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Toxics found in pregnant U.S. women in UCSF study

From SFGate.com:

Multiple chemicals, including some banned since the 1970s and others used in items such as nonstick cookware, furniture, processed foods and beauty products, were found in the blood and urine of pregnant U.S. women, according to a UCSF study being released today.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, marks the first time that the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed has been counted, the authors said.

Of the 163 chemicals studied, 43 of them were found in virtually all 268 pregnant women in the study. They included polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a prohibited chemical linked to cancer and other health problems; organochlorine pesticides; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, banned compounds used as flame retardants; and phthalates, which are shown to cause hormone disruption.

Some of these chemicals were banned before many of the women were even born.

The presence of the chemicals in the women, who ranged in age from 15 to 44, shows the ability of these substances to endure in the environment and in human bodies as well, said lead author Tracey Woodruff, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

The chemicals found in 99 percent to 100 percent of the women included certain PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds, phenols, PBDEs, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and perchlorate.

Posted: 1/18/2011 10:39:00 AM

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Rare Severe Liver Injury Risk Warning Added To Multaq (dronedarone) Labels

From Medical News Today:

Two cases of acute liver failure in which the patients taking heart medication dronedarone (Multaq) needed liver transplants have resulted in an FDA communication informing that data on the potential risk of liver injury are being added to the drug's labels.

Dronedarone (Multaq) is used to treat atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter in individuals whose hearts either returned to normal rhythm or who underwent drug therapy for electric shock treatment - the drug helps maintain normal rhythm. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved dronedarone in July 2009, and it is available as 400mg tablets in 60 count bottles. The FDA did not approve the medication for reducing deaths. A study of patients with irregular heartbeats found that Multaq treatment more than doubles the risk of death.

Since its launch, approximately 200,000 people have taken Multaq.

Posted: 1/17/2011 12:53:00 PM

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FDA limits amount of acetaminophen in prescription drugs

From CNN Health:

´╗┐Manufacturers of prescription drugs containing acetaminophen are being asked to limit the dosage of the drug and add a liver toxicity warning to product labels, the Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday. This so-called "boxed warning" is the agency's strongest warning for a prescription drug.

Makers of prescription products that include acetaminophen, a popular pain and fever reducer better known under the brand name Tylenol, will be required to limit the amount of the drug to no more than 325 milligrams (mg) per tablet or capsule. Currently some products contain between 500 mg to 750 mg per dose.

"FDA is taking this action to make prescription combination pain medications containing acetaminophen safer for patients to use," said Dr. Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and research (CDER). "Overdose from prescription combination products containing acetaminophen account for nearly half of all cases of acetaminophen related liver failure in the United States, many of which result in liver transplant or death."

Posted: 1/14/2011 10:40:00 AM

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Salvia and the Arizona Shooting

From Newsweek:

Alleged Arizona shooter Jared Loughner used salvia, the hallucinogenic drug, according to a high-school friend of his. Obviously, Loughner was troubled. But did salvia have anything to do with it?

Currently, there’s very little scientific information about the drug’s effects.  Salvia is still legal in a majority of states, and millions of Americans have used the drug without incident.

What little research that has been done shows that all strains of Salvia divinorum, a plant grown for centuries in Mexico, produces a chemical called Salvionon A. This chemical affects the kappa opioid receptor, a part of the brain that’s in large part responsible for our perceptions of reality.

In an unmodified state, salvia—whether it’s smoked, chewed, or swallowed in extract form—produces an intense high, lasting less than half an hour.  Typically, those who use salvia are not able to do much, says Johnson. The limited intoxication period of the drug, combined with its impairing effects on mobility, make it unlikely that Loughner used it at the time of the shooting.

Posted: 1/14/2011 8:39:00 AM

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Women With PCOS May Have Raised Levels Of BPA In Their Blood

From Reuters:

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have increased blood levels of the widely used industrial chemical bisphenol A, a small study finds -- raising the question of whether the compound plays some role in the disorder.

Among 71 women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), researchers found that on average, they had higher blood levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, compared with 100 healthy women the same age and weight.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, do not prove that BPA contributes to the ovary disorder.

But the researchers say that future studies should look into that possibility.
Posted: 1/14/2011 8:27:00 AM

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The Year in Pills - 2010's Hall of Shame

From CounterPunch:

2010 will go down as the year the diet pill Meridia and pain pill Darvon were withdrawn from the market and the heart-attack associated diabetes drug Avandia was severely restricted.

Additionally, here are the drugs which make 2010's Hall of Shame:
  • Yaz and Yasmin
  • Lyrica, Topamax and Lamictal
  • Humira, Prolia and TNF Blockers
  • Chantix
  • Ambien
  • Tamoxifen
  • Lipitor and Crestor
  • Boniva
  • Prempro
  • Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, SSRIs
  • Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq, SNRIs
  • Seroquel, Zyprexa, Geodon, atypical antipsychotics
  • Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, Adderall and ADHD Drugs
  • Gardasil and Cervarix Vaccines
  • Foradil Aerolizer, Serevent Diskus, Advair and Symbicort
  • Singulair and Accolate, leukotriene receptor antagonists
     
Posted: 1/11/2011 12:36:00 PM

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Study: Newer Antipsychotic Drugs Are Overused

From WebMD:

Many people taking powerful psychiatric medications that increase their risk of weight gain and diabetes are prescribed those drugs when there’s little evidence that they will get any benefit from them, a new study shows.

What’s more, experts say that even when these drugs, which are known as atypical antipsychotics, are prescribed as recommended, they may not be safer or more effective than the less expensive, older medications that they’ve apparently replaced.

“Atypical agents were once thought to be safer and possibly more effective,” says study researcher G. Caleb Alexander, MD, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago Hospitals. “And what we’ve learned over time is that they are not safer, and in the settings where there’s the best scientific evidence, they are no more effective.

Posted: 1/10/2011 9:14:00 AM

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Darvon, Darvocet Lawsuits Will Make News in 2011

From NewsInferno:

Lawsuits involving the recalled painkillers Darvon and Darvocet could be one of the big legal and health stories of 2011. At least one national law firm – Parker Waichman Alonso LLP – has reported that it has been inundated with inquiries since the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asked the makers of propoxyphene products like Darvon and Darvocet to pull them from the market because of their association with serious and potentially fatal heart rhythm problems.

According to the Daily Record, the FDA estimated 10 million prescriptions were written for the medications in 2009 alone, so the potential is there for the propoxyphene-Darvon-Darvocet litigation to be huge.

Propoxyphene is an opiod painkiller that was first sold as Darvon in 1957. Darvocet is a combination drug made with propoxyphene and acetaminophen. According to Public Citizen, despite its widespread use, propoxyphene is not very effective, is toxic at doses not much higher than the recommend dose because a heart-toxic metabolite accumulates in the body, and is somewhat addictive. It has been linked to many thousands of US deaths since 1981, a large proportion of which were likely caused by cardiac toxicity, including the interruption of electrical conduction in the heart, the group said.

Posted: 1/7/2011 10:41:00 AM

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Scientist haunted by misuse of drugs he invented

From The Associated Press:

David Nichols studies the way psychedelic drugs act in the brains of rats. But he's haunted by how humans hijack his work to make street drugs, sometimes causing overdose deaths.

Nichols makes chemicals roughly similar to ecstasy and LSD that are supposed to help explain how parts of the brain function. Then he publishes the results for other scientists, hoping his work one day leads to treatments for depression or Parkinson's disease.

But Nichols' findings have not stayed in purely scientific circles. They've also been exploited by black market labs to make cheap and marginally legal recreational drugs.

Nichols estimates that at least five of his compounds — out of hundreds — have been turned into street drugs.