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Wisconsin and Washington vote on Bisphenol-A (BPA) bans

From Business Week:

The Wisconsin state Senate has passed a bill that would ban the chemical bisphenol A from baby bottles and other cups for children.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously Tuesday. A similar bill also passed unanimously out of an Assembly committee on Tuesday as well.

The Senate bill would ban BPA in cups and bottles intended for children under age 3.

And from The News Tribune:

A bill to ban the use of an industrial chemical found in food and beverage containers used by children sailed through the House on Monday on a 95-1 vote.

If the legislation becomes law, Washington will join Minnesota and Connecticut as the only states to eliminate bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products.

The vote came 10 days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voiced concerns about BPA’s potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and young children.

The BPA ban in children’s food and beverage containers, and water bottles was one of three priorities of the environmental community in the 2010 state Legislature.

The state legislation is necessary because the FDA didn’t endorse an outright ban on BPA in children’s products, supporters of the bill said.

Posted: 1/27/2010 3:13:00 PM

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NMS Labs Responds to National Health Concerns with Its Groundbreaking Test to Monitor Bisphenol-A (BPA) Levels in Humans

From Business Wire:

NMS Labs launches its groundbreaking test that will allow medical researchers, health care, occupational and environmental medicine practitioners to accurately measure Bisphenol-A (BPA) in their patients. This is a timely release due to the FDA’s recent reversal of its position on BPA’s potentially harmful effects and the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) official position. Researchers funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)/National Institutes of Health (NIH) continue to investigate toxicity concerns of BPA. 
NMS Labs is the only known commercial laboratory to be currently performing a BPA urine test. The company provides this test guided by highly skilled toxicologists who continue to monitor BPA research and the potential benefit of testing in respect to exposure. While this testing does not correlate directly with toxicity, it does offer comparative data to established population statistics for measured BPA in urine.

In addition to BPA, NMS Labs is in the final stages of development for phthalate metabolite testing. Along with BPA and other substances, phthalates have generated concern as potential “endocrine disruptors,” that is, compounds capable of interfering with normal and developing endocrine function.

“NMS Labs has always taken a socially responsible approach to developing new tests by monitoring national health concerns,” explains Laboratory Director & Forensic Toxicologist, Robert Middleberg, PhD. 

Posted: 1/27/2010 9:09:00 AM

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Heart Patients Warned Against Using Meridia, an Anti-Obesity Drug

From The New York Times:

European and American drug regulators had two starkly different reactions this week to data on an obesity drug. The raw data from the study indicated that people with certain health problems who took the prescription diet drug Meridia had more heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems than people getting a placebo.

On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency advised doctors and pharmacists to stop prescribing and dispensing European equivalents of Meridia. The Food and Drug Administration, looking at the same study data on Thursday, took a less forceful step and asked Abbott Laboratories, the maker of Meridia, to put a stronger warning on its label.

The F.D.A. said the new warning should indicate that the drug was not to be used by people who have a history of heart attacks or strokes, or who have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Abbott, which sells Meridia in Europe under various brand names, including Reductil and Ectiva, indicated Friday that it would comply with the F.D.A.’s labeling request and with the European advisory by suspending sales of the drugs in Europe.

Meridia contains the ingredient sibutramine, which works by increasing neurotransmitter activity in the brain, helping people to feel full after a meal and thereby reducing their food intake. The company said the drug was safe and effective when used in appropriate patients.

The study, called the Scout trial, was the first test to see if a diet drug could reduce the risks of heart attacks.

Some experts said the finding that Meridia actually increased such risk in some high-risk patients rather than reduce it could raise questions about the safety of other diet drugs. The findings might also raise the safety hurdle for new obesity drugs to win approval. However, some experts said the problems might be unique to Meridia, which clearly raises blood pressure and heart rate.

In any case, the significantly different actions by the two health authorities is stirring debate among drug makers and consumer advocates. Did the European agency act too quickly on a set of preliminary data — or was it moving more forcefully to defend consumer health than its American counterpart?

Meanwhile, the F.D.A. said it planned to wait for the company’s complete report on the study, due in March, before considering further action on the drug.

Posted: 1/27/2010 9:01:00 AM

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Warning: Counterfeit Alli

From the U.S Food and Drug Administration:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public about a counterfeit version of the weight-loss drug Alli 60 mg capsules (120 count refill pack) being sold over the Internet, particularly at online auction sites.

The counterfeit product is illegal and unsafe. FDA advises people who believe that they have a counterfeit product not to use the drug and to dispose of it immediately. There is no evidence at this time that the counterfeit Alli product has been sold in retail stores.

The counterfeit Alli looks similar to the authentic product, with a few notable differences. The counterfeit Alli has:
  • a missing LOT code on the outer cardboard packaging
  • an expiration date that includes a MONTH, DAY, and YEAR—the expiration date of the real Alli only contains a MONTH and a YEAR
  • a plain foil for the inner safety seal without any words on it—the safety seal of the real Alli has the words “SEALED FOR YOUR PROTECTION” prominently printed on it.
  • large capsules with white powder, as opposed to small white pellets found in the real Alli
  • a slightly taller plastic bottle with a wider cap and coarser ribbing on the cap than what is seen with the real Alli
Alli is an FDA-approved, over-the-counter weight-loss drug that contains orlistat as its active ingredient. The counterfeit version of Alli does not contain orlistat; instead it is made with varying amounts of sibutramine, a stimulant drug.

Although sibutramine is the active ingredient in another FDA-approved prescription weight-loss drug, it is only to be used in specific doses and under the supervision of a physician.

Posted: 1/26/2010 10:20:00 AM

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Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2009

From the ASPCA:

With various dangers lurking in corners and cabinets, the home can be a minefield of poisons for our pets. In 2009, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances, many of which included everyday household products. Don’t leave it up to Fido or Fluffy to keep themselves safe. Below is a list of the top 10 pet poisons that affected our furry friends in 2009.

Human Medications - Last year, the ASPCA managed 45,816 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor.

Insecticides - In 2009, our toxicologists fielded 29,020 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species.

People Food - People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends, and accounted for more than 17,453 cases in 2009.

Plants - Common houseplants were the subject of 7,858 calls to APCC in 2009. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets.

Veterinary Medications - Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents.

Rodenticides - Last year, the ASPCA received 6,639 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well.

Household Cleaners - These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.

Heavy Metals - Heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury accounted for 3,304 cases of pet poisonings in 2009.

Garden Products - Last year, the ASPCA fielded 2,329 calls related to fertilizer exposure, which can cause severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction.

Chemical Hazards - A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets.

Posted: 1/25/2010 2:34:00 PM

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Malaria drugs may help patients with lupus

From Reuters:

Drugs used to treat malaria may be useful for patients with lupus, a chronic debilitating "autoimmune" disease, according to according to a new report. In fact, the authors of the study, in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, recommend that doctors give the drugs to all patients with lupus.

Doctors first realized decades ago that antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could be used to treat the joint pain often seen in lupus, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. Since then, research has suggested that antimalarial therapy can help prevent flare-ups of lupus and reduce overall damage from the disease, Dr. Bernardo A. Pons-Estel, from Hospital Provincial de Rosario, Argentina, and co-researchers note.

After the team accounted for various factors, using antimalarial drugs appeared to reduce the risk of death during the study by almost 40 percent.

"The data presented, taken in conjunction with the data from the published literature, suggest that antimalarials should be used in all lupus patients regardless of their disease manifestation or disease duration," the authors conclude.

Posted: 1/25/2010 9:07:00 AM

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Chemical May Be Linked to Thyroid Disease

From WebMD:

A chemical compound used to make non-stick cookware, food wrappers, and water-resistant coatings for carpets and fabrics has been linked to an increased risk for thyroid disease in an early study.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has previously been shown to influence thyroid hormone levels in animals.

But the newly reported study is among the first to suggest that exposure to PFOA might cause thyroid disease in humans.

The study included nearly 4,000 adults who took part in the CDC’s ongoing nationwide Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) study between 1999 and 2006.

Researchers found that participants who had the highest levels of PFOA in their blood also had the highest self-reported incidence of thyroid disease.

Specifically, women with the top 25% of PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report taking drugs for thyroid disease as the 50% of participants with the lowest concentrations. A similar trend was seen in men, although it didn’t reach statistical significance.

The study does not prove that PFOA exposure is a direct cause of thyroid disease, researcher David Melzer, PhD, of Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England, tells WebMD.

“I personally am far from sure, but it might prove to be an important risk factor for people who are already susceptible,” he says.

Concerns have been raised about the man-made chemicals because they are now found in low levels in the environment and in the blood of most people and they remain in the blood for many years.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating the compound, but at present it considers the routine use of consumer products made with it to be safe.

Posted: 1/22/2010 10:25:00 AM

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NMS Labs Stands Up to Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs, Suspending Annual Across-the-Board Price Increase in 2010 for Esoteric Lab Tests

From Business Wire:

NMS Labs announced today that it would not issue an across the board price increase for over 2000 of its esoteric lab tests in 2010. As other costs within the healthcare space continue to go up, this action to protect pricing will help customers continue to obtain important valuable medical insights from the innovative, unique and hard-to-find testing that NMS Labs provides.

Dr. Eric Rieders, President and CEO of NMS Labs affirms the company’s commitment to innovation, quality and maintaining NMS Labs as a good corporate citizen. He goes on to say, “Except for a selection of very rare tests that are more costly to perform, we are able to avert an across-the-board price increase scheduled for March 1, 2010 by passing along efficiencies attained through intense company-wide LEAN initiatives.”

Also from Business Wire:

NMS Labs Offers Law Enforcement Officials a Powerful Tool to Assist with Enforcing the Ban Of Salvinorin A & B

NMS Labs is the only known commercial laboratory to offer a chemical test that can detect Salvinorin A & B (the active drug and metabolite of the hallucinogenic herb Salvia divinorum) in a person’s blood, plasma, or urine. This test uses the most advanced laboratory technology (LC tandem mass spectrometry), ensuring the results are highly specific and legally defensible.

NMS Labs National Director of Forensic Services, Dr. Barry Logan commented, “As more states have worked to regulate the use and possession of Salvia, NMS Labs saw the opportunity to assist with the enforcement of these laws. We are well positioned to do so as a forensic toxicology lab with close to 40 years experience working with the law enforcement community.”

These tests were developed and are performed according to accreditation standards set by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB).

Dr. Logan further explained, “We [NMS Labs] are proud to serve as an integral part of the criminal justice community by providing the most comprehensive testing available and outstanding expert services for trials and litigation. Through our innovative test development, NMS Labs has shown itself to be passionate about public safety and providing science in the service of justice.”

Posted: 1/20/2010 3:03:00 PM

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F.D.A. Concerned About Substance in Food Packaging

From The New York Times:

In a shift of position, the Food and Drug Administration is expressing concerns about possible health risks from bisphenol-A, or BPA, a widely used component of plastic bottles and food packaging that it declared safe in 2008.

The agency said Friday that it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children,” and would join other federal health agencies in studying the chemical in both animals and humans.

Concerns about BPA are based on studies that have found harmful effects in animals, and on the recognition that the chemical seeps into food and baby formula, and that nearly everyone is exposed to it, starting in the womb.

But health officials said there was no proof that BPA was dangerous to humans.

Nonetheless, health officials suggested a number of things people could do to limit their exposure to BPA, like throwing away scratched or worn bottles or cups made with BPA (it can leak from the scratches), not putting very hot liquids into cups or bottles with BPA and checking the labels on containers to make sure they are microwave safe. The drug agency also recommended that mothers breastfeed their infants for at least 12 months; liquid formula contains traces of BPA.

The government will spend $30 million on BPA research in humans and animals, to take place over 18 to 24 months, health officials said at a news briefing on Friday.

Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the research would involve potential effects on behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, cancer, asthma, heart disease and effects that could be carried from one generation to the next.

Posted: 1/19/2010 11:16:00 AM

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Fast morphine treatment may prevent PTSD


Quickly giving morphine to wounded troops cuts in half the chance they will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a provocative study that suggests a new strategy for preventing the psychological fallout of war.

Researchers at the U.S. Naval Health Research Center led the study of about 700 troops injured in Iraq from 2004 through 2006.

About 53,000 troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated for PTSD, a disorder in which someone who has endured a traumatic event keeps re-experiencing it and the fear it caused. Patients often have trouble with work, relationships, substance abuse and physical ailments.

Researchers have been testing ways to treat it, and the new study looked at whether fast and strong pain relief can help prevent it.

It was unclear whether it was the fast pain treatment or something specific to morphine that made the difference.

But researchers theorize that simply easing pain might reduce the severity of the psychological trauma, or that prompt relief might alter the way the brain remembers the attack or injury — in essence, causing the mind to file away the episode as less traumatic.

Troops in the study initially were treated at military medical facilities in Iraq, mainly for wounds caused by roadside bombs, bullets, grenades or mortar fire. A few dozen had burns or were hurt in crashes or falls. The decision on whether to give morphine was up to the individual doctor, based on the patient’s condition.

Of the 696 troops in the study, 493 — about 70 percent — were given morphine, most within an hour of injury. Two years later, 147 of them had developed PTSD. Of the 203 not given morphine early on, 96 developed PTSD.

That worked out to a 53 percent lower risk of developing PTSD for those treated early with morphine. No other factor, such as the nature or severity of injuries, had much effect on the chances of developing PTSD, Holbrook said.

“These are provocative and thought-provoking findings that should lead scientists to investigate the underlying mechanisms” in future studies, said JoAnn Difede, a PTSD researcher at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Posted: 1/14/2010 12:02:00 PM

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