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Good afternoon, readers.
Loneliness is a scourge. It can be nebulous and difficult to pin down. But its effects are all around us—particularly in the health care arena. Retail giant Home Depot, of all firms, is adding to that conversation, suggesting that opioid addiction (a public health crisis tied, at least to an extent, to loneliness, low incomes, and the atomization of society, according to numerous studies) may be contributing to thefts at its stores.
To be clear: Home Depot isn’t trying to claim that the opioid crisis alone is driving store thefts. Sometimes people just, well, steal things, whether the motivating factor be drugs, nice merchandise, or just cold hard cash.
Home Depot chief Craig Menear detailed that ambiguity—and the general trend across the industry—on Wednesday. “This is happening everywhere in retail,” he said. “We think this ties to the opioid crisis, but we’re not positive about that.”
This is a complicated issue, but just consider some of the major bullet points: Suicide rates have spiked 33% between 1999 and 2017, with the most outsized effects among 10-to-34-year olds and 35-to-54-year olds, according to the American Psychological Association (APA); earlier this year, the National Safety Council reported that, for the first time ever, opioid overdoses counted for more preventable deaths than automobile accidents. As in, well more than 100 people die from opioid overdose deaths every day.
We’ve been witnessing the public health effects of loneliness and poverty for a while now, whether it manifests itself as criminal activity, addiction, suicide, or all of the above. (And, by the way, there is significant evidence that all of these issues are related and constitute a vicious cycle.) The fact that a retailer the size of Home Depot is calling the issue is out is telling.
Read on for the day’s news.
Sanofi's CEO wants to transform the company with a digitized boost—and an AI retrenchment. Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson (still fairly fresh on the job) is betting that technology such as artificial intelligence and robotics can save the drug maker billions of dollars in manufacturing costs. But there's a flip side to the story—as STAT News' Rebecca Robbins reports, the company is also retrenching from a collaboration with digital health firm Onudu (part of a joint venture with Alphabet's Verily). This isn't a full-on pullout—Sanofi will remain an investor, though no longer a top dog in the partnership. And it likely plays into the company's decision to step slowly away from its flagship cardiovascular and metabolic disease specialties. Still, it's an interesting pair of developments.
AstraZeneca-Daiichi partnership could pay dividends. British drug giant AstraZeneca's best on Japan's Daiichi Sankyo may pay major dividends in the cancer drug space. The companies' co-developed experimental treatment for metastatic breast cancer was able to prevent the deterioration of cancer for months in early-stage trials, the firms said. This has broader implications—especially because of the action mechanism ("antibody-drug conjugates" that aim to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy, among other uses) at the heart of the therapy. (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
Insurers may win out in Supreme Court Obamacare case. The Supreme Court may hand a victory to health insurers in (yet another) case involving the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The issue at hand is whether or not insurers are owed certain reimbursements in order to cover the health costs of Americans with pre-existing conditions, who cannot be discriminated against under the ACA. And it's big money at stake—to the tune of $12 billion. (NPR)
Analyst: Apple's Wearables Business Could Be Worth $100 Billion, by Don Reisinger
3 Lessons for Today's Economy from Paul Volcker's Career, by Erik Sherman
Why 90% of Investors in This New Silicon Valley Fund Are Women, by Michal Lev-Ram
Commentary: I Worked at McKinsey. Here's How the Firm Needs to Change, by Seth Green