Connect with us


Nasdaq Futures Surge Despite Vaccine Setback As Gamma Squeeze Continues

Nasdaq Futures Surge Despite Vaccine Setback As Gamma Squeeze Continues



Nasdaq Futures Surge Despite Vaccine Setback As Gamma Squeeze Continues Tyler Durden Tue, 10/13/2020 - 08:18

Global stocks and S&P futures struggled on Tuesday amid concerns over a Johnson & Johnson vaccine setback, which overshadowed Chinese trade data that pointed to a buoyant recovery, while yields dropped and the U.S. dollar edged away from a three-week low.

S&P 500 contracts were modestly in the red after falling as much as 0.6% after a late Monday report that Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine study has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a participant. BlackRock rose in pre-market trading after earnings beat estimates and assets under management surged to a record, while JPMorgan climbed after revenue and EPS topped expectations as a result of a massive reserve release.

However while the S&P was trading with fractional losses, Nasdaq futures were sharply higher again as the European open appears to have triggered a continuation of yesterday's gamma squeeze which sent the Nasdaq up as much as 4% in what many believe is another attempt by a Nasdaq whale such as SoftBank to squeeze shorts in either options or NQ futures, as we explained yesterday.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in nearly 50 countries, fell 0.1%. The Euro STOXX 600 fell 0.4% before trimming losses, with markets in Frankfurt, London and Paris mirroring its moves. It was last down 0.2%, on course to end three straight days of gains.  The travel and leisure and autos sectors suffered, losing 1% and 0.3% respectively after heavier falls in early trading, after the J&J news spooked traders. Investors had seen the quick introduction of a vaccine as key to helping economies recover. J&J's move comes after AstraZeneca paused late-stage trials of its experimental vaccine in September, also due to a participant's unexplained illness.

The risk-off mood contrasted with earlier resilience for Asian markets. They recovered losses after Chinese data showed exports rising 9.9% in September, in line with the 10% expected, while imports swung to a 13.2% gain, far higher than expected, versus a 2.1% drop in August.

The data, which suggests Chinese exporters are recovering from the pandemic’s damage to overseas orders, helped MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gain 0.2%. Chinese blue-chip shares added 0.3% after dipping early in the day. Some investors, though, raised questions about how strong consumer demand would prove to be.

"The question is not necessarily how China’s trade is doing per se, but how well will consumers spend on Christmas to give some sense of normalcy amid a period of great stress," said Nordea Investments’ Sebastien Galy, according to Reuters.

Currency traders were also watching Chinese trade-related issues. Reports that Beijing has stopped taking shipments of Australian coal caused the Australian dollar to drop as much as 0.6% to $0.7165.

In rates, treasuries flattened as cash trading resumes following Monday’s Fed-observed holiday; long-end yields were richer by ~2bps vs Friday’s close. These long-end-led gains flattened the 2s10s, 5s30s by ~1bp; 10-year yields down 1.7bp at 0.757% vs little-changed bunds and gilts. Government bond yields in the euro zone held near recent troughs, with hefty supply failing to dent a market bolstered by expectations for further central bank easing. Germany's 10-year Bund yield touched -0.538%, its lowest in just over a week. Italian and Greek benchmark 10-year debt both hit record lows.

Meanwhile, despite a total gridlock on fiscal stimulus, markets are now increasingly bulled up that Joe Biden will win the presidential election next month, which the narrative expects to lead to a big stimulus package to help the coronavirus-battered U.S. economy. “Biden effectively leading in the polls is removing some element of uncertainty,” said Jeremy Gatto, an investment manager at Unigestion in Geneva. “In investors’ minds, it’s not a question of if we get a stimulus, but when.”

“The hurdles at the moment come from the uncertainty around the U.S. election and the uncertainty about the timing and effectiveness of a vaccine,” Chris Iggo, chief investment officer at AXA IM Core Investments.

At the same time, many banks such as Goldman Sachs, expect a Biden win to undermine the U.S. dollar, since he's pledged to raise corporate tax rates. But the dollar rose 0.2% against a basket of other currencies to 93.214, trying to extend a rebound from Friday's near-three-week low of 92.997. The Chinese yuan fell 0.1% to 6.7466 per dollar after the central bank set a weaker-than-forecast midpoint, offsetting any boost from the trade data, and followed Monday's drop when the PBOC made it easier to short the currency.

In commodities, WTI & Brent prices have been choppy but at present are supported as attention moves from the trio of supply-side factors that were impacting benchmarks yesterday and turns towards the sessions events with the OPEC MOMR due for release today (timing TBC); ahead of the IEA equivalent due tomorrow. Spot gold is essentially unchanged on the session and has been relatively steady ~USD 1920/oz for the morning given the USD’s rangebound performance and lack of fundamental catalysts thus far. Silver is up notably after the recent upgrade of the precious metal by Goldman Sachs.

Today, the hearings for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett continue in the Senate Judiciary Committee as Republicans try to cement a conservative majority on the court before the Nov. 3 election. Expected data include inflation. BlackRock, Citigroup, Delta Air, Fastenal, J&J and JPMorgan are among companies reporting earnings

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures little changed at 3,529.75
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.1% to 372.56
  • MXAP up 0.2% to 177.24
  • MXAPJ up 0.2% to 588.52
  • Nikkei up 0.2% to 23,601.78
  • Topix up 0.4% to 1,649.10
  • Hang Seng Index up 2.2% to 24,649.68
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.04% to 3,359.75
  • Sensex down 0.01% to 40,588.00
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 1% to 6,195.75
  • Kospi down 0.02% to 2,403.15
  • Brent futures up 1.6% to $42.39/bbl
  • Gold spot little changed at $1,923.07
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.1% to 93.15
  • German 10Y yield fell 0.5 bps to -0.55%
  • Euro down 0.1% to $1.1797
  • Italian 10Y yield fell 4.6 bps to 0.475%
  • Spanish 10Y yield rose 0.3 bps to 0.148%

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • European Union leaders will discuss preparations for the potential collapse of trade talks with the U.K. when they hold a summit later this week after France dug in, questioning whether it could hold Boris Johnson’s government to any agreement
  • Boris Johnson clashed with his own government’s scientific advisers who wanted tougher action against the resurgent coronavirus outbreak in the U.K. in September
  • China’s exports rose for the fourth straight month in September while imports surged, pointing to further recovery in the month for global trade and a robust domestic rebound
  • U.K. job cuts jumped the most on record in the three months through August even as lockdown eased, raising concern that the worst is yet to come. The number of redundancies climbed 114,000 in the June-August period, the most since 1995, the Office for National Statistics said Tuesday

A quick look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asia-Pac equities traded mixed following the upbeat performance on Wall Street where the Nasdaq posted its best session in around month as the tech-sector led the gains and Apple shares closed higher by over 6% ahead of the Apple Event and the much-anticipated unveiling of the iPhone 12. Sentiment softened following a firm re-opening of cash Treasuries, which could’ve encouraged defensive flows in other assets, whilst the risk-mood further waned following reports that Johnson & Johnson paused its COVID-19 study (ahead of earnings) amid an unexplained illness in a participant – with the company later confirming and caveating that adverse events are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large ones. Nonetheless, ASX 200 (+1.2%) was supported by advances in its heavyweight financials as the broader sector eyes US bank earnings set to kick off with JP Morgan and Citi, meanwhile mining names in the index retrace some of yesterday’s upside. Nikkei 225 (unch) was choppy and gave up opening gains at one point as shares in heavyweight Softbank reversed course following the announcement of its Vision Fund mulling a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and is seeking outside investments, albeit it may reportedly put its own capital in the vehicle. Elsewhere, KOSPI (-0.5%) continued grinding lower as South Korea’s new COVID-19 cases rebounded to over 100 a day after the country eased restrictions. Meanwhile, Shanghai Comp (-0.4%) was lacklustre after the PBoC skipped open market operations for a net daily drain of CNY 100bln – with little reaction to September exports and imports hitting record highs in Yuan terms, whilst the Hang Seng session was cancelled due to tropical storm Nangka. Finally, broader defensive flows have kept JGBs supported, with the 5yr outperforming in cash and futures.

Top Asian News

  • China’s Exports Gain, Imports Surge in September Amid Reopenings
  • Singapore Marks Milestone in Virus Fight with No New Local Cases
  • China Evergrande Seeks Up to $1.09 Billion in Share Placement
  • HSBC Is Left Off First China Dollar Bond Deal Since 2017

European equities (Eurostoxx 50 -0.2%) have seen a mild scaling back of yesterday’s gains with a decline in US equity index futures alongside the EU cash open dictating the sate-of-play early doors; although, the NQ is the mornings outperform with gains of 0.7%. In terms of the current key themes for the market, little in the way has changed in the Presidential election or stimulus front since yesterday’s close, whilst on the vaccine front, Johnson & Johnson announced that it has paused all dosing in its Janssen COVID-19 vaccine trial due to an unexplained illness. Johnson & Johnson caveated the announcement by noting that such incidents are an expected part of any clinical study, especially of this size. On the vaccine front, even in the event of a more material disruption to the trial process, desks will likely be cognizant of the volume of vaccine candidates in the pipeline and therefore would likely remain confident that a vaccine of some description will materialise at some stage. Across Europe, losses are relatively broad-based across major indices with sectoral performance mixed. To the downside, banking names are notably softer this morning as the sector remains out of favour with investors; Pantheon Macro highlights that the Eurostoxx bank index is down 40% YTD compared to losses of 12% for the broader index. Travel & leisure stocks are also softer with the tenor of updates on the COVID front continuing to come in on the negative side for the sector. To the upside, telecom and utilities names are faring better than peers with the later supported by SSE (+4.0%) after the Co. disposed of its 50% stake in Multifuel Energy Limited for GBP 995mln. Elsewhere, Maersk (+1.9%) have seen mild support after the Co. upgraded its 2020 adj. EBITDA outlook, Airbus (-3.1%) trade softer after signing a labour deal with French unions and being downgraded at JP Morgan, whilst stock-specific newsflow is otherwise relatively light this morning. Looking ahead, increasing focus will likely be placed on US earnings with Johnson & Johnson, BlackRock, JP Morgan, Delta Airlines and Citi all due to report before the opening bell today.

Top European News

  • Top U.K. Scientists Clash With Johnson Over Virus Lockdown
  • U.K. Job Cuts Jump Most on Record With More Pain on the Way
  • Investor Hopes For German Recovery Plunge After Virus Resurgence
  • Macron Turns to Former Taxi Driver to Save French Shopkeepers

In FX, ironically, a significantly narrower trade surplus due to imports exceeding consensus by a huge margin in China has not helped the Aussie at all given the fact that the latter is now tightening levels of custom checks for coal and related products from the former after banning other goods. Indeed, Aud/Usd has now lost grip of the 0.7200 handle and the Aud/Nzd cross is testing support/bids at the psychological 1.0800 mark to provide the Kiwi with some relative support above 0.6600 vs its US peer. Ahead, Aussie consumer sentiment before a speech by RBA Governor Lowe on Wednesday and jobs data the day after.

  • USD – The Dollar seems to be benefiting at the expense of others rather than in its own right, though a downturn in risk sentiment after Monday’s excesses on Wall Street may also be impacting alongside some consolidation after the DXY held above 93.000 yesterday and subsequently eclipsed the 50 DMA, albeit unconvincingly so far within 93.273-034 parameters as attention turns to US CPI data and the start of Q3 earnings.
  • CAD/JPY/CHF/EUR/GBP - All softer against the Greenback, though to varying degrees as the Loonie gleans some encouragement from stabilising oil prices to stay within reach of 1.3100 and the Yen holds above 105.50 amidst reports that new Japanese PM Suga is mulling further economic support measures to be rolled out in November. Meanwhile, the Franc remains anchored around 0.9100, the Euro is striving to keep sight of 1.1800 where even bigger option expiries (2.5 bn) align with the 50 DMA and Sterling has survived another test of 1.3000 in wake of mixed UK labour and retail survey data in the run up to another speech from BoE Governor Bailey and a report on Brexit trade negotiations from EU Ministers. Note, Eur/Usd has slipped a few pips on the back of a pretty downbeat October German ZEW survey.
  • SCANDI/EM - Softer than forecast Swedish CPI readings have not hampered the Swedish Crown given the Riskbank’s insistence that inflation undershoots are transitory blips and likelihood that Governor Ingves will stick to that script if he mentions the data later. Elsewhere, the Norwegian Krona is also deriving a degree of traction from the aforementioned recovery in crude awaiting a trio of Norges Bank commentators including chief Olsen, while the SA Rand could receive some independent impetus from Gold and overall mining production as Usd/Zar hovers under 16.5000, Eur/Sek eyes 10.3500 and Eur/Nok probes 10.7800.

In commodities, WTI & Brent prices have been choppy throughout the morning but at present are supported as attention moves from the trio of supply-side factors that were impacting benchmarks yesterday and turns towards the sessions events with the OPEC MOMR due for release today (timing TBC); ahead of the IEA equivalent due tomorrow. Currently, WTI and Brent futures are at the top end of session ranges, USD 40.22/bbl and USD 42.43/bbl respectively, seemingly moving in tandem to the grinding upside seen in US futures; but, as mentioned, have been choppy thus far printing both fresh session highs and lows in the European morning. Elsewhere and ahead of today’s OPEC MOMR, thus far this month the EIA STEO cut both 2020 and 2021 world oil demand growth by 300k and 280k BPD respectively; note, attention from an OPEC perspective is perhaps more on the upcoming JMMC meeting on October 19th for any potential alterations to the output cut schedule given returning Libyan demand among other factors. Separately, updates from the IEA overnight saw them forecast oil demand -8% this year alongside a -5% drop in global energy demand; such commentary comes ahead of the IEA monthly report tomorrow and as a reminder in September the agency cut their demand forecast for both this year and next. Moving to metals, where spot gold is essentially unchanged on the session and has been relatively steady ~USD 1920/oz for the morning given the USD’s rangebound performance and lack of fundamental catalysts thus far.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: US CPI MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.4%; YoY, est. 1.4%, prior 1.3%
  • 8:30am: US CPI Ex Food and Energy MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.4%; YoY, est. 1.7%, prior 1.7%
  • 8:30am: Real Avg Weekly Earnings YoY, prior 3.9%; Avg Hourly Earning YoY, prior 3.3%

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Today is the annual day where resistance is futile. Every year I go into it with good intentions after a conversation with my wife the night before as to how I don’t need to join the crowd. Then by the end of the day I’ve always committed to becoming a stampeding lemming. Yes today I shall agree to buy the new iPhone regardless of what features the product launch tells me it has. I’d imagine they could go all retro and go back to a phone that just allows you to speak to someone and l’d simply ask them to name their price. Oh and as I’ve been typing this I’ve just had an alert telling me it’s Amazon Prime Day. I could be much poorer by the time you read this and then bankrupt by the time the Apple event ends tonight.

Ahead of this big product launch and the start of US earnings season today, global equity markets followed up the last two weeks of gains with yet another strong performance yesterday. Even with the US slow due to the Columbus Day holiday, by the close the S&P 500 was up another +1.64%, as the index closed at its 2nd highest level ever, just over 1% down from its record close. The index’s biggest component, Apple (+6.35%), was the best performing S&P stock in anticipation of today’s news. Overall, megacap tech stocks outperformed the broader index leading the NASDAQ to finish an even stronger +2.56% higher, the best day for the index since early September. The rally was still fairly broad-based with 22 of the 24 S&P industry groups higher with only defensives like consumer durables (-0.44%) giving way. Over in Europe, the STOXX 600 climbed +0.72% to reach its own 3-week high. Energy stocks were among the laggards on both sides of the Atlantic as Brent crude (-2.64%) and WTI (-2.88%) oil prices fell back. The drop was the most in just over a week and comes as news that supply disruptions are easing. Specifically, Royal Dutch Shell, BHP Group and Chevron all said they have resumed operations in the Gulf of Mexico and separately Libya’s National Oil Corp has ramped up production of its largest oil field. The STOXX 600 travel and leisure index was down -0.64% in spite of the broader market rally as the move to tighter restrictions gathered pace.

Attention will now turn to the start of the Q3 earnings season with today’s releases including Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and BlackRock, ahead of a number of other financials releasing later in the week. As our asset allocation team wrote in their preview (link here), the bottom-up consensus for Q3 is for a sharp rebound in headline earnings, but the bulk is being driven by reductions in loan loss provisions and energy sector losses. If you exclude these, underlying earnings growth is forecast to barely move up, in spite of rising Q3 GDP growth estimates pointing to a strong macro rebound. According to them, this suggests the consensus is likely again underestimating the bounce in earnings. This is the same as we highlighted in Q2 but the big difference is that US equity positioning is more neutral now and that election uncertainty has increasingly been priced out over the last couple of weeks. So while the Q2 season was set up for a big market rally, it’s going to be much harder in Q3 even if the positive earnings story is similar.

You can bet companies will continue to be asked about ESG on their earnings calls. The ESG themes this year may have been dominated by health and sustainability, but Luke and Karthik from my team have just published a piece that shows the hottest growth topics in the third quarter were new ones as companies looked to start rebuilding from the pandemic. Their piece also reviews Q3 performance and flows for ESG funds. See here for more.

Back to the virus and in terms of the new measures, UK Prime Minister Johnson announced there’d be a new tiered alert system for England, which would see different areas grouped into medium, high and very high. The new measures come as data showed hospitalisations in England rose to 3,665 yesterday, which its highest level since June 12. Areas under a Very High alert will see pubs and bars close, though shops and schools are remaining open. Later today Dutch Prime Minister Rutte is expected to announce stricter measures and Italy’s Prime Minister Conte was also reportedly looking into new restrictions on private parties, amateur sports activities and social gatherings.

Elsewhere in the US, Covid cases are now averaging over 48,000 per day over the last week and to the highest levels since mid-August. The highest impacted states per 10K people are those that missed the initial wave (Northeast and West Coast) and the second wave (Sun Belt). The states most affected now are in the upper Midwest – North and South Dakota as well as Wisconsin. The latter continues to be a big focus of next month’s election and the impact of the virus may make counting votes there take longer than normal with many voters mailing in ballots for the first time.

On the vaccine front, Johnson & Johnson said overnight that its Covid-19 Phase 3 trial has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a participant. Elsewhere, China’s local daily Jiemian reported that Sinopharm has started to administer its two vaccines to residents in Wuhan and Beijing. Residents can now make appointments to get the shot and students who need to go abroad from November to January are being given priority. As a reminder, Sinopharm already has limited approval in China to administer its vaccine.

The above news on J&J is weighing on risk overnight even if most markets have recovered from their respective intraday lows. The Shanghai Comp (-0.28%) and Kospi (-0.36%) are down while the Nikkei (+0.12%) is up. S&P 500 futures also retreated following the news and is now -0.41% as we type. The Hang Seng suspended morning trading on the likelihood of a tropical storm hitting Hong Kong’s shore. In FX, the US dollar index is trading up +0.13%. Elsewhere, spot gold prices are down -0.62%. In terms of overnight data, China’s September exports came in at +9.9% yoy (vs. +10.0% yoy expected) while imports jumped to +13.2% yoy (vs. +0.4% yoy expected). As a result the trade balance for the month stood at $37bn (vs. $60bn expected). In other news, the hearings for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett have begun in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Back to the election and investor sentiment was further supported yesterday by the continued poll lead for Joe Biden amidst hopes that a blue wave for the Democrats will set markets up for substantial fiscal stimulus next year. The FiveThirtyEight and the RealClearPolitics polling averages now put Biden +10.4pts and +10.2pts ahead respectively. The FiveTirthyEight Senate model now gives Democrats a 69% chance of winning control of the Senate (given the Vice President is the tiebreaker), the highest probability of this election cycle. The November VIX future, which expires two weeks following the election, fell to its lowest level since August 20 as polls continue to widen. On this today DB are hosting a live video call on “Who is going to win the 2020 US Presidential election?” at 3pm BST/4pm CET/10am ET with US polling experts Amy Walter, National Editor, The Cook Political Report and G. Elliott Morris, Data journalist for The Economist. Register here if you want to get the details.

New records were set over in the fixed income sphere, as yields on 10yr Italian debt hit another record low of 0.67%. In our chart of the day yesterday (link here ), we looked at 700 years of data on this, and show how Italian yields have continued to fall even as the country’s public debt burden looks set to climb to even higher records. The spread of 10yr yields over bunds has also continued to narrow, and yesterday hit a fresh 2-year low of 1.22%. Bunds themselves saw a -1.8bps fall in yields to -0.55%, while US Treasury markets were closed for a bond holiday in the US. Yields on 10y USTs are trading down -1.3bps this morning at 0.763%.

To the day ahead now, and earnings season kicks off with releases from Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and BlackRock. From central banks, we’ll hear from Bank of England Governor Bailey, the ECB’s Hernandez de Cos and the Fed’s Barkin. Data releases include the US CPI reading for September, while the IMF will be releasing their latest World Economic Outlook.

Read More

Continue Reading

Spread & Containment

Asking the right dumb questions

You’ll have to forgive the truncated newsletter this week. Turns out I brought more back from Chicago than a couple of robot stress balls (the one piece…



You’ll have to forgive the truncated newsletter this week. Turns out I brought more back from Chicago than a couple of robot stress balls (the one piece of swag I will gladly accept). I was telling someone ahead of the ProMat trip that I’ve returned to 2019 travel levels this year. One bit I’d forgotten was the frequency and severity of convention colds — “con crud,” as my comics friends used to call it.

I’ve been mostly housebound for the last few days, dealing with this special brand of Chicago-style deep-dish viral infection. The past three years have no doubt hobbled my immune system, but after catching COVID-19 three times, it’s frankly refreshing to have a classic, good old-fashioned head cold. Sometimes you want the band you see live to play the hits, you know? I’m rediscovering the transformative properties of honey in a cup of tea.

The good news for me is that (and, hopefully, you) is I’ve got a trio of interviews from ProMat that I’ve been wanting to share in Actuator. As I said last week, the trip was really insightful. At one of the after-show events, someone asked me how one gets into tech journalism. It’s something I’ve been asked from time to time, and I always have the same answer. There are two paths in. One is as a technologist; the other is as a journalist.

It’s obvious on the face of it. But the point is that people tend to enter the field in one of two distinct ways. Either they love writing or they’re really into tech. I was the former. I moved to New York City to write about music. It’s something I still do, but it’s never fully paid the bills. The good news for me is I sincerely believe it’s easier to learn about technology than it is to learn how to be a good writer.

I suspect the world of robotics startups is similarly bifurcated. You enter as either a robotics expert or someone with a deep knowledge of the field that’s being automated. I often think about the time iRobot CEO Colin Angle told me that, in order to become a successful roboticist, he first had to become a vacuum salesman. He and his fellow co-founders got into the world through the robotics side. And then there’s Locus robotics, which began as a logistics company that started building robots out of necessity.

Both approaches are valid, and I’m not entirely sure one is better than the other, assuming you’re willing to surround yourself with assertive people who possess deep knowledge in areas where you fall short. I don’t know if I entirely buy the old adage that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, but I do believe that dumb questions are necessary, and you need to get comfortable asking them. You also need to find a group of people you’re comfortable asking. Smart people know the right dumb questions to ask.

Covering robotics has been a similar journey for me. I learned as much about supply chain/logistics as the robots that serve them at last week’s event. That’s been an extremely edifying aspect of writing about the space. In robotics, no one really gets to be a pure roboticist anymore.

Q&A with Rick Faulk

Image Credits: Locus Robotics

I’m gonna kick things off this week with highlights from a trio of ProMat interviews. First up is Locus Robotics CEO, Rick Faulk. The full interview is here.

TC: You potentially have the foundation to automate the entire process.

RF: We absolutely do that today. It’s not a dream.

Lights out?

It’s not lights out. Lights out might happen 10 years from now, but the ROI is not there to do it today. It may be there down the road. We’ve got advanced product groups working on some things that are looking at how to get more labor out of the equation. Our strategy is to minimize labor over time. We’re doing integrations with Berkshire Grey and others to minimize labor. To get to a dark building is going to be years away.

Have you explored front-of-house — retail or restaurants?

We have a lot of calls about restaurants. Our strategy is to focus. There are 135,000 warehouses out there that have to be automated. Less than 5% are automated today. I was in Japan recently, and my meal was filled by a robot. I look around and say, “Hey, we could do that.” But it’s a different market.

What is the safety protocol? If a robot and I are walking toward each other on the floor, will it stop first?

It will stop or they’ll navigate around. It’s unbelievably smart. If you saw what happened on the back end — it’s dynamically planning paths in real time. Each robot is talking to other robots. This robot will tell this robot over here, “You can’t get through here, so go around.” If there’s an accident, we’ll go around it.

They’re all creating a large, cloud-based map together in real time.

That’s exactly what it is.

When was the company founded?

[In] 2014. We actually spun out of a company called Quiet Logistics. It was a 3PL. We were fully automated with Kiva. Amazon bought Kiva in 2012, and said, “We’re going to take the product off the market.” We looked for another robot and couldn’t find one, so we decided to build one.

The form factors are similar.

Their form factor is basically the bottom. It goes under a shelf and brings the shelf back to the station to do a pick. The great thing about our solution is we can go into a brownfield building. They’re great and they work, but it will also take four times the number of robots to do the same work our robots do.

Amazon keeps coming up in my conversations in the space as a motivator for warehouses to adopt technologies to remain competitive. But there’s an even deeper connection here.

Amazon is actually our best marketing organization. They’re setting the bar for SLAs (service-level agreements). Every single one of these 3PLs walking around here [has] to do same- or next-day delivery, because that’s what’s being demanded by their clients.

Do the systems’ style require in-person deployment?

The interesting thing during COVID is we actually deployed a site over FaceTime.

Someone walked around the warehouse with a phone?

Yeah. It’s not our preferred method. They probably actually did a better job than we did. It was terrific.

As far as efficiency, that could make a lot of sense, moving forward.

Yeah. It does still require humans to go in, do the installation and training — that sort of thing. I think it will be a while before we get away from that. But it’s not hard to do. We take folks off the street, train them and in a month they know how to deploy.

Where are they manufactured?

We manufacture them in Boston, believe it or not. We have contract manufacturers manufacturing some components, like the base and the mast. And then we integrate them together in Boston. We do the final assembly and then do all the shipments.

As you expand sales globally, are there plans to open additional manufacturing sites?

We will eventually. Right now we’re doing some assemblies in Amsterdam. We’re doing all refurbishments for Europe in Amsterdam. […] There’s a big sustainability story, too. Sustainability is really important to big clients like DHL. Ours is an inherently green model. We have over 12,000 robots in the field. You can count the number of robots we’ve scrapped on two hands. Everything gets recycled to the field. A robot will come back after three or four years and we’ll rewrap it. We may have to swap out a camera, a light or something. And then it goes back into service under a RaaS model.

What happened in the cases where they had to be scrapped?

They got hit by forklifts and they were unrepairable. I mean crushed.

Any additional fundraising on the horizon?

We’ve raised about $430 million, went through our Series F. Next leg in our financing will be an IPO. Probably. We have the numbers to do it now. The market conditions are not right to do it, for all the reasons you know.

Do you have a rough timeline?

It will be next year, but the markets have got to recover. We don’t control that.

Q&A with Jerome Dubois

Image Credits: 6 River Systems

Next up, fittingly, is Jerome Dubois, the co-founder of Locus’ chief competitor, 6 River Systems (now a part of Shopify). Full interview here.

TC: Why was [the Shopify acquisition] the right move? Had you considered IPO’ing or moving in a different direction?

JD: In 2019, when we were raising money, we were doing well. But Shopify presents itself and says, “Hey, we’re interested in investing in the space. We want to build out a logistics network. We need technology like yours to make it happen. We’ve got the right team; you know about the space. Let’s see if this works out.”

What we’ve been able to do is leverage a tremendous amount of investment from Shopify to grow the company. We were about 120 employees at 30 sites. We’re at 420 employees now and over 110 sites globally.

Amazon buys Kiva and cuts off third-party access to their robots. That must have been a discussion you had with Shopify.

Up front. “If that’s what the plan is, we’re not interested.” We had a strong positive trajectory; we had strong investors. Everyone was really bullish on it. That’s not what it’s been. It’s been the opposite. We’ve been run independently from Shopify. We continue to invest and grow the business.

From a business perspective, I understand Amazon’s decision to cut off access and give itself a leg up. What’s in it for Shopify if anyone can still deploy your robots?

Shopify’s mantra is very different from Amazon. I’m responsible for Shopify’s logistics. Shopify is the brand behind the brand, so they have a relationship with merchants and the customers. They want to own a relationship with the merchant. It’s about building the right tools and making it easier for the merchant to succeed. Supply chain is a huge issue for lots of merchants. To sell the first thing, they have to fulfill the first thing, so Shopify is making it easier for them to print off a shipping label.

Now, if you’ve got to do 100 shipping letters a day, you’re not going to do that by yourself. You want us to fulfill it for you, and Shopify built out a fulfillment network using a lot of third parties, and our technology is the backbone of the warehouse.

Watching you — Locus or Fetch — you’re more or less maintaining a form factor. Obviously, Amazon is diversifying. For many of these customers, I imagine the ideal robot is something that’s not only mobile and autonomous, but also actually does the picking itself. Is this something you’re exploring?

Most of the AMR (autonomous mobile robot) scene has gotten to a point where the hardware is commoditized. The robots are generally pretty reliable. Some are maybe higher quality than others, but what matters the most is the workflows that are being enacted by these robots. The big thing that’s differentiating Locus and us is, we actually come in with predefined workflows that do a specific kind of work. It’s not just a generic robot that comes in and does stuff. So you can integrate it into your workflow very quickly, because it knows you want to do a batch pick and sortation. It knows that you want to do discreet order picking. Those are all workflows that have been predefined and prefilled in the solution.

With respect to the solving of the grabbing and picking, I’ve been on the record for a long time saying it’s a really hard problem. I’m not sure picking in e-comm or out of the bin is the right place for that solution. If you think about the infrastructure that’s required to solve going into an aisle and grabbing a pink shirt versus a blue shirt in a dark aisle using robots, it doesn’t work very well, currently. That’s why goods-to-person makes more sense in that environment. If you try to use arms, a Kiva-like solution or a shuttle-type solution, where the inventory is being brought to a station and the lighting is there, then I think arms are going to be effective there.

Are these the kinds of problems you invest R&D in?

Not the picking side. In the world of total addressable market — the industry as a whole, between Locus, us, Fetch and others — is at maybe 5% penetration. I think there’s plenty of opportunity for us to go and implement a lot of our technology in other places. I also think the logical expansion is around the case and pallet operations.

Interoperability is an interesting conversation. No one makes robots for every use case. If you want to get near full autonomous, you’re going to have a lot of different robots.

We are not going to be a fit for 100% of the picks in the building. For the 20% that we’re not doing, you still leverage all the goodness of our management consoles, our training and that kind of stuff, and you can extend out with [the mobile fulfillment application]. And it’s not just picking. It’s receiving, it’s put away and whatever else. It’s the first step for us, in terms of proving wall-to-wall capabilities.

What does interoperability look like beyond that?

We do system interoperability today. We interface with automation systems all the time out in the field. That’s an important part of interoperability. We’re passing important messages on how big a box we need to build and in what sequence it needs to be built.

When you’re independent, you’re focused on getting to portability. Does that pressure change when you’re acquired by a Shopify?

I think the difference with Shopify is, it allows us to think more long-term in terms of doing the right thing without having the pressure of investors. That was one of the benefits. We are delivering lots of longer-term software bets.

Q&A with Peter Chen


Image Credits: Covariant

Lastly, since I’ve chatted with co-founder Pieter Abbeel a number of times over the years, it felt right to have a formal conversation with Covariant CEO Peter Chen. Full interview here.

TC: A lot of researchers are taking a lot of different approaches to learning. What’s different about yours?

PC: A lot of the founding team was from OpenAI — like three of the four co-founders. If you look at what OpenAI has done in the last three to four years to the language space, it’s basically taking a foundation model approach to language. Before the recent ChatGPT, there were a lot of natural language processing AIs out there. Search, translate, sentiment detection, spam detection — there were loads of natural language AIs out there. The approach before GPT is, for each use case, you train a specific AI to it, using a smaller subset of data. Look at the results now, and GPT basically abolishes the field of translation, and it’s not even trained to translation. The foundation model approach is basically, instead of using small amounts of data that’s specific to one situation or train a model that’s specific to one circumstance, let’s train a large foundation-generalized model on a lot more data, so the AI is more generalized.

You’re focused on picking and placing, but are you also laying the foundation for future applications?

Definitely. The grasping capability or pick and place capability is definitely the first general capability that we’re giving the robots. But if you look behind the scenes, there’s a lot of 3D understanding or object understanding. There are a lot of cognitive primitives that are generalizable to future robotic applications. That being said, grasping or picking is such a vast space we can work on this for a while.

You go after picking and placing first because there’s a clear need for it.

There’s clear need, and there’s also a clear lack of technology for it. The interesting thing is, if you came by this show 10 years ago, you would have been able to find picking robots. They just wouldn’t work. The industry has struggled with this for a very long time. People said this couldn’t work without AI, so people tried niche AI and off-the-shelf AI, and they didn’t work.

Your systems are feeding into a central database and every pick is informing machines how to pick in the future.

Yeah. The funny thing is that almost every item we touch passes through a warehouse at some point. It’s almost a central clearing place of everything in the physical world. When you start by building AI for warehouses, it’s a great foundation for AI that goes out of warehouses. Say you take an apple out of the field and bring it to an agricultural plant — it’s seen an apple before. It’s seen strawberries before.

That’s a one-to-one. I pick an apple in a fulfillment center, so I can pick an apple in a field. More abstractly, how can these learnings be applied to other facets of life?

If we want to take a step back from Covariant specifically, and think about where the technology trend is going, we’re seeing an interesting convergence of AI, software and mechatronics. Traditionally, these three fields are somewhat separate from each other. Mechatronics is what you’ll find when you come to this show. It’s about repeatable movement. If you talk to the salespeople, they tell you about reliability, how this machine can do the same thing over and over again.

The really amazing evolution we have seen from Silicon Valley in the last 15 to 20 years is in software. People have cracked the code on how to build really complex and highly intelligent looking software. All of these apps we’re using [are] really people harnessing the capabilities of software. Now we are at the front seat of AI, with all of the amazing advances. When you ask me what’s beyond warehouses, where I see this really going is the convergence of these three trends to build highly autonomous physical machines in the world. You need the convergence of all of the technologies.

You mentioned ChatGPT coming in and blindsiding people making translation software. That’s something that happens in technology. Are you afraid of a GPT coming in and effectively blindsiding the work that Covariant is doing?

That’s a good question for a lot of people, but I think we had an unfair advantage in that we started with pretty much the same belief that OpenAI had with building foundational models. General AI is a better approach than building niche AI. That’s what we have been doing for the last five years. I would say that we are in a very good position, and we are very glad OpenAI demonstrated that this philosophy works really well. We’re very excited to do that in the world of robotics.

News of the week

Image Credits: Berkshire Grey

The big news of the week quietly slipped out the day after ProMat drew to a close. Berkshire Grey, which had a strong presence at the event, announced on Friday a merger agreement that finds SoftBank Group acquiring all outstanding capital stock it didn’t already own. The all-cash deal is valued at around $375 million.

The post-SPAC life hasn’t been easy for the company, in spite of a generally booming market for logistics automation. Locus CEO Rick Faulk told me above that the company plans to IPO next year, after the market settles down. The category is still a young one, and there remains an open question around how many big players will be able to support themselves. For example, 6 River Systems and Fetch have both been acquired, by Shopify and Zebra, respectively.

“After a thoughtful review of value creation opportunities available to Berkshire Grey, we are pleased to have reached this agreement with SoftBank, which we believe offers significant value to our stockholders,” CEO Tom Wagner said in a release. “SoftBank is a great partner and this merger will strengthen our ability to serve customers with our disruptive AI robotics technology as they seek to become more efficient in their operations and maintain a competitive edge.”

Unlike the Kiva deal that set much of this category in motion a decade ago, SoftBank maintains that it’s bullish about offering BG’s product to existing and new customers. Says managing partner, Vikas J. Parekh:

As a long-time partner and investor in Berkshire Grey, we have a shared vision for robotics and automation. Berkshire Grey is a pioneer in transformative, AI-enabled robotic technologies that address use cases in retail, eCommerce, grocery, 3PL, and package handling companies. We look forward to partnering with Berkshire Grey to accelerate their growth and deliver ongoing excellence for customers.

Container ships at dock

Image Credits: John Lamb / Getty Images

A healthy Series A this week from Venti Technologies. The Singapore/U.S. firm, whose name translates to “large Starbucks cup,” raised $28.8 million, led by LG Technology Ventures. The startup is building autonomous systems for warehouses, ports and the like.

“If you have a big logistics facility where you run vehicles, the largest cost is human capital: drivers,” co-founder and CEO Heidi Wyle tells TechCrunch. “Our customers are telling us that they expect to save over 50% of their operations costs with self-driving vehicles. Think they will have huge savings.”


Image Credits: Neubility / Neubility

This week in fun pivots, Neubility is making the shift from adorable last-mile delivery robots to security bots. This isn’t the company’s first pivot, either. Kate notes that it’s now done so five times since its founding. Fifth time’s the charm, right?

Neubility currently has 50 robots out in the world, a number it plans to raise significantly, with as many as 400 by year’s end. That will be helped along by the $2.6 million recently tacked onto its existing $26 million Series A.

Model-Prime emerged out of stealth this week with a $2.3 million seed round, bringing its total raise to $3.3 million. The funding was led by Eniac Ventures and featured Endeavors and Quiet Capital. The small Pittsburgh-based firm was founded by veterans of the self-driving world, Arun Venkatadri and Jeanine Gritzer, who were seeking a way to create reusable data logs for robotics companies.

The startup says its tech, “handles important tasks like pulling the metadata, automated tagging, and making logs searchable. The vision is to make the robotics industry more like web apps, or mobile apps, where it now seems silly to build your own data solution when you could just use Datadog or Snowflake instead.”

Image Credits: Saildrone

Saildrone, meanwhile, is showcasing Voyager, a 33-foot uncrewed water vehicle. The system sports cameras, radar and an acoustic system designed to map a body of water down to 900 feet. The company has been testing the boat out in the world since last February and is set to begin full-scale production at a rate of a boat a week.

Image Credits: MIT

Finally, some research out of MIT. Robust MADER is a new version of MADER, which the team introduced in 2020 to help drones avoid in-air collisions.

“MADER worked great in simulations, but it hadn’t been tested in hardware. So, we built a bunch of drones and started flying them,” says grad student Kota Kondo. “The drones need to talk to each other to share trajectories, but once you start flying, you realize pretty quickly that there are always communication delays that introduce some failures.”

The new version adds in a delay before setting out on a new trajectory. That added time will allow it to receive and process information from fellow drones and adjust as needed. Kondo adds, “If you want to fly safer, you have to be careful, so it is reasonable that if you don’t want to collide with an obstacle, it will take you more time to get to your destination. If you collide with something, no matter how fast you go, it doesn’t really matter because you won’t reach your destination.”

Fair enough.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch


Here you go, way too fast. Don’t slow down, you’re gonna crash. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na. (Subscribe to Actuator!)



Asking the right dumb questions by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

Read More

Continue Reading


Waymo retires its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan

More than five years ago, a newly minted Waymo took the wraps off of what would become its first commercialized autonomous vehicle: a Chrysler Pacifica…



More than five years ago, a newly minted Waymo took the wraps off of what would become its first commercialized autonomous vehicle: a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan loaded with sensors and software.

Now, the minivan, a symbol of the early and hypey AV days, is headed for retirement as Waymo transitions its fleet to the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles equipped with its fifth-generation self-driving system.

When the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid AV was first revealed, it might not have been what people expected from the former Google self-driving project turned Alphabet-owned business. The design wasn’t ripped from the pages of a graphic sci-fi novel and it was hardly flashy. But the white minivan — highlighted with the same blue and green accent colors found on the Waymo logo — embodied the company’s aim. Waymo wanted a friendly looking vehicle people would feel comfortable using.

The partnership with established manufacturer Fiat Chrysler — now Stellantis — also derisked an already risky frontier tech pursuit. Under the deal, Fiat Chrysler would handle the manufacturing and provide Waymo with minivans that built in redundancies designed for autonomous driving.

Waymo never got close to the 62,000-minivan order it agreed to in 2018 as part of an expanded partnership with Fiat Chrysler. But the minivan did become a critical part of its commercialization plan and over its lifespan the fleet provided tens of thousands of rides to the public, according to the company. (Waymo has never revealed detailed figures of its minivan fleet beyond that its total global fleet is somewhere around 700 vehicles.)

“It’s bittersweet to see it go,” Chris Ludwick, product management director at Waymo who has been at the company since 2012, told TechCrunch. “But I’m also happy for this next chapter.”

A bit of history

Waymo revealed the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid in December 2016 and then provided more technical and business model details a month later at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. The first look at the minivan in December came just five days after Google’s self-driving project officially announced that it was a business with a new name and slightly tweaked mission.

At the time, little was known about what the Google self-driving project — also known as Chauffeur — intended to do beyond a stated goal to commercialize self-driving cars. The Google self-driving project had developed a custom low-speed vehicle without a steering wheel called the Firefly, but that cute gumdrop-shaped car never made it to commercial robotaxi status.

Waymo Firefly and Chrysler Pacifica autonomous vehicles. Image Credits: Waymo

The lowly minivan seemed to represent a more grounded realistic vision toward the goal. By spring 2017, the company had launched an early rider program that let real people in the Phoenix area (who had been vetted and signed an NDA) use an app to hail a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan with a human safety operator behind the wheel.

Waymo eventually opened up the service to the public — no NDA required — and grew its service area to Phoenix suburbs Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee and Mesa. Waymo repeated that process as it took the important step of removing the human safety operator from behind the wheel, launching driverless rides in 2019 and eventually a driverless robotaxi service in 2020 that was open to the public.

Minivan proving ground

Image Credits: Waymo

The minivan’s initial reveal represented the moment when “Chauffeur” became Waymo and less of a science project, he noted. But there was still considerable work to be done.

The Chrysler Pacifica was the ultimate commercial proving ground, according to anecdotes from Ludwick, who recounted the progress of moving from autonomous driving 10 miles in one day, then 100 miles, and then a 100 miles everyday.

For instance, the company discovered that families were far more enthusiastic to use the minivan than it assumed. The minivan also helped develop the company’s AV operations playbook, including how to park vehicles in between rides and where to locate depots for maintenance and charging.

The minivan also became a testbed for how to operate a driverless fleet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to COVID, the fleet in Phoenix was a mix of driverless vehicles and those with human safety operators behind the wheel.

“In three months we turned it fully driverless and figured out how to disinfect the vehicles between each ride,” he said.

All-electric chapter

Waymo jaguar ipace autonomous vehicle

Image Credits: Waymo

The next chapter for Waymo is focused on its all-electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles, which will be pulled into the service area in the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler and Tempe that the minivan covered. The Jaguar I-Pace is currently the go-to driverless vehicle for robotaxi rides in downtown Phoenix and to the Phoenix International Sky Harbor Airport. The 24/7 service runs on a five-mile stretch between downtown Phoenix and an airport shuttle stop, specifically, the 44th Street Sky Train station.

On Thursday, the White House gave a shout-out to Waymo (along with other companies) for its commitment to an all-electric fleet as part of the White House EV Acceleration Challenge.

Waymo intends to deploy the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace across all of its ride-hailing service territories this spring now that the minivan has been retired. The nod to Waymo was part of a larger announcement from the Biden administration around public and private sector investments into EVs as part of its goal of having 50% of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2030.

The next task for Waymo may be its most challenging: The company has to figure out how to grow the service, charge its all-electric fleet efficiently and eventually turn a profit.

But Ludwick believes the company is well positioned thanks, in part, to the Chrysler Pacifica.

“When I look at what the Pacifica got us, it’s a lot,” he said, noting that the vehicle had to travel at higher speeds and make unprotected left turns.

Waymo retires its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

Read More

Continue Reading


FDA approval of over-the-counter Narcan is an important step in the effort to combat the US opioid crisis

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Narcan will make the lifesaving drug more widely available, especially to those who might be likely to…




The use of naloxone administered by nasal spray can be a lifesaving drug with minimal side effects. TG23/iStock via Getty Images Plus

On March 29, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan for over-the-counter sale. Narcan is the 4-milligram nasal spray version of naloxone, a medication that can quickly counteract an opioid overdose.

The FDA’s greenlighting of over-the-counter naloxone means that it will be available for purchase without a prescription at more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide. That means that, for 90% of Americans, naloxone nasal spray will be accessible at a pharmacy within 5 miles from home. It will also likely be available at gas stations, supermarkets and convenience stores. The transition from prescription to over-the-counter status is expected to take a few months.

We are pharmacists and public health experts who seek to increase public acceptance of and access to naloxone.

We think that making naloxone available over the counter is an essential step in reducing deaths due to overdose and destigmatizing opioid use disorder. Over-the-counter access to naloxone will permit more people to carry and administer it to help others who are overdosing. Moreover, increasing naloxone’s over-the-counter availability will convey the message that risks associated with substance use disorder warrant a pervasive intervention much as with other illnesses.

Deaths from opioid overdoses across the U.S. have increased nearly threefold since 2015. Between October 2021 and October 2022, approximately 77,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the U.S. Since 2016, the synthetic opioid fentanyl has been responsible for most of the drug-involved overdose deaths in America.

Naloxone can be a lifesaving intervention from opioids and other drugs that are laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

What is naloxone?

Naloxone reverses overdose from prescription opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone and recreational opioids like heroin. Naloxone works by competitively binding to the same receptors in the central nervous system that opioids bind to for euphoric effects. When naloxone is administered and reaches these receptors, it can block the euphoric effects of opioids and reverse respiratory depression when opioid overdose occurs.

There are two common ways to administer naloxone. One is through the prepackaged nasal sprays, such as Narcan and Kloxxado or generic versions of the drug. The other method is via auto-injectors, like ZIMHI, which deliver naloxone through injection, similar to the way epinephrine is delivered by an EpiPen as an emergency treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions.

The FDA will review a second over-the-counter application for naloxone auto-injectors at a later date. Although no interaction with a health care provider will be needed to purchase over-the-counter naloxone, when naloxone is purchased at a pharmacy, a knowledgeable pharmacist will be able to help people choose a product and explain instructions for use.

Research shows that when people who are likely to witness or respond to opioid overdoses have naloxone, they can save patients’ lives. This also includes bystanders as well as first responders like police officers and paramedics.

But until now, people in those situations could intervene only if they were carrying prescription naloxone or knew where to retrieve it quickly. Friends and family of people who use opioids are often given prescriptions for naloxone for emergency use. Over-the-counter naloxone will help make the drug more accessible to members of the general public.

Naloxone works on a variety of opioids, including fentanyl.

Reducing stigma and saving lives

Naloxone is a safe medication with minimal side effects. It works only for those with opioids in their system, and it’s unlikely to cause harm if given by mistake to someone who’s not actively overdosing on opioids.

Since approximately 40% of overdoses occur in the presence of someone else, we believe public access to naloxone is extremely important. People may wish to have naloxone on hand if someone they know is at an increased risk for opioid overdose, including people who have opioid use disorder or people who take high amounts of prescribed opioid medications.

Community centers and recreational facilities may also keep naloxone on hand, similar to the placement of automated external defibrillators in public spaces for emergency use when someone has a heart attack.

There’s a long-held public stigma that suggests addiction is a moral failing rather than a chronic yet treatable health condition. Those who request naloxone or who have an opioid use disorder experience stigma and often aren’t comfortable disclosing their drug use to others, or seeking medical treatment. Removing naloxone’s prescription requirements by making it over the counter could decrease the stigma experienced by individuals since they no longer must request it from a health care provider or behind the pharmacy counter.

In addition, we encourage health care providers and members of the general public to use less stigmatizing language when discussing addiction.

Questionable accessibility

Often, medications switched from prescription to over the counter are not covered by insurance. It remains unclear if this will be the case with Narcan. If so, the costs will shift to the patient, highlighting the reason continued support of programs that offer naloxone free of charge remains important.

What’s more, over-the-counter access could paradoxically cause a decrease in the drug’s availability. A rise in purchases could make it harder to buy naloxone if manufacturer supply does not keep up with increased consumer demand. The U.S. experienced such shortages of over-the-counter drugs in late 2022 during the nationwide surges in flu, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19.

Federal and state governments could lessen these potential barriers by subsidizing the cost of over-the-counter naloxone and working with drug manufacturers to provide production incentives to meet public demand.

The effects of nationwide access to over-the-counter naloxone on opioid-related deaths remain to be seen, but making this medication more widely available is an important next step in our nation’s response to the opioid crisis.

Lucas Berenbrok is part owner of the consulting company, Embarx, LLC.

Janice L. Pringle is affiliated with C4 Recovery.

Joni Carroll receives grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Overdose Data to Action.

Read More

Continue Reading