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Prescription Painkillers: Companies Attempt Abuse-Proof Opioids

From ABC News:

When the oxycodone brand called OxyContin was introduced in the late 1990s, its maker claimed that the drug's controlled-release mechanism would make it less likely to be abused.

The idea was that if it released its opioid slowly, rather than all at once, abusers wouldn't find the immediate rush they crave.

But it didn't take long for drug seekers to devise a workaround that foiled that plan.

Chewing the tablet, crushing it, or dissolving and injecting it -- all destroyed the timed-release mechanism, which unpacked the full opioid punch faster than you could say, "Your brain on drugs."

Since that failed attempt at making a "safe" opioid, researchers have been experimenting with ways to make all prescription painkillers "abuse-resistant."

Although OxyContin maker Purdue had its "tamper-proof" version approved last year, few other attempts to abuse-proof these drugs have made it on the market.

In June, however, the FDA is expected to issue a decision about another oxycodone product -- Acurox, Pfizer's attempt (through the acquisition of King Pharmaceuticals) at entry into the abuse-proof market.

And a handful of other companies are pursuing a pharmacological solution to help mitigate what the federal government has described as an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse.

Posted: 4/28/2011 8:18:00 AM

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Pa. State Police increase DUI arrests in 2010 for ninth year in a row


Arrests by the Pennsylvania State Police for driving under the influence were up in 2010 for the ninth year in a row, the agency announced Thursday.

The increase can be attributed to better training for police looking to take impaired drivers - those using alcohol, drugs, or both - off the roads, and increased enforcement efforts through checkpoints and roving patrols, state police said.

Since 2004, 70 troopers and 22 municipal officers throughout the state have been certified as drug-recognition experts (DREs), and have conducted more than 4,000 evaluations of people thought to be impaired.

Thirty-nine other states also are using the program, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to train officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired drivers. They administer testing that goes beyond the breath test to check pulse rates and take blood.

The program also helps police recognize whether a driver is suffering from a medical condition rather than drug impairment, police said.

Posted: 4/22/2011 3:33:00 PM

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Party drug hope for Parkinson's

From The West Australian:

Perth scientists are hoping tweaked versions of the party drug ecstasy will help treat Parkinson's disease, a rare form of cancer, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But they say like all areas of university-based research, future funding is under a cloud.

University of WA researchers believe modified versions of the drug, also known as MDMA, could have powerful therapeutic benefits without being psychoactive.

They say ecstasy produces feelings of euphoria and other psychological effects which make it a target for abuse, but it might have an upside for some patients.

One modified compound in particular, dubbed UWA-101, has been found in animal trials to significantly reduce the involuntary movements associated with the prolonged use of the drug levodopa, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease, and also make it more effective.

Other versions of ecstasy are being studied as a treatment for the rare cancer Burkitt's lymphoma.

They are also being tested as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder by encouraging people to open up about their problems.

Posted: 4/20/2011 8:40:00 AM

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FDA Heightens Painkiller Oversight

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it will require some painkiller manufacturers to produce new educational tools in an effort to quell prescription-drug abuse.

The requirements will affect makers of long-acting and extended-release opioids, which include oxycodone, morphine and methadone.

This plan will help shut down "pill mills" where addicts can receive illegal prescriptions, said Gil Kerlikowske, director of national drug-control policy.

Prescription-drug abuse results in one million emergency-room visits a year, Mr. Koh said. Opioid drugs resulted in more unintentional deaths than cocaine or heroin in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Posted: 4/19/2011 1:15:00 PM

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Drug Memantine Ineffective for Mild Alzheimer's, Study Finds

From HealthDay News:

A drug commonly prescribed for Alzheimer's disease, memantine (Namenda), appears to be ineffective in treating the mild stage of the disease, a new study finds.

While some studies suggest the drug is effective in treating moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, "in mild Alzheimer's disease there is a lack of evidence that it works," said lead researcher Dr. Lon S. Schneider, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and gerontology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.

Memantine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease -- indicated in the U.S. by a score of 14 or less on a diagnostic test called the Mini-Mental State Examination -- but it is often prescribed off-label for use in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease.

The drug belongs to a class of drugs called NMDA receptor antagonists, which help reduce abnormal activity in the brain by binding to NMDA receptors on brain cells and blocking the activity of the neurotransmitter glutamine. At normal levels, glutamate aids in memory and learning, but if levels are too high, glutamate appears to overstimulate nerve cells, killing off key brain cells.

Memantine can help patients with severe Alzheimer's disease think more clearly and perform daily activities more easily, but, like other Alzheimer's drugs, it is not a cure and does not stop progression of the disease, the researchers say.

The report is published in the April 11 online edition of the Archives of Neurology.

Posted: 4/12/2011 8:33:00 AM

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Pennsylvania Puts Additional Drug Recognition Experts on the Road

From American Banking & Market News:

In Pennsylvania’s latest effort to bolster highway safety, 11 state troopers and five municipal police officers have been certified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as drug recognition experts, or DREs, Pennsylvania State Police acting Commissioner Frank Noonan announced today.

“The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program is a national effort to train police officers to determine when an individual has been driving under the influence of drugs and to identify the type of drug causing the impairment,” Noonan said.

The program also trains officers to recognize whether an individual is suffering from a medical condition rather than drug impairment, he said.

“Alcohol is the intoxicant most often responsible for impaired driving, but it’s not the only one that renders individuals incapable of safe driving,” Noonan said. “Drug Recognition Experts are trained to determine if a driver is under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.”

Motorists should know that they may be incapable of driving safely and can be charged with driving under the influence after ingesting any intoxicating substance, whether the substance is legal or illegal, prescribed by a physician or purchased over the counter, Noonan said.

Posted: 4/7/2011 3:14:00 PM

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Synthetic drugs send thousands to ER

From AOL News:

Synthetic substances that mimic marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs are making users across the nation seriously ill, causing seizures and hallucinations and even killing some people.

The products are often packaged as incense or bath salts and can be obtained for as little as $10 at many head shops. As more people experiment with them, the results are becoming evident at hospitals: a sharp spike in the number of users who show up with problems ranging from labored breathing and rapid heartbeats to extreme paranoia and delusions. The symptoms can persist for days.

At the request of The Associated Press, the American Association of Poison Control Centers analyzed nationwide figures on calls related to synthetic drugs. The findings showed an alarming increase in the number of people seeking medical attention.

At least 2,700 people have fallen ill since January, compared with fewer than 3,200 cases in all of 2010. At that pace, medical emergencies related to synthetic drugs could go up nearly fivefold by the end of the year. The chemicals are suspected in at least nine U.S. deaths since last year.

The recent surge in activity has not gone unnoticed by authorities. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently used emergency powers to outlaw five chemicals found in synthetic pot, placing them in the same category as heroin and cocaine. But manufacturers are quick to adapt, often cranking out new formulas that are only a single molecule apart from the illegal ones. Besides being cheap and easily obtained, they do not show up in common drug tests.

So far in 2011, poison control centers have received nearly 1,300 calls about synthetic pot, compared with 2,874 calls for all of last year, according to the poison control center data.

Poison calls for bath salts rose at an even greater rate. The centers took 301 calls in all of 2010, but had more than 1,400 for the first three months of 2011. Most of the calls came from doctors and nurses reporting patients in emergency rooms.

Posted: 4/6/2011 9:01:00 AM

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PA House OKs bath salts chemicals ban

From The Times Leader:

The state House of Representatives on Monday voted unanimously for a bill that would ban chemicals in bath salts, salvia divinorum and synthetic marijuana.

Concentrated bath salts contain a chemical known as MDPV, which can mimic the effects of cocaine and methamphetamine. Police throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania have said in recent weeks that crime by users high on the now-legal substance is on the increase.

MDPV has been banned in Louisiana and Florida.

The bill would ban salvia divinorum, a psychoactive drug that can produce hallucinations, and prohibit the sale of synthetic marijuana.

Lawmakers voted 195-0 in favor of the measure.

Posted: 4/5/2011 9:09:00 AM

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