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U.S. Healthcare is a Global Outlier, and Not in a Good Way

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Historically, the United States has spent more money than any other country on healthcare.

In the late 1990s, for example, the U.S. spent roughly 13% of GDP on healthcare, compared to about a 9.5% average for all high income countries.

However, in recent years, the difference has become more stark. Last year, as Obamacare continued to roll out, costs in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 17.5% of GDP. That’s over $3 trillion spent on healthcare annually, and the rate of spending is expected accelerate over the next decade.

High Costs, High Benefit?

With all that money being poured into healthcare, surely the U.S. must be getting better care in contrast to other high income countries.

At least, that’s what one would think.

Today’s chart comes to us from economist Max Roser (h/t @NinjaEconomics) and it shows the extreme divergence of the U.S. healthcare system using two simple stats: life expectancy vs. health expenditures per capita.

U.S. Healthcare is a Global Outlier, and Not in a Good Way

The Divergence of U.S. Healthcare

As you can see, Americans are spending more money – but they are not receiving results using the most basic metric of life expectancy. The divergence starts just before 1980, and it widens all the way to 2014.

It’s worth noting that the 2015 statistics are not plotted on this chart. However, given that healthcare spend was 17.5% of GDP in 2015, the divergence is likely to continue to widen. U.S. spending is now closing in on $10,000 per person.

Perhaps the most concerning revelation from this data?

Not only is U.S. healthcare spending wildly inefficient, but it’s also relatively ineffective. It would be one thing to spend more money and get the same results, but according to the above data that is not true. In fact, Americans on average will have shorter lives people in other high income countries.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has nearly flatlined, and it hasn’t yet crossed the 80 year threshold. Meanwhile, Chileans, Greeks, and Israelis are all outliving their American counterparts for a fraction of the associated costs.

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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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Cannabis

The Hidden Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market

The cannabis edibles market is one of the most exciting growth segments for legal sales, but a variety of concerns remain, especially for beverages.

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A Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market

The boom in legal cannabis has been absolutely historic.

According to ArcView Research, it’s already a multi-billion dollar industry – and by 2022, the legal market could be worth $32 billion globally.

As in any nascent industry, the early days of cannabis have been exciting and formative. As it begins to mature, it’ll become clearer what products will drive future growth.

In this context, cannabis edibles and beverages have taken center stage – and today’s infographic from Trait Biosciences outlines the magnitude of this opportunity, along with some of the challenges the market faces going forward.

The Rise of Edibles

From dark chocolate to CBD-infused beverages, the cannabis edibles market is one of the most diverse and exciting markets for both consumers and businesses.

Edibles and beverages have already more than doubled in their share of the overall cannabis market since 2011, and the market is expected to grow in size from $1 billion to $4.1 billion between the years 2017 and 2022.

This year, the Specialty Food Association even named cannabis edibles and beverages as a “Food Trend of the Year” – a nod to the fact that edibles are going mainstream, even within the scope of the much larger food and beverages industry.

Not surprisingly, as this category emerges, there are many big brands exploring options in the edibles market, including Constellation Brands, Molson Coors, Mondelez, Carl’s Jr, Anheuser Busch, Neal Brothers, and Coca-Cola. In particular, the beverages space seems to be hot: Constellation shelled out $4 billion for a stake in the largest cannabis company globally (Canopy Growth), and beer-maker Anheuser Busch partnered with Tilray to research THC and CBD drinks.

Marketplace Risks

There are four major sources of risk that could impact future growth potential for companies in the fast-moving cannabis edibles market:

  • Regulatory risks:
    Regulators are becoming increasingly concerned about the dosage, packaging, and labeling of edibles products
  • Stiff competition:
    Mega brands are entering the edibles space at a blistering pace, and could dominate market share from newer entrants
  • Taxes:
    Complex layers of taxation could decrease demand for edibles, such as in California, while also pushing consumers towards the black market
  • Consumer concerns:
    Unpredictable dosage amounts, taste, and even toxins have surfaced as issues with the media, as consumers voice their concerns with edible products

But above and beyond these known risks, there is another potential hindrance to the edibles and beverages market that flies under the radar: how cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream when ingested.

The Journey Into the Bloodstream

Unlike substances like sugar or alcohol, cannabinoids are not soluble in water. Instead, they are soluble in fats.

A substance such as sugar can enter the bloodstream within 10-15 minutes of ingesting. On the other hand, fat soluble substances such as cannabinoids have to wait – which is why sometimes edibles take hours to kick in.

Ultimately, cannabinoids are absorbed through the body’s fat. This happens in the small intestines, which help distribute them to the rest of the body.

Implications for Edibles and Beverages

For some cannabis producers, fat-solubility just means slow onset times and a generally undesirable taste. For other products, like CBD beverages, it creates bigger problems. Water and oil simply don’t mix.

To get around this, producers are using special emulsion techniques to make oil particles smaller, so that they mix with water better, increase bioavailability, and speed up onset times.

  • Macroemulsion:
    Think of this as mixing oil and vinegar. It’s your common emulsion that will separate over time, since oil and water don’t mix
  • Nanoemulsion:
    Stable but thermodynamically unstable. Uses surfactants to keep water/oil binded
  • Microemulsion:
    Stable, but uses a higher concentration of surfactants (which lower the surface tension between two liquids)

While these techniques are seeing increased usage by producers of cannabis products, they do have their own set of limitations.

Oil and water solutions still unbind over time, and products may only have a limited shelflife. Reporting by WSJ has found that these beverages also have a questionable aftertaste for many consumers, and onset times of these products are still not as fast as smoking or vaping.

It’s also worth noting that various health regulators, scientific journals, and international organizations have raised concerns about using nano-sized particles in food and beverages.

For example, the Canadian government warns that there is a “causal relationship between nanoparticle exposure and adverse health effects”, while the respected scientific journal Nature warns that nanoparticles “may behave differently within the human body”, and that “safety of nanoparticles should be judged on a case-by-case basis”.

Next Steps?

The cannabis edibles market is poised to be the next big thing – but when it comes to how these cannabinoids get absorbed by the body, there is still much work to be done.

How will the industry and consumers move forward to capitalize on growing opportunities in the edibles and beverages market?

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