their A1c to 7%. As a result, hospitalizations rose 5x for hypoglycemia, a medical emergency where extremely low blood sugar causes confusion, dizziness, and loss of coordination. And in 2019, one patient obsessed with reaching that 7% A1c goal experienced exactly these symptoms while driving, ultimately dying after his car slammed into a parked car.

So how was such a risky treatment pushed forward? Some blame America’s unique permissions around direct-to-consumer marketing for drugs. In fact, a recent Reuters investigation found that the ADA and drugmakers downplayed the risks associated with treatment in favor of profit, netting them $74 billion in sales just last year. Furthermore, Medicare has increased spending on insulin from $3 billion in 2010 to $14.3 billion in 2018.

After being challenged by physicians, new guidance now supports an A1c goal under 8%. Still, many experts are pushing for doctors to provide individualized treatment plans and care. This seems to be working outside the U.S., where doctors refrain from leaning on drugs until necessary, instead pushing healthier lifestyle choices.

Could DNA be the future of data storage?

Thu Dec 2

Boy, it’s frustrating when our devices blare an ‘out of storage’ warning. Zoom out to the entire digital world, and there’s such an abundance of data in existence (videos, articles, social interactions, etc.), that some are worried about where to store it all. Our current storage solutions, such as hard drives or even underwater data centers, have physical limitations such as storage density and durability (hardware literally decays which means unreadable files).

The latest solution? DNA data storage. Instead of storing information about what color hair or eyes we have, DNA could be used to store documents, music, and more. And its technology is superior than what we have today in a number of ways:

  • First is storage density. Research as early as the 1960s shows curiosity over DNA as a general data storage solution because of how much information DNA can hold. For example, all the data in the world could be stored in a coffee mug if using DNA.
  • If preserved correctly, DNA can also last thousands of years — a stark contrast to the ~30 year limit of current data storage (and that’s cassette tape!).
  • And then there’s technological longevity. DNA can always be read without reliance on a single technology that could fade away as the industry innovates (remember VHS?).

Why does such storage even matter? Our recent coverage on Kashmir’s disappearing archives is a great example of finding more secure ways to store important data. That said, there’s still work to be done before such storage can be commercially scaled, such as cost (it’s expensive) and speed (it's slow).

Below the Fold Bytes

NYC’s Noncitizens Can Vote

Should noncitizens be allowed to vote? Most opposition on the subject comes from a lacking understanding of what constitutes “noncitizen” — most often, it’s legal immigrants. Now some are celebrating NYC’s vote last month allowing its nearly 1 million adult noncitizens the ability to vote in local elections. To be eligible, they simply have to prove they’ve lived in the city for more than 30 days. >> Read More

Eggs Banned in India

India’s local governments are starting to enforce what food can be sold. Raids in the Western state of Gujarat, for example, left many food-cart sellers without the eggs they built their lives on selling. Gujarat also tightened a ban on alcohol and added protections against the slaughter of cattle. Many believe the pressure comes from the federal government, driven by the country’s growing Hindu nationalist movement. >> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week

Diabetes affects over 10% of the global population. If you know or someone you know is living with diabetes, we encourage you to read the full Reuters report and urge your doctor to create the right plan for your specific condition and lifestyle.

This Week's Resources

  • Reuters: Report on diabetes therapy 2 months old | 49 minutes long
  • ADA: Updated A1c guidelines 3 minutes long
  • NPR: Getting closer to DNA storage 1 month old | 2 minutes long
  • Tech Radar: Understanding DNA storage 1.5 months old | 16 minutes long

ASCII-ing About the News

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So you just love data?

Well, it’s in my DNA!

Art Credit: asciiart.eu

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