Boron chains may be semiconductors

One-dimensional boron is likely to have unusual properties that would make it useful for nanometre-scale electronics.

Boron does not exist naturally in 1D form, but it may soon be possible to make it, thanks to recent developments in creating sophisticated structures from the element and in crafting carbon into 1D chains. Vasilii Artyukhov, Boris Yakobson and Mingjie Liu at Rice University in Houston, Texas, calculated the likely properties of 1D boron using a computing technique called density functional theory. They predict that boron would be more stable as a 2-atom-wide metallic ribbon than as a single-atom chain, but that stretching the ribbon should switch it to the chain form, which would be a semiconductor.

Releasing the tension on the chain would flip it back into ribbon form. This reversibility could make 1D boron suitable for nanoscale devices that convert movement into electrical signals, the authors say.

Everything is rigged.

DHA Supplements Linked to Less Progression to Alzheimer’s in APOE4 Carriers

High doses of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements may help prevent progression to dementia in people who carry the apolipoprotein ε4 allele (APOE4), a new review suggests.

The hope is that this new review of current evidence will spark renewed interest in funding research into DHA in APOE4 carriers, said lead author Hussein N. Yassine, MD, assistant professor, endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Keck School of Medicine University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

“What we are trying to say is that maybe we should invest more in studies looking at DHA in the right population,” said Dr Yassine.

Biologics, Diabetes Meds Top 2016 Spending: Express Scripts

Biologic anti-inflammatory drugs, diabetes medications, and cancer therapies were the top three categories of pharmaceutical spending in 2016 by employers who used the pharmaceutical benefit management (PBM) company Express Scripts.

One of every five dollars spent on prescription drugs was for a medication to treat an inflammatory condition or diabetes, according to the PBM’s2016 Drug Trend Report. St. Louis-based Express Scripts is the nation’s largest PBM, serving some 85 million Americans.

The company said it kept drug costs down for its clients through its various programs, though prices still increased. Average list prices for the most commonly used brand-name drugs increased 10.7% in 2016. Specialty drug costs continued to rise — 6.2% in 2016. Prices for the most commonly used generic drugs declined by 8.7%.

Certain individual drug categories continued to hit purchasers hard. Express Scripts’ employer clients paid almost $3,600 on average per prescription for an anti-inflammatory condition such as psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis. Two brand names —Humira (adalimumab, AbbVie) and Enbrel(etanercept, Amgen) — were the biggest cost drivers in the class, with unit cost increases of 10% to 18%. The two therapies accounted for 70% of the anti-inflammatory market, despite there being 13 other available therapies, according to the PBM.

Spending on diabetes medications increased 19.4%, largely fueled by a 14% increase in unit cost. Express Scripts said that spending on insulins — which accounted for 40% of all diabetes spending — increased 10% from 2015 to 2016. Clients of the PBM paid $36.69 per insulin prescription, which was $1.63 more than 2015.

Oncology drug spending rose 22% in 2016, in part because unit costs for oral therapies increased by almost 10%. Express Scripts noted that oral chemotherapies are not subject to rebates or discounts “to any significant extent,” and that, since 2011, list prices for those medications have doubled from $20 per unit to $40 per unit.

Pain medications were the fifth costliest class of drugs for employers (after multiple sclerosis medications), with one in five of the PBM’s enrolees filling a prescription in 2016. Ninety-five percent of the prescriptions were for a generic. Even so, two brand-name medications helped drive costs up — Lyrica (pregabalin) and OxyContin(oxycodone).

Express Scripts also reported an uptick in spending on contraceptives and depression medications, bringing those two classes into the top 15 for drug spending for the first time. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires private plans on the exchanges and Medicaid programs to provide contraceptives free of charge. Insurance plans created after 2012 had the same requirement.

The ACA also required coverage of mental health services for exchange plans, Medicaid, and so-called nongrandfathered employer-based health plans.

Express Scripts reported a 34% decrease in spending on hepatitis C medications, which it said was due to decreased unit costs and less use. The two most-used therapies were Viekira Pak(ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir with dasabuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), which accounted for just over 40% of the market.

The PBM said it expects hepatitis C spending to decline almost 29% each of the next 2 years, in part because it is negotiating better pricing forHarvoni. It is including both Viekira Pak/XR andHarvoni as preferred products on its formulary in 2017.

Earthquake early-warning systems finally becoming a reality.

Scientists and earthquake experts agree that it’s not if but when “the big one” – an earthquake registering magnitude 8.0 or higher – will hit the West Coast. In fact, seismic experts believe a major earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault is long overdue.

When that earthquake hits, it has the potential to cause thousands of deaths, impact 3.5 million homes and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.

With that in mind, public and private organizations are racing to get earthquake early-warning systems into the hands of residents, businesses and utility companies.

The ShakeAlert project is a coalition that includes the U.S. Geological Survey, the State of California and universities including the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon.

“Safety is the cornerstone of PG&E’s culture. Nothing is more important to us than public, employee and contractor safety, and PG&E’s embrace of earthquake early-warning technology is the latest example of our dedication to taking a proactive and committed approach to preparedness and resiliency,” said Barry Anderson, PG&E’s vice president of electric distribution.

But even anyone with a cellphone could get a heads up on when an earthquake will happen.

Early Warning Labs anticipates a large portion of California residents will have its earthquake early-warning system app in their hands as soon as 2018.

“Earthquakes have always remained elusive threat to life and property,” said Josh Bashioum, the founder of Early Warning Labs. “Now, with the tremendous work from the USGS and partner universities such as Caltech and Berkeley, paired with our cutting-edge technology, we can now warn individuals to protect themselves BEFORE the shaking arrives. As a volunteer first responder and instructor myself, the thought of saving hundreds if not thousands of lives in the next big earthquake is incredibly rewarding.”

The technology already exists and could give West Coast residents up to 60 seconds of warning time, depending on how far they are from the epicenter of the quake. That may not sound like much time, but it’s enough for residents to take shelter, doctors to stop surgeries, trains to come to a halt, pipelines to be shut down, first responders to open garage doors for their vehicles and much more.

This week, Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced it was infusing earthquake early-warning systems into its emergency management and preparedness efforts. According to a press release, PG&E is working with both private and publicly funded technology developers and integrators, including Early Warning Labs, Seismic Warning Systems and the ShakeAlert project.