by Shane Ormond
On Sep 19, 2019
The Federal Reserve rate-setting committee cut rates by a quarter point yesterday, in an attempt to create a protective cushion for slowing economic growth. (Now all we need is a protective blanket and a protective play center and the global economy is all set.)
by Shane Ormond
On Sep 9, 2019
The director of MIT’s Media Lab stepped down over the weekend, after it emerged he accepted millions of dollars in donations from Jeffrey Epstein and taken steps to hide them (because, ya know, child sex trafficking and stuff).
- Court Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay Oklahoma $572 Million
- The Bride of Frankenburger: Kentucky Fried Plant Protein
- Indonesia’s Capital is Sinking/Moving Somewhere Else
- You & the Blood of 500,000 Horseshoe Crabs
Court Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay Oklahoma $572 Million
In a landmark ruling, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson yesterday to pay $572 million for its role in creating the U.S. opioid crisis. (Should have stuck to making shampoo for babies, guys.)
According to the judge, J&J ran misleading ad campaigns that underplayed the danger of opioids and suggested “hey, maybe everyone should be taking these awesome drugs for whatever pain you got.”
“[The] defendants, acting in concert with others,” wrote the judge in his ruling,“embarked on a major campaign in which they used branded and unbranded marketing to disseminate the messages that pain was being undertreated and ‘there was a low risk of abuse and a low danger’ of prescribing opioids.”
The judge’s ruling revealed that J&J targeted its advertising at doctors, with the specific goal of convincing medical professionals of the safety of the drugs and influencing their prescribing behavior. (This is what is legally referred to as an a-hole move.)
The baby care household name hit doctors from every angle with guerilla advertising tactics such as:
- Funding and publishing literature about the efficacy of opioids in medical journals.
- Holding seminars, symposiums, and conferences to “educate” doctors.
- Circulated unbranded “educational” materials to doctors.
- Sent doctors pro-opioid materials through third-party patient advocacy groups.
- Hired speakers to speak at dinners, presentations, and conferences for doctors.
- Convinced doctors that patients who displayed warning signs of addiction were suffering not from addiction but the undertreatment of pain. (Man, J&J’s marketing guys would make excellent political spin doctors.)
Now, maybe the fine folks at J&J somehow actually thought that opioids were a wonderful miracle drug. But in his ruling, the judge noted that, in 2015, more than 326 million opioid pills were sold in Oklahoma.
That’s about 110 pills per adult in Oklahoma.
So either the opioid producers thought the entire state of Oklahoma was habitually enjoying a stronger-than-heroine painkiller or they were well aware they were fueling an ever-worsening drug crisis.
This is the first court victory of more than 2,000 lawsuits brought by states and local municipalities against opioid producers (others have settled outside of court).
In their lawsuit, the state of Oklahoma was seeking a payout of $17 billion “or more” (hot legal tip: always leave room for “or more”) for 20 years of damage caused by the opioid crisis.
However, the judge ruled the state had only managed to prove a single year of those damages and as such could only be awarded $572 million to abate the costs of the crisis.
This ruling may set a precedent which could eventually result in billions of dollars in payouts for multiple companies in the industry. But J&J came out of this particular court case relatively unscathed.
$572 million sounds like a lot of dough (I’d notice it if it was missing from my wallet), but it’s a drop in the bucket to a $337 billion baby shampoo and opioid producer like J&J.
Investors, who were anticipating a multi-billion-dollar payout, piled into the J&J’s stock (JNJ) this morning, driving it up more than 3%.
This story is far from over, folks: There are thousands more cases against opioid producers waiting to go to court. And the fine folks at J&J plan to appeal the decision and say they’re prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Stock up on the popcorn.
The Bride of Frankenburger: Kentucky Fried Plant Protein
In the least ambitious crossover of our time, KFC has announced it will start offering meatless Kentucky fried abominations in partnership with Beyond Meat.
Starting today, KFC is subjecting its customers to what has been ambitiously labeled Beyond Fried Chicken, starting with a single location in Atlanta. (Sorry, Atlanta.)
The chicken cosplaying plant-protein will be available in the form of nuggets or boneless wings (because it would be infinitely creepier if they somehow got bones in there).
For a trial period, customers will get a free sample of Beyond’s Kentucky Fried Plant Protein with every purchase. KFC has said it plans to use the feedback it receives in Atlanta to guide a potential national rollout.
As the chicken wing capital of America (sorry, Buffalo), Atlanta is the ideal place to test their weird chicken. KFC is thinking that if it can get veggie chicken to work there, it can get it to work anywhere.
Beyond’s stock (BYND) gained more than 1% this morning, continuing its meteoric rise since its IPO in May.
Nobody expected the weird meat guys to be the breakout stock of the year (more than 500% and counting). But according to one of our senior analysts, it’s about to be dwarfed by the biggest IPO of the year.
My guy says this IPO could be three times more valuable than every 2019 IPO combined (including the crappy ones like Lyft and Uber).
This $100 billion tech venture fund has nothing to do with growing franken-chickens in a lab… but it could triple in its first day of trading (as soon as August 29).
My guy will show you how to lock in your very own pre-IPO stake before a single share hits the market right here.
(Ed note: We think this could go down as soon as this Thursday, August 29. Click here to find out how to “skip the line” on what is shaping up to be the biggest IPO of the year.)
Indonesia’s Capital is Sinking/Moving Somewhere Else
The Indonesian capital of Jakarta is one of those Asian megacities rocking that dystopian future look. (I say rocking, but it’s more like its sinking.)
With 30 million people stuffed into the greater metropolitan area, Jakarta is dealing with one of the worst cases of overpopulation in the world.
All those people means trash. Lots and lots of trash. Picture a thin layer of trash blanketing an entire city. Now add some more trash to it. You’re almost there.
And, because every dystopian city needs some ticking clock drama, the whole city is sinking into the sea thanks to the uncontrolled extraction of groundwater.
It’s an ecological mess wrapped in a humanitarian crisis with a toxic floodwater garnish.
Today Indonesian president Joko Widodo announced his genius solution to all of the capital’s problems: They’re going to take the capital… and just kinda move it somewhere else.
Not the city itself mind you. Jakarta and the people that live there and all their businesses are going to stay there and wait for the sea to come take them in the night.
Widodo’s government is simply designating a nice area on the island of Borneo as the new capital (like a college student who simply moves to another room in the frat house when his one fills with trash).
The area, known as East Kalimantan Province, is a picturesque area famous for its rainforests and orangutans. (And soon to be famous for overpopulation, pollution, and probably sinking.)
“We couldn’t continue to allow the burden on Jakarta and Java island to increase in terms of population density,”Widodo said at a news conference yesterday. “Economic disparities between Java and elsewhere would also increase.”
Widodo said his very clever pretend-your-problems-don’t-exist solution is still in the drafting stages and will need to be approved by Parliament before the move.
In Other News
ONE LAST THING
You & the Blood of 500,000 Horseshoe Crabs
Ever seen a horseshoe crab?
One of those big gnarly dudes with the scary tail. Here I’ll grab a quick picture for you.
Well, if you’ve ever taken any medicine in the United States in the last 50 years, you’re connected to the horseshoe crab blue blood industry.
Yeah, you read that right. Let’s rewind for a second.
In the U.S., every drug approved by the FDA, by law, has to be tested for bacterial contaminants. Even the slightest bit of contamination could be deadly and unfortunately, that means some cute fluffy animals are going to have to step up for testing. (I say “step up” but… you know.)
Between the 1940s and the 1970s, big pharma relied primarily on rabbits for testing (because they’re cheap and they breed quickly). Hundreds and thousands of rabbits were euthanized every year to make sure drugs were safe(ish) to be sold to humans.
But in the 70s, scientists discovered that horseshoe crabs have a garbage immune system. It was so crappy, in fact, that drugs with bacterial contamination would trigger a severe reaction in the crab’s blood. (Which is Star Wars milk blue, by the way.)
Great news for rabbits. And great news for big pharma. (But maybe not for horseshoe crabs.)
Instead of injecting and killing hundreds of thousands of rabbits every year, they could extract the crab’s blood (through a process known as bleeding) and test the drugs on the blood alone.
Today, 500,000 horseshoe crabs are captured every year, bled, and returned to the ocean. It’s estimated that about 30% of these crabs die after being returned to the ocean. (Which makes sense. Imagine if some dork from Pfizer took a third of your blood and dumped you in the middle of the city on a Saturday night.)
Now, this process is better and more efficient than killing hundreds of thousands of rabbits. But it’s still a pain in the ass to catch and release 500,000 horseshoe crabs. (And there’s also the whole moral quandary of draining animals of their blood and messing around with their population.)
Which is why scientists are working on synthesizing the horseshoe crab’s blue blood in a lab — which would revolutionize bacterial testing for big pharma.
Some researchers have already displayed some promising results. But it’s early days yet.
This is one (a weird one) that we’re watching closely.
Closing Data for 8/26/19
|S&P Index 500||$2,878.69||↑ 1.11%|
- The city of Newark, New Jersey receives $120 million loan to fix its ongoing lead-poisoned water crisis.
- To combat shrinking tobacco sales, Philip Morris International (PM) and Altria (MO) are in advanced talks to merge.
- Driver complaints are on the rise over automatic emergency-braking systems in cars.
Editor, One Last Thing