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Bath Salts: The Drug That Never Lets Go

From PBS News:

Dickie Sanders was not naturally prone to depression. The 21-year-old BMX rider was known for being sweet spirited and warm -- a hugger not a hand-shaker. The kind of guy who called on holidays. Who helped his father on the family farm. Who spent countless hours perfecting complicated tricks on his bike.

Yet on Nov. 12, 2010, Sanders was found dead on the floor of his childhood bedroom. He had shot himself in the head with a .22 caliber youth rifle.

An autopsy revealed a powerful stimulant in his system: methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV (a common ingredient in a street drug known as "bath salts").

“Bath salts” are nothing like the epsom salts often added to bathwater; it's just the most common code name given to a specific type of synthetic drugs made in underground labs and marketed as household items. The drugs have been camouflaged as plant food, stain remover, toilet bowl cleaner and hookah cleaner. They've been sold online and in "head shops," businesses that sell drug paraphernalia. The boxes usually contain a foil wrap or plastic bag of powder, though sometimes they take the form of pills or capsules. The color of the powder ranges from white to yellow to brown, the price from $30 to $50. And nearly every box has a label that says “not for human consumption.”

When bath salts first appeared in 2010, the products were crudely packaged -- a label from an ink-jet printer slapped onto a plastic container, Ryan said. But over time, they began to look increasingly more professional and often specifically tailored to the place. Products in Louisiana donned names like Hurricane Charlie, NOLA Diamond, Bayou Ivory Flower. Bath salts had also surfaced in Illinois, Kentucky and Florida, but Louisiana was hit especially hard.

The product that Sanders snorted was called Cloud 9. At the time of his death, he was in a drug program for marijuana abuse, actively attending group meetings and undergoing frequent drug tests. He was told that the drug was legal, a great high and wouldn't show up on a drug test.

Posted: 9/28/2012 12:56:00 PM

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Sanofi Wins U.S. FDA Approval for Multiple Sclerosis Pill

From Bloomberg:

The Food and Drug Administration approved the once-a-day multiple sclerosis pill, Aubagio, for relapsing forms of the debilitating disease. The treatment, also known by the scientific name of teriflunomide, is for patients in the initial phases of the disease, Paris-based Sanofi said.

Sales may be limited because the drug isn’t as effective as Novartis AG’s (NOVN) Gilenya, the first MS pill approved in Europe, or Tysabri from Elan Corp. and Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB), Alistair Campbell, an analyst at Berenberg Bank, wrote in a report today. Biogen’s oral drug BG-12 also may win U.S. approval by the end of the year, he said.

Aubagio “has clear limitations,” Campbell wrote. “We doubt the drug will seriously affect Gilenya or Tysabri, where prescriptions are largely driven by efficacy.”

The treatment may garner annual sales of $330 million in 2016, according to the average of four analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Aubagio will cost $45,000 a year in the U.S., 28 percent less than Gilenya, Sibold said.

The lower price is due to the fact that Aubagio is less effective than the Novartis product and carries the risk of liver side effects, analysts at Barclays Plc’s investment- banking unit including Mark Purcell said in a report today.

Posted: 9/13/2012 1:37:00 PM

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