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FDA to respond to petition to ban BPA

From Greener Package:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to respond by March 31 to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to ban the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from food-contact materials, said a March 30, 2012, PR Newswire press release.

Approved by the FDA and used for decades in food packaging, including can liners, BPA is in polycarbonate plastic and durable epoxy resins, and is used in reusable containers and food packaging.

While the safety issue continues to be studied and debated within industry and regulatory authorities, consumer perception is also playing a role in the BPA issue. For example, a March 8 Food Safety News story, “Campbell’s Soup Phasing Out BPA Use in Cans,” said, “consumer confidence in BPA has vanished, and Campbell's joins a long list of companies that have already started to phase out or are planning to eliminate BPA from their packaging."

Posted: 3/30/2012 2:45:00 PM

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AMA & PBS: Why Declining Autopsy Rates May Hurt Quality of Healthcare

From Dark Daily:

Pathologists and public health officials say the downward trend in autopsy rates is having far-reaching consequences for healthcare in the United States. The decline in the number of autopsies performed annually comes in spite of extensive literature documenting multiple benefits of the autopsy procedure.

No less an authority than the American Medical Association is calling attention to this situation. The AMA just published a story titled, “Declining Autopsy Rates Affect Medicine and Public Health,” to call attention to the fact that the rate of autopsies has fallen significantly.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), demonstrates that, in 1972 the number of deaths autopsied was 19%. By 2007, that number had plummeted to just 9%.

Experts are concerned about this continuing trend. That’s because autopsies have historically played a crucial role in three ways:
  • medical education;
  • characterization of new diseases; and,
  • advancing the understanding of disease pathogenesis.
The significance of autopsies as important to advancing medical science has been the subject of several television shows aired on PBS. On its website, posted an article about autopsies that was titled: “Without Autopsies, Hospitals Bury Their Mistakes.” PBS reported the following data:
  • Patients Who Died in Hospitals. Fifty years ago, autopsies were performed about 50% of the time. Today, according to CDC, that number is about 5%.
  • Patients Who Died of Diseases Such as Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease. In 1972, the autopsy rate for such deaths was 17%. In 2007, the number was 4%.
  • Teaching, Private and Community Hospitals. Teaching hospitals perform autopsies around 20% of the time, private and community hospitals’ autopsy rate is close to zero.
  • Older Patients Who Died in Hospitals. CDC data show that, in 2008, 684,000 patients over the age of 60 died in hospitals. Although that represented more than 25% of all deaths in the country that year, just 2.3 % were autopsied. Experts note the lost opportunity to learn about age-related diseases.
  • Some Hospitals Performing Zero Autopsies. One survey found that in a given year, 63% of hospitals in the state of Louisiana performed no autopsies.
About 50% of autopsies produce medical findings that were unsuspected before the autopsy, reported the AMA. A 2002 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that autopsies revealed major errors related to the principle diagnosis or underlying cause of death 25% of the time. In 10% of the cases, the error appeared severe enough to have led to the patient’s death.

In 1999, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) issued a report stating that increasing the rate of clinical autopsies could improve healthcare and reduce errors. However, despite the data, industry organizations, such as Institute for Healthcare Improvement, National Quality Forum, and The Joint Commission have not pushed to increase the use of autopsies.

Posted: 3/15/2012 9:31:00 AM

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Dr. Barry K. Logan Named President-Elect of American Academy of Forensic Sciences

From The Arcadia University Bulletin:

Dr. Barry K. Logan was elected President–elect of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences last week in Atlanta, Ga.

Dr. Logan's scientific background is in forensic toxicology, including impaired driving, postmortem, and human performance. He is Board Certified, has more than 80 publications in peer-reviewed literature, and is frequently consulted in high-profile cases, including the recent Casey Anthony homicide trial in Orlando, Fla. He is a member of Arcadia’s Master of Science in Forensic Science faculty and serves as a liaison with NMS Labs, Arcadia’s organizational affiliate in its Forensic Science programs and a world-renowned and accredited forensic science laboratory.

Posted: 3/12/2012 2:06:00 PM

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Coroner: Cardinal Bevilacqua died of natural causes

From The Mercury:

The late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died of natural causes with a nurse by his side, and nothing was suspicious about his death, according to Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Walter Hofman.

Bevilacqua, 88, died on Jan. 31, a day after a Philadelphia court ruled him competent to testify in a priest child endangerment case. Hofman performed a postmortem examination on the body a day later at the request of District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who wanted to be certain nothing untoward occurred to cause the cardinal’s death.

Hofman said the exam found significant preexisting natural disease, and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease is listed as the official cause of death. Prostate cancer was a contributing factor.

The late cardinal’s prescription medications were within generally accepted therapeutic levels and no unexpected substances were detected.

The toxicology testing was performed at National Medical Services in Willow Grove, described by Hofman as the “premier toxicology laboratory in the United States if not the world.”

Posted: 3/9/2012 4:08:00 PM

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Navy to step up Breathalyzer and synthetic marijuane tests of sailors

From The Associated Press:

The Navy soon will begin giving Breathalyzer tests to many of its sailors before they report to work aboard a ship under a new program that will spread to the Marine Corps later this year.

Details of the Navy program are still being worked out, but not every sailor who walks onto a ship will be given a Breathalyzer test. Navy officials estimate that between one sixth and one eighth of a ship's crew will be given the test, which will target those standing watch and overseeing important aspects of a ship, such as its nuclear reactors. Other sailors may be tested at random.

The Navy is setting aside $8 million to begin the program and anticipates spending $2 million to keep it going.

Mabus said sailors who are found to have been using alcohol before reporting to work won't necessarily be punished, but the tests will be used as a way to help identify sailors in need of treatment and to serve as a deterrent for those considering drinking heavily the night before a shift.

The tests are part of Mabus' 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative, an expansive program intended to improve the well-being of sailors and Marines after more than a decade at war.

Among other things, sailors also will be given random drug tests to check for the use of synthetic marijuana, which the military prohibits its members from using. Many states also outlaw synthetic drugs. Sailors caught using synthetic drugs through the urine tests will be prosecuted under military law.

Posted: 3/6/2012 10:32:00 AM

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New health concerns about ‘fake pot’ in US

From Outcome Magazine:

A type of fake pot has raised new health concerns in the United States after at least three users were hospitalized for kidney failure, authorities in the western state of Wyoming said Monday.

Often known as “Spice” or “K2,” the substance is marketed to young people as herbal incense, and creates a marijuana-like high when it is smoked like a joint or a cigarette.

“At this point we are viewing use of this drug as a potentially life-threatening situation,” Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said in a statement sent to AFP.

State health authorities first learned of the latest incidents on Thursday involving three patients in central Wyoming who sought hospital care after smoking a product known as “blueberry spice,” a spokeswoman added.

There have been no deaths and no reports of connected cases in other areas, she added.

However, drug policy experts say that fake pot use has been on the rise in recent years.

Posted: 3/6/2012 8:58:00 AM

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DEA extends emergency controls on chemicals used for fake pot, still plans permanent controls

From The Washington Post:

The Drug Enforcement Administration is extending emergency controls for six more months on five chemicals used to make fake pot products.

The agency is working on permanently designating smokable herbal products containing the five chemicals as controlled substances. The DEA took emergency action a year ago, making it illegal to possess and sell the five chemicals or products containing them.

The agency says the extension will provide time to complete the steps to permanent controls.

Posted: 3/1/2012 9:16:00 AM

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Attorney General's office expands ban on chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana


New Jersey’s recent battle with designer drugs has been a game of cat and-mouse.

Last year the state banned methamphetamine-like powders known as "bath salts."

But users moved to a similar, still-legal drug called "2CE."

And when chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana were banned, dealers found new ways to create the substances and sidestep the law.

Faced with a evolving problem that many are struggling to understand, Attorney General Jeff Chiesa today announced what he described as a sweeping solution to the designer drug problem:

Ban first. Ask questions later.

Under the new ban, Chiesa said, any chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana are now illegal in New Jersey, according to an emergency order issued today by the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

The ban lists 10 classes of chemicals, outlawing hundreds of compounds that could be used to create synthetic marijuanas.

He said it also bars the sale of any substances that might be used to create the drug in the future, a provision to illegalize compounds not specified in the ban. No chemicals listed in the ban are used in other products, he said.

Posted: 3/1/2012 8:39:00 AM

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