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New Paid Parental Leave Plan is Enacted at MCN

October 22, 2015


by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst

We are beyond excited about a unique policy recently enacted here at MCN and we wanted to take a moment to share it with you. Since its inception, our company has understood and fully appreciated the importance of creating an atmosphere that supports a healthy work-life balance; this new policy adds to that sentiment. We hope that moving forward this will have a strong, positive impact on our team and continue to make MCN a great place to work.

This policy is a paid parental leave plan for full-time employees that provides bonding time when a new parent returns to work after the birth or adoption of a child. The plan provides 5 days of pay for 4 days of work for a total of 20 weeks flexibly applied during the first year after return to work. This shorter work week will help allow the new parent time bond with their child and enjoy a less abrupt return to full-time employment.

Our CEO and founder Brian Grant is a father of four himself and he wanted to offer a benefit that does more than pay for time-off that new parents generally take with or without pay. Brian notes:

“Over the years MCN staff have had babies, taken some time off that is generally a combination of earned leave and unpaid time-off, and then returned full-time to work. That is an abrupt change for a new parent. We wanted to try something different; paying a parent upon their return for full-time work while giving them some additional time to bond with their new baby.”

One new parent, a father who will benefit from the policy, said: “This is really a great opportunity for me to make sure that I can hit the ground running and see my son and catch great moments when they happen.” Another employee whose own family is complete commented: “What I like about it is that though it won’t apply to me directly, we’ve worked so hard to establish a real sense of team here. This allows people to stay part of the team and know that their needs are recognized during a major transition period in their lives.”

Sugar Pills & Saline Solutions

October 15, 2015


by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst

By definition, the Placebo Effect is a remarkable phenomenon in which a placebo – a fake treatment using an inactive substance such as sugar, etc. – can in some cases improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will. Recent studies have investigated the power of placebos specifically in athletic performance, and this New York Times article asks, “Can a shot of salt water make you a faster runner?” The answer? Yes, why yes it can.

Previous studies have shown that lying to an athlete and telling them they are moving slower than they are will cause them to speed up past what they originally thought possible. Same with lying and telling them that the pill they just took contains caffeine or steroids when it does not. These studies, however, were never done in competitive situations. The difference between isolating a study done during training from one done during real-life competition is that most athletes are already exerting what (they believe) is their maximum physical capability during a competitive race. By testing the theory of the Placebo Effect during competition, researchers aimed to find out if this phenomenon would still apply, or if athletes were indeed at their maximum physiological ceiling.

In a study to test this, 15 male recreational runners were told they’d be given erythropoietin, or E.P.O., which increases the number of red blood cells in the human body. The runners were under the assumption that this drug would not only improve their athletic performance, but that it was also a formulation that was legal and that the amount administered would not be considered “doping.” In reality, the runners were given an injection of a saline solution. The study rotated the runners between receiving injections one week and not receiving them the next. After a few different phases, nearly unanimous results showed that the injections made training easier, recovery faster, and motivated runners to push harder. Most significantly, all the runners saw an improvement in their race by approximately 1.5 percent during a 3K race.

This is a very small study, but it does show that in this case the placebo did indeed enhance the performance of the runners, even in the most physiologically demanding circumstance such as a competition. For the everyday athlete or fitness guru, it is possible that even if you know you’re taking a placebo you may still achieve the desired effect of running faster or working out harder due to some “unconscious psychology going on.” To quote the popular Under Armour campaign: you will what you want.

The FDA and Supplement Regulation

October 13, 2015


by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst

Although we see the topic wending its way in and out of the media spotlight, the Federal Drug Administration remains quietly under fire for its lack of effectively enforcing laws within the supplement industry. A rather surprising and intriguing reason for this lack of enforcement has been traced to a cross-contamination of the hierarchy of the FDA and industry officials in the supplement industry. However, this is disputed by a current chief executive of the Natural Products Association, Dr. Daniel Fabricant, who was formerly running the FDA’s division of dietary supplement programs up until last year. “I did more there in three and a half years than was done in the 16 years prior,” Dr. Fabricant has said.

At the beginning of April of this year, 14 state attorneys general insisted Congress provide the FDA with more power to regulate supplements. More attention has been paid in the last few years to supplements invading shelves that have dangerous hidden ingredients “with amphetamine-like chemicals” labeled only under obscure plant names. BMPEA is a chemical nearly identical to amphetamine that is currently causing the most concern. Canadian health authorities pulled all supplements containing the chemical from their shelves this past December. Meanwhile, the FDA has been aware of nine specific supplements containing the dangerous chemical for the past two years but chose to never make the names of those supplements public.

The biggest concern for consumers is that BMPEA is not listed as being an ingredient in many products that are still on store shelves. Many large retailers of supplements, such as the Vitamin Shoppe, are supportive of the FDA using the authority it has to regulate supplements the way it does other drugs in order to keep the industry safe. As suggested by the linked New York Times article, it remains in the best interest of the public to remain wary when incorporating new weight-loss and workout supplements into any diet: until we can fully trust that supplements are being properly regulated by the FDA, the safe bet is to stick to products that have familiar ingredients or to run it by a doctor.

See this New York Times article for a list of current supplements that are known to contain BMPEA.

And The Nobel Prize Goes To…

October 9, 2015


by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst

Three scientists have received the prestigious award this year for what the Nobel Prize committee said were “therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases.”

Dr. William Campbell, Dr. Satoshi Omura and Dr. Tu Youyou are the recipients of the award; the doctors originate from Ireland, Japan, and China respectively. Dr. Campbell and Dr. Omura collaborated, as well as worked on independent aspects, to develop the medicine Avermectin and will share one half of the prize money; Dr. Tu will claim the other half of the money for the medicine Artemisinin, her discovery of which was inspired by traditional Chinese medicine.

Parasitic diseases threaten approximately one-third of the world’s population today, especially in the poor areas of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. These two newly developed medicines address the parasitic diseases transferred to humans from black flies and mosquitoes and have been included in the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. Both medicines are distributed to areas in need either for free or at very low cost.

“These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable” because parasitic diseases “represent a huge barrier to improving human health and well-being.”

-The Nobel Committee, as reported by The New York Times

Read more in depth about these fascinating scientists, their discoveries, what led to their discoveries in this New York Times article.

Big Soda, Big Problems

October 7, 2015


by Angela Sams, Accounts Receivable Coordinator

What is your daily beverage of choice — do you guzzle water throughout the day, or prefer a soda with every meal? If you chose the former, then you are part of a growing trend that has many Americans sipping from their water bottles rather than going to the vending machine for a Coke. According to a recent New York Times article, soda is the new “toxic product to be banned, taxed and stigmatized,” similar to tobacco decades ago. While soda consumption boomed from 1960-1990, the last twenty years have seen a dramatic shift, with U.S. sales of full-calorie soda decreasing by more than 25%. The popular replacement? Bottled water.

The decline is most obvious among the affluent, white population, but will likely spread to the poorer minorities in society, as time goes on. The change is evident among younger generations, as well. Children are consuming fewer calories from sugary beverages, and an overall decrease in kids’ calorie consumption has brought some positive news with it—school-age children’s obesity rates are leveling off. Habits are established at a young age, so the fact that today’s kids aren’t turning to soda as their drink of choice means that they are less likely to suddenly start drinking it consistently as adults.

Why the sudden decrease in consumption? This can be attributed to a shift towards a healthier lifestyle and a desire to eat and drink better. Additionally, the media has helped draw attention to anti-obesity campaigners and proposed soda taxes. Though it may be difficult for officials to pass such a tax, the recent publicity around the debate is still causing people to think twice before popping open carbonated, sugary drinks.

Obviously, this creates a challenge for beverage companies, and they have responded by advertising that their drinks contain “real sugar” and by reducing the size of the cans to 7.5 oz. Even diet soda is taking a hit, as consumers are starting to become wary of artificial ingredients.

While drinking soda every once in a while is not likely to cause any major health problems, it is important to remember that one can may contain at least 17 teaspoons of sugar. This time around, following societal trends has far-reaching health benefits. Let’s raise a glass of water and toast to that!

To read more, check out this recent New York Times article.


The Price is Right? Wrong!

September 25, 2015


by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst

The most recent case of a pharmaceutical company exorbitantly raising the price of an otherwise inexpensive drug has brought certain “Big Pharma” issues careening back into the spotlight. Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired a 62-year-old drug called Daraprim back in August. This drug, used mainly to treat a rare parasitic infection in patients with compromised immune systems such as babies, or adults with AIDS/HIV and cancer, originally rang in at $13.50 a tablet; that is until Turing acquired it and the price per tablet soared to $750. More attention is typically bestowed upon the high prices of new drugs, but this particular situation brings to light an evolving issue of mind-boggling price increases in drugs that have been around a long time and are mainstays in certain types of care.

A huge concern with these increases is that hospitals are more likely to turn to alternatives that may not prove as effective. Although high prices are known to happen within the industry due to shortages, the cases described here are happening merely due to business strategy. Other examples, just to name a few, include a drug called Cycloserine, which increased from $500 for 30 pills to $10,800; also, just last month two members of Congress investigated another incident where two separate heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, were acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals and subsequently raised in price by 525% and 212% respectively.

The 32-year-old founder and chief executive of Turing explained the recent price hike away by saying it is now more in line with other drugs that treat rare diseases and that most patients use the drug for far less than a year anyway. The sad truth of it all is that the CEO’s unapologetic response to the backlash of the situation is far from unusual, as is the fact that his drug company is only one of many that has and will continue to unconscionably inflate prices.

Read about this  in further detail in these New York Times and Washington Post articles.

A Complicated System

September 22, 2015

redtapeby Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst

In this article, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, provides an anecdotal reference to something that is too often overlooked within the American health care system. Issues about the affordability of obtaining insurance and the quality of care are constantly highlighted and debated, but how care is actually delivered is an issue all on its own.

The Affordable Care Act was passed in an effort to ensure a significant decrease in the number of people who did not have insurance. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, the fact is that having insurance is only one access point within the American health care system. What happens after you have insurance? What is the process of receiving care actually like?

In the aforementioned article, Dr. Carroll describes his difficult journey with ulcerative colitis and the obstacle of every three months obtaining the only medicine that has ever worked for him. Just reading his account is frustrating and confusing. He ends this anecdote with wonder at how the majority of people, especially anyone suffering worse problems than his, could possibly manage the often dizzying twists and turns of correlating insurance protocols, with doctor’s visits, with lab testing, with pharmaceutical companies, and more.

Reform in the medical world is long, difficult road. The Affordable Care Act was  a vehicle to get more people health insurance and it is still being vehemently argued. Once that piece of the puzzle is solved in some capacity then maybe we can look further into reforming the actual system and access to the care that is delivered.


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