Are You a TEDMED Fan?

by Elizabeth Snouffer on 09/11/2010

What started out in 1984 as a conference showcasing some of the world’s most creative minds (TED 2010 included speakers Bill Gates, James Cameron, and David Byrne) talking about their passions and ideas in areas of T(echnology, E(ntertainment), D(esign) has grown into a massive community of not just one conference but a legion of internet followers and more than a handful of events including TED (the original, Long Beach, CA), TEDGlobal (Oxford UK) and my favorite, TEDMED (San Diego, CA) where “healthcare and medicine collide with brilliant minds and uninhibited imagination,” scheduled for 26-29 October 2010.  I have to admit, I’m hooked, and while I am motivated and encouraged by the medical and scientific talks I viewed on the web from TEDMED 2009 – I will not be attending the conference in 2010.  The price for a TEDMED ticket is US $4000 and is currently sold out.  Fortunately, this doesn’t matter to me.  Hong Kong to San Diego is a long flight for a four day conference and nearly every speaker will be aired online for healthcare internet geeks like me.  Elitist or not – I love it!

But at more than a month and half away, why bring up TEDMED now?  Last year’s program focused on most of the greater issues facing modern healthcare and well-being today, as well as talks that reflected scientific progress and its impact on saving lives.  Many of the speakers such as David Pogue gave a live demonstration on how Apple med-applications can be used to help people do more for their health with the iPhone and “have fun too.”  (This year, Walter S. Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal will talk about the iPad and how it could change medicine.)  Craig Ventner was present discussing his genome and the future of synthetic life.  Deepak Chopra discussed the importance of living a life steeped in core values, and standing on his virtual soapbox declared, “the best way to be happy is to make someone happy” while Dean Ornish told the audience that his research has taught him that people need to utilize “the experience of suffering as a doorway for transforming our lives.”  Cancer was center-stage, and why shouldn’t it be?  Having lost my sister to melanoma and my father to colon cancer, I too hope that a transformative cure for cancer will save all people suffering today.

What wasn’t discussed directly was the problem of diabetes.  I find this a distressing, yet telling exclusion.  Prevention in the way of lifestyle changes for longevity were stressed, no doubt about that. (And for the best example of just how wrong the “western diet” is, check out Peter Menzel‘s video below.)  Eric Topol presented the future of wireless medicine and for two seconds, a wireless prototype of a glucometer.  Other than one or two mentions for future technology, diabetes wasn’t discussed, nearly validating the idea that diabetes just isn’t cool. For an American conference focusing on modern healthcare and scientific medical progress not to discuss what is becoming a profound epidemic seems more than odd. It’s irresponsible.  So while I applaud all the speakers for their effort at elucidating the higher planes of medical science, I am befuddled with the TEDMED program creators for not including a talk solely dedicated to the ways medicine and science might just find a way to cure diabetes or at the very least, better care for it.

Maybe TEDMED 2010 will be the year for diabetes.  Stephen N. Osterle, MD, Vice President for Medicine and Technology for Medtronic, has a talk lined-up and entitled “Are we Ready for “Wafer-Scale” Implantable Medical Devices?” which sounds promising enough.  However, the only other discussion on the table for diabetes might be Mark Hyman’s, “When is a Hacksaw a Necessary Medical Device?” which sounds terrifying.  Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Reprinted from on 11-09-2010

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Scott S September 12, 2010 at 00:43

The other notable exclusion was a realistic analysis of the cost-benefit analysis of maintaining the status-quo of continuing to TREAT diabetes relative to what the cost outlay would be to actually curing the disease. There is a mindset in the medical profession that in the absence of a cure (which the American Diabetes Association says will never exist, only “permanent remission” … sounds like semantics to me) that the most cost-effective way of dealing with the diabetes issue is to treat it. A cure is never even considered. But let’s think theoretically about this for a second. Let’s say that in the next decade, science actually does develop effective autoimmunity treatments for type 1 diabetes combined with islet replacement and/or restoration. There are now 3 type 1 autoimmunity treatments in late stage Phase III human clinical trials, and there are a few regeneration treatments in Phase I or Phase II studies, plus there is the islet sheet studies you addressed in this blog. What happens if EACH of these two components costs USD $20,000? (David Mendosa interviewed Lisa Jansa, CEO for regeneration developer Exsulin Corp. several years ago and that was a number that came up, and that’s for only half of the treatment needed to reverse the disease). We’re talking USD $80,000 which is an absolutely enormous expenditure for private healthcare plans that limit testing supplies to 6/day (more than for type 2′s, incidentally) to save a few dollars — in the short-term (the actuaries have found that a majority of covered individuals will be with another carrier over the years, therefore such short-term decisions actually DO make financial sense), and even worse for people in countries like much of Western Europe that have nationalized healthcare insurance coverage. Yet the analysis is flawed because it ignores the long-term costs of existing treatments, which are so far, only partially successful. I wish someone would try to do this kind of analysis — it might tell a different story!!

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