Jul 23, 2009 | 4
Getting prescription medication into developing countries is hard enough. But what if the drugs that actually make it there don’t work? Or worse, they cause further harm?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated three years ago that nearly one in four pharmaceutical drugs sold in the developing world is counterfeit, the New York Times reported this week. And recent discoveries suggest the war on fake drugs shows no sign of abating, as the pharmaceutical forgers wield increasingly sophisticated weaponry.
“The counterfeit drug business has become increasingly attractive for criminal syndicates,” according to the Times. “The profit potential is vast, yet punishment for those caught is typically much less severe than for illegal drugs like cocaine, law enforcement officials say.”
Apr 16, 2009
Pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer said today that they're creating a company dedicated to developing HIV medications. The unusual arrangement will give London-based GSK 85 percent equity and New York's Pfizer the remainder.
The companies said in a statement that the merger would "be more sustainable and broader in scope than either company's individually," giving the new partnership 19 percent of the HIV drug market through a combined portfolio of 11 already-available meds and six candidates in development. The idea is that the $2.4 billion in sales generated from the marketed drugs will keep the development pipeline moving, the companies said.
Apr 7, 2009 | 3
Teens in South Africa have found a new use for efavirenz (brand name Stocrin in South Africa and Sustiva in the U.S.), an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV from making copies of itself in the body. Instead of using efavirenz as it was intended – to keep the AIDS virus at bay – kids are crushing the pills and smoking the powder to get high, ABC News reports.
When taken as prescribed, efavirenz can cause side effects, including drowsiness and vivid, colorful dreams, but when smoked, it induces hallucinations and is highly addictive. "Once you've first started, there's no turning back," a 17-year-old addict told ABC News.
Feb 18, 2009
Is Pres. Obama getting closer to filling a key health post? The role of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief is down to two candidates, the Washington Post says in an unsourced report: Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein and former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Sharfstein's name has been floated repeatedly since Obama was elected, and Hamburg's surfaced early this month.
Feb 17, 2009 | 2
Among the provisions in the economic stimulus package that President Obama signed today is $1.1 billion in federal funding to investigate how different treatments stack up against each other. The money will likely go to comparing drugs, devices and medical procedures, in an effort guided by a council of 15 civil servants.
The stimulus bill doesn’t direct the 15-member council to dictate coverage. But the council will make recommendations about what to study and coordinate research between three federal agencies: the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Jan 15, 2009 | 19
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new med to treat fibromyalgia, a mysterious disease characterized by chronic widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances and depression.
The agency yesterday gave its nod to Savella (milnacipran HCL), a type of antidepressant known as a dual selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI), according to drug makers New York City–based Forest Laboratories and Cypress Bioscience in San Diego. SSNRIs work by making it easier for neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to use the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine to send signals to one another. Both of these neurotransmitters are known to play a key role in regulating pain and mood.
Jan 9, 2009 | 1
Some consumer groups are bleating over the prospect of a new anti-clotting drug made from genetically modified goats.
An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting today to discuss whether to recommend approval of ATryn, a med made from the milk of goats engineered to produce copious amounts of the blood-thinning protein antithrombin. This is the first time an FDA panel is considering a commercial food or drug product produced from a genetically altered animal.
(See a story from our September 2006 issue for more on ATryn.)
ATryn, manufactured by Massachusetts-based biotech GTC Biotherapeutics, is not being mulled as a sub for traditional blood thinners, but rather for use during surgery or childbirth for the one in 5,000 Americans with antithrombin deficiencies at increased risk of developing potentially fatal blood clots in their lungs or brains, the Associated Press says.
Jan 6, 2009 | 40
Drugs currently on the market but used for other purposes helped plump mice shed pounds by upping their response to the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, according to a new study. Researchers say the findings offer new hope in the search for weight-loss meds that exploit the hunger-dampening hormone, first discovered some 13 years ago.
"Leptin is a protein secreted from the adipocytes (fat cells)," says Umut Ozcan, an endocrinologist at Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., and senior author of the study published today in the journal Cell Metabolism. "When fat cells release this hormone, it travels to an area [in the brain] called the hypothalamus," which controls appetite. Upon entering the hypothalamus, Ozcan says, the hormone alerts brain cells, or neurons, that the body has taken in enough food to meet its energy needs so there's no reason to keep eating. He says that most obese people have developed a resistance to leptin, which means that the hypothalamus no longer heeds its messages to stop chowing down.
Jan 5, 2009 | 5
More than half of teens on MySpace discuss or post images on their profiles of sex, drugs and violence, new research shows. But another study finds that reminding kids the info is public may tame the content they publish on the social-networking site.
Some 270 (54 percent) of 500 MySpace profiles referenced risky behavior, according to the first study in today's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Of those, 24 percent mentioned sex, 41 percent drugs and 14 percent violence. The findings are based on reviews by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Notre Dame of profiles whose users said they were 18.
The researchers acknowledge that there's no way of verifying the ages or information of the users. But they note that social-networking sites have been used by cyber-bullies and online predators to target unwitting users. And whether or not the profiles reflect the truth, other teens will take the online information literally, magnifying the peer pressure that already exists in real life, says co-author Megan Moreno, now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Dec 29, 2008 | 10
Parents' intolerance of their gay and lesbian teens increases the chance that they will suffer health problems in young adulthood, including increased risk of suicide, depression, drug abuse and unsafe sex, new research shows.
Those whose parents reacted negatively to their sexual orientation were more than eight times more likely to have attempted suicide than those whose families accepted them, according to a study in the January issue of Pediatrics. They were also nearly six times as likely to report depression, three times as likely to use drugs and three times as likely to have unprotected sex.
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