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Teen Injured By Synthetic Marijuana Dies After Transplant

From WTAE.com (Pittsburgh):

A 13-year-old boy who ended up in the hospital after smoking a synthetic form of marijuana has died, a month after receiving a double-lung transplant.

Brandon Rice injured his lungs in August after smoking a substance known as K2.

Shortly after smoking the drug, the teen developed nausea, a full body rash, headaches and high fever. His father said the substance caused a chemical burn in his son’s lungs.

The teen received a double-lung transplant on Sept. 28. His aunt said his prognosis was so good that the family had begun sending out emails to help raise funds for transplants.

But less than 15 minutes after they sent the e-mails, Brandon Rice passed away.

Rice’s family said an infection from the transplant likely took his life.

Rice's parents said they want other teens to know just how dangerous synthetic drugs can be.

Posted: 10/31/2011 10:31:00 AM

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FDA OKs Generic Zyprexa for Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder

From WebMD:

The FDA has approved the first generic versions of the drugs Zyprexa and Zyprexa Zydis for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  The generic name for the two drugs is olanzapine.

Keith Webber, PhD, deputy director of the FDA's Office of Pharmaceutical Science, says the approval of generic olanzapine "offers greater access to a widely used treatment for mental illness."

He says that having "affordable treatment options is good for patients with long-term illnesses that must be carefully managed."

Zyprexa can cost more than $300 a month, while generic versions can substantially cut the cost.

The FDA says olanzapine must be dispensed with a medication guide that describes the risks and possible adverse reactions patients may experience. Olanzapine is not approved for treating psychosis in the elderly with dementia.

The drug can have side effects leading to high blood sugar and high blood fat levels and weight gain.

Posted: 10/26/2011 2:20:00 PM

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BPA Exposure: Should Pregnant Women Be Concerned?

From Fox News:

A new study has found a connection between bisphenol A exposure during pregnancy and behavioral problems in girls.

The chemical is extremely controversial, and many experiments are currently being done to determine the effect of BPA exposure on humans.

In this latest study, Harvard researchers took urine samples from 244 pregnant women living in Cincinnati twice during their pregnancies and once directly after giving birth and measured the BPA concentration.

Afterward, the researchers measured BPA levels in the children each year. At age three, parents filled out a survey on kids' anxiety, depression, aggression and hyperactivity, as well as any behavioral problems or trouble controlling their emotions.

Nearly all the women and children had traces of BPA in their urine – on average, a concentration of two micrograms per liter – but the researchers found for every tenfold increase in that concentration during pregnancy, daughters had significantly higher scores on tests of anxiety and depression and had worse behavioral and emotional control.

The same effect was not seen in sons, the researchers said, nor did the children’s own exposure to BPA seem to affect behavior.

Posted: 10/25/2011 9:36:00 AM

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Coroner: College athlete ingested chemical found in fake marijuana before he died

From IndependentMail.com:

Anderson University basketball player Lamar Jack died after ingesting a chemical that is a key ingredient in synthetic marijuana, the county corner said Saturday.

Lab testing and analysis revealed that Jack had the chemical JWH-018 in his body when he collapsed during a preseason warm-up with his team on Sept. 30. Just days later, on Oct. 4, Jack died. He was 19.

On the basis of an autopsy and the toxicology test results, Shore is ruling Jack’s death accidental — caused by “acute drug toxicity with excited delirium that led to multiple organ failure.”

The chemical found in Jack’s body is used to make fake pot, a classification of substances that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration calls synthetic cannabanoids.

Posted: 10/24/2011 9:19:00 AM

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Navy Busts 64 Sailors for Drug Use, Sales

From The Epoch Times:

The Navy on Thursday said it caught 64 sailors illegally distributing or using the designer drug known as “spice,” according to The Navy Times.

Spice, which is also known as fake marijuana due to its effects, is made with synthetic cannabinoid compounds and prohibited in the Navy.

The Navy said it is discharging the sailors. Two more sailors from the submarine are being investigated.

Posted: 10/21/2011 10:43:00 AM

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LSU Players Face Suspension for Synthetic Marijuana Use

From The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange:

Three Louisiana State University football players have been placed on suspension after testing positive for synthetic marijuana, a source told the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Synthetic marijuana use has been on the rise among athletes in recent years, according to a report by Sportsology.com, due to the absence of THC and the player’s ability to pass a drug test after use. But both law enforcement authorities and drug test technologies have been adjusting to the trend.

As JJIE reported, in November 2010 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) added five variations of synthetic marijuana to the official list of illicit drugs, placing a ban on the drug nationally. While the DEA effectively banned what officials considered the five most dangerous compounds, there are alternatives. Similar compounds that are still legal produce comparable effects, and manufacturers wasted no time in making the switch.

Many states, including Louisiana, have taken up more extensive bans on the substance.

When it comes to college football, however, synthetic marijuana -– also known as Spice, K2 and Black Mamba -– is already on the National College Athletic Association’s banned substance list. Regardless of state or national law, players can still face suspension under the ban.

Posted: 10/21/2011 10:23:00 AM

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Maine Strained By Use Of Cocaine-Like 'Bath Salts'

From NPR:

States across the country continue to fight the spread of a dangerous new drug: bath salts.

They aren't anything like those soothing crystals you pour into the tub — they're synthetic stimulants, so-called designer drugs that cause paranoid, psychotic, often violent behavior in users.

Bath salts can still be purchased legally in some states and, in some cases, over the Internet.

In Maine, use of the drug has reached epidemic proportions and is straining police departments and emergency rooms. So late last month, the state enacted tougher laws that make both possession and distribution of the drug felonies.

Shane Heathers, 34, injected it (bath salts), day and night, for nearly a week. He ended up at the hospital, where police were called in with tasers after he tried to break out to smoke a cigarette. Several more bath salts binges followed. The last one took place at the house in September.

Heathers' parents showed up with sheriff's deputies and an ambulance. They took him to an emergency room not unlike the trauma unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where Dr. Jonnathan Busko sees as many as eight patients a day on bath salts, often behaving just like Heathers.

Busko, who oversees the ER, points over at a hallway where patients are lying on gurneys. A typical patient, says Busko, requires the care of one doctor and one nurse. But a bath salts patient like Heathers requires much more.

"They take three to four nurses, our techs, our security staff and a physician to care for them," Busko says. "And that's just for each of them. So if we're seeing four to five of those at any given time, that's a tremendous use of our resources and it really draws us away from our other patients."

At the beginning of the year, hardly anyone in Maine had even heard of the drug. By the end of September, Bangor's police department had responded to as many as 400 bath salts-related incidents.

Paranoid bath salts users have been picked up armed with knives and guns. Until recently, the drug could be purchased legally in most states. But that's begun to change, as the dangers posed by bath salts have become more widely understood.

Along with Maine, other states are fast-tracking laws banning the drug. And a temporary federal ban will soon take effect, outlawing the main ingredients in bath salts, as well as bath salts made with those ingredients.

Posted: 10/19/2011 2:50:00 PM

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FDA approval of ancient remedy sends price soaring

From CBS News:

Scott McGrath, 24, suffers from a painfully inflamed lining of the heart. Four months ago, the price of his medication suddenly went through the ceiling.

Sixty tablets of Colchicine used to cost him $34.83, and cost his insurance company nothing.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports the medication is now called Colcrys, and costs McGrath $62.16. "Almost doubled the amount I paid, and it cost my insurance company $244.74," McGrath said.

"The drug is no longer being sold by anyone but a single company, and that explains the price increase," McGrath said. 

Colchicine has been used to treat gout and other inflammatory conditions for thousands of years. How could one company gain a monopoly?

There are about 1,000 medications on the market that predate the existence of the Food and Drug Administration and therefore were never approved. 

Hundreds of thousands of people take Colchicine each year. The FDA said over the past 40 years, 169 deaths have been linked to the medication. A company called URL Pharma decided it would take the ancient drug, sold for 10 cents a pill, and test it as part of an FDA program to either approve these drugs or get them off the market.

Unlike companies that develop drugs from scratch and study thousands of patients for years, URL Pharma started with a pre-existing drug. Its research did clarify safety and dosing information. In return for the studies, the FDA granted URL exclusive rights to sell the medication.

"The reward that they got seems far out of proportion to the work that they did," said Dr. Edward Fundman, a rheumatologist who's been prescribing Colchicine for 30 years.

Fundman said the conversations among his colleagues was, "Just outrage that a company could take advantage of this FDA process and basically appropriate the drug for its own purpose. Even if a patient's not paying the full price out of pocket, their insurance company's paying it. Medicaid and Medicare have to pay for it. We're all paying for it."

IMS Health gave CBS News the number of Colchicine prescriptions nationwide. Add it all up and the cost of URL's price hike - over just one year - could exceed half a billion dollars.

URL's exclusive right to Colchicine for the most common indication - gout - expires next July. There are about 1,000 other unapproved medications currently on the market. Since the FDA does not control drug pricing, there's little to stop similar price hikes from happening again.

Posted: 10/11/2011 12:38:00 PM

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Center Receives Grant to Develop Best Practices Guidelines for DUID Toxicology Labs

From The Fredric Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation:

The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education, one of the main initiatives at the Fredric Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation, has received a grant from the National Safety Council in partnership with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conduct a survey of laboratories performing testing in impaired driving cases in order to develop guidelines about what drugs should be tested for and what technologies should be used. The Center’s Executive Director Dr. Barry Logan, a leading authority in the forensic toxicology of impaired driving, said that “this is an important way to make sure that the needs of investigators are met by the laboratories that perform the drug and alcohol testing needed to relate driving impairment and accident involvement to use of drugs.” The survey will include information about both licit and illicit drugs, the laboratory’s capacity, how long it takes to get testing done, and how sensitive methods should be ensure detection. The survey will be followed by an expert panel meeting to finalize the recommendations and communicate them to the traffic safety and toxicology communities.

Posted: 10/11/2011 10:52:00 AM

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Foundation Director To Attend White House Summit on Drugged Driving

From The Fredric Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation:

Dr. Barry Logan, Executive Director of The Fredric Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation and National Director of Forensic Services at NMS Labs, has been invited to participate in a Summit on Drugged Driving being hosted by Director Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s Drug Czar. The summit will focus on the rising public health and safety threat of drugged driving, and help coordinate the resources to help with its detection, investigation, prosecution, and intervention. Dr. Logan will bring a forensic toxicology focus to the group, and discuss issues regarding standardization of testing, use of appropriate technology and techniques for analysis, and the challenges of interpreting laboratory results. The summit will be held at the White House Conference Center on October 14th.