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Ethical alternative to Big Pharma eyes ambitious growth

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Tom Revell looks at a new firm hoping to make waves in the global pharmaceuticals world.

The pharmaceuticals sector is a colossal industry of astronomical profits and billion dollar takeover bids, but among the giant redwoods of companies such as GSK and Pfizer, a new sapling of an idea is taking root.

Skyrocket Phytopharma hopes to sell phytopharmaceuticals – medicines derived from plants – that, although they are used, licensed and regulated elsewhere, have not yet been brought to the UK.

“The public perception is that ‘natural’ medicines are safer than those created in the laboratory”, says John Simpson, the firm’s founder and chief executive. 

“True or not, that is the perception and it impacts decisively on sales, accounting for the buoyant alternative medicines market in the UK.  

“However, many of the products on sale in health food shops have not been clinically proven to be either effective or safe, whatever the general public might think.”

Skyrocket has identified a roster of already-existing prospective products that are clinically proven, and safely and effectively used in the EU and elsewhere. Their active ingredients are naturally occurring and grown in plants, rather than in a scientist’s laboratory. 

“In phytopharmacy, the principle is that the whole plant extract is utilised rather than a particular isolated molecule or chemical and that the extract is subjected to as little processing as possible”, Simpson explains.

Skyrocket’s first product is a tropical analgesic medicine, a skin cream for the treatment of muscle pains, joint inflammation and sports injuries. It is created from organically grown pesticide-free plants, with proven efficacy. Millions of packs have been sold and it has been used for many years outside of the UK.

“Currently, only 16% of UK adults use topical analgesia for aches, pains and sprains and they are generally middle aged and older. But we all get aches and pains”, Simpson says. 

Skyrocket believes that this single product is capable of seeding the business and driving its efforts to expand the topical analgesics market. It is thought that athletes could provide a so-far untapped customer base.

Furthermore, Simpson argues that the natural product is, in fact, safer than the conventional alternatives.

“Fourteen clinical studies prove that it is safer and just as fast-acting and effective as the widely used laboratory-formulated products based on diclofenac and Ibuprofen,” he says. 

“These manufactured pharmaceuticals, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), have repeatedly had serious concerns raised with respect to serious side effects such as gastro-intestinal bleeding and adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular outcomes. 

“Users of Skyrocket’s product carry no such risk.” 

The Brighton-based firm is currently offering 25% equity for £300,000 to British investors via a campaign on the crowdfunding site Crowdcube.

The money will be used to pay the fees associated with the UK licensing process, to cover overheads, and to refine Skyrocket’s integrated strategic marketing campaign. If all goes to plan, the first product will be launched in early 2015. 

It is hoped that the help of the crowd will start the somewhat unique company on an unconventional journey to the top. There has been much criticism of the biggest players in the pharmaceutical industry, or so-called “Big Pharma”, in recent years. 

Ben Goldacre’s controversial 2012 book, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients argues, “the whole edifice of medicine is broken“, accusing Big Pharma of routinely manipulating evidence and prioritising profits over patient welfare. 

Recent corruption scandals have also tarred the name of the industry, with GlaxoSmithKline accused of multiple alleged offences around the world.

However, in this environment, Simpson believes that Skyrocket can be “a positively disruptive” force.

“I am not against Big Pharma per se – without some of their medicines morbidity and mortality rates would be far higher than they are and our balance of payments would be in an even worse state than they are – but I do think that they have a vested interest in patenting new laboratory created medicines rather looking at natural therapies that may be just as efficacious and possibly safer.

“I would say that the principle problem with the pharmaceutical industry is that it discourages lateral or radical thinking. You fall out of line at your peril, to some extent. Perhaps they will change, but that’s akin to turning around a supertanker.”

But among such moneyed and established competitors, how much of an impact can one small British firm with an ethical mantra dependent on the support of internet investors really make? 

“This is an ambitious company,” Simpson says. 

“I see exponential growth in the UK and opportunities globally. I would like to list the company eventually and expand its product offerings into even more markets. The company envisages a net profit of around £2m per annum by 2016. The company’s plans are robust, the products are good and they should sell well here.”

Skyrocket already holds exclusive commercial rights to several other natural medicines, and beyond the immediate future it plans to develop the market for these alternatives.

And with the demand for effective natural medicine in the UK largely unmet, it could soon be making big waves among Big Pharma.

Further reading:

Pfizer drops AstraZeneca takeover bid

We’ll invest in GlaxoSmithKline for as long as it’s 100% committed to cleaning up its act

Pharmaceutical firms GSK and Novartis announce multi-billion deal

 

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2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage

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Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/droidworker

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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eco-responsible
Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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