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Brainstorm Health: Optum Amazon-JPM-Berkshire Lawsuit, Alcohol Epidemic, Vertex COO Ouster

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

Your friendly neighborhood newsletter author has, unfortunately, fallen prey to that most prolific of winter maladies – the common cold. So it’ll have to be a short one for today.

But I did want to highlight what’s been a somewhat under-the-radar public health story. Addiction to deadly drugs such as opioids (illicit or otherwise) has, understandably, soaked up a lot of the media spotlight in recent years. But legal, and more easily-available substances, can pose significant problems of their own.

Case in point: Alcohol-related liver disease has now overtaken hepatitis C infection as the number one reason for liver transplants in America, according to a new JAMA study.

Now, it’s important to note that there are several factors behind this trend. For instance, popular new drugs that can actually cure hepatitis C infection play a significant role, according to researchers.

But alcohol use disorders have risen sharply among young adults, and especially in women, over the past decade. In fact, the number of drinkers in the 25-to-34 year old age cohort who died as a cause of liver cirrhosis nearly tripled between 1999 and 2016.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Optum launches a preemptive strike on Amazon-Berkshire-JPM. STAT News reports that UnitedHealth Group’s sprawling Optum unit has filed a federal suit ostensibly meant to protect trade secrets from being scooped up by the barely-even-nascent Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan health care alliance. The suit repeatedly refers to the trio’s venture as ABC (this reporter, for one, will be deeply relieved to stop typing out the full triumverate’s names), and it aims to prevent former Optum suit David Smith from allegedly violating a noncompete agreement in his new role as director of product strategy and research at “ABC.” (STAT News)


Vertex exec ousted over personal conduct. Ian Smith, the chief operating officer and interim chief financial officer of cystic fibrosis-focused pharmaceutical Vertex, has been terminated from his position for undisclosed personal behavior that violates the company’s code of conduct, according to Vertex. “At Vertex, we are deeply committed to our culture of diversity, inclusion and respect, and we insist that all of our employees, regardless of their seniority, live our values and adhere to our Code of Conduct,” said Vertex chief Jeffrey Leiden in a statement. (MarketWatch)


Commentary: This Is What the Green New Deal Needs to Actually Work, by John Reilly

Verizon to Cut 7% of Media Staff as It Revamps Troubled Business, by Bloomberg

Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei Breaks Silence as Global Pressure Mounts, by Eamon Barrett

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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