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The plasma debate: The ethics of paying for human blood

Should pharmaceutical companies pay people for their plasma? Here's why paid plasma is a hot ethical issue.

  • Human blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Plasma is the liquid part of blood. It is used to treat rare blood conditions and has an increasing number of medical applications.
  • It is a $26 billion industry, and the US is a major exporter of plasma to other nations. Most nations do not collect enough plasma to sustain therapies for their own citizens. The US has such a large supply of plasma because it pays people to donate plasma—a controversial practice.
  • Is it ethical for people to be paid for their plasma? Here, Peter Jaworski, an ethics scholar, explains five key arguments people make against paying people for plasma—safety, security, altruism, commodification, and exploitation—and explains his views on them. What do you think?
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Cancer drugs are the most profitable for Big Pharma

In 2018, cancer drugs earned the pharmaceutical industry $123.8 billion. Soon, they'll be worth billions more.

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  • A recent report from Evaluate shows oncological therapies were the most profitable in 2018.
  • The report projects cancer drug sales to nearly double by 2024, pocketing a tidy $236.6 billion in profit.
  • These projections come at a time when 42 percent of cancer patients lose their life savings to afford treatment.
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MDMA and Ayahuasca in Ritual and Therapy

Dr. Charles Grob was the first researcher granted FDA approval to study these drugs.

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  • Dr. Charles Grob began clinically studying ayahuasca and MDMA in the nineties, the first researcher to be granted FDA approval.
  • Grob has also conducted studies on psilocybin and end-of-life care, which garnered great results.
  • The future of psychedelics research is moving quickly thanks in large part to Grob's decades of clinical work.
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Legalized marijuana linked to lower opioid abuse; death rates

A new study analyzed more than 1.5 billion opioid prescriptions over eight years.

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  • A new study analyzed over 1.5 billion opioid prescriptions between 2011 and 2018.
  • Researchers discovered opioid prescription reductions of 11.8 percent and 4.2 percent in states that passed recreational and medical cannabis laws.
  • The U.S. government needs to reschedule cannabis because researchers believe it has therapeutic value.
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Illinois set to approve insulin price cap of $100 for month supply

The move reflects a broader nationwide effort to lower prices of the life-saving drug.

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  • Some 30 million Americans have diabetes and must take insulin, but about 25 percent of them can't routinely afford the drug.
  • In recent decades, the cost of insulin has skyrocketed, partly because only three companies make insulin in the U.S.
  • There's some indication that recent efforts to make insulin more affordable are picking up steam.
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