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12/05/13 7:00am

Morning Roundup: December 5, 2013

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Will we ever tire of him?
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By Shawn Dwyer

needle nurse sentenced

12/04/13 7:35pm

Ex-Hospital Worker David Kwiatkowski Sentenced to 39 Years

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He exposed hundreds
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David Kwiatkowski an itinerant cardiac technologist who stole IV drugs from operating rooms in 19 hospitals across the country and exposed hundreds of patients to his Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was sentenced Monday to 39 years in prison by a New Hampshire federal judge. The New Hampshire suit was brought after Kwiatkowski was found to have infected more than 30 patients with HCV at the Exeter, N.H. hospital where he worked from April 2011 to May 2012. Other suits are pending against facilities in the various states where Kwiatkowski worked, including one against University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), where Kwiatkowski was seen stealing fentanyl syringes from operating-room supply carts: he would inject the fentanyl into his own body, refill the vial with saline, and replace the entire infected rig back on the cart to be used on patients.

Brendan Lupetin, the Pittsburgh attorney who filed the first class-action lawsuit against UPMC and Maxim Solutions, the staffing agency that placed Kwiatkowski at UPMC, said he was torn about the severity of the New Hampshire sentence. “On the one hand I recognize that Kwiatkowski had a terrible addiction that led him to do things he likely would never have done otherwise,” Lupetin said. “I think what he did was reckless but was not done with an intent to specifically hurt patients.  So in that regard 39 years seems brutal, as it places him in prison for maybe the rest of his life.  On the other hand, he profoundly harmed many peoples’ lives just for his own particular fix.” Lupetin noted that one woman was prevented from donating bone marrow to her brother, who has leukemia, because she had been infected with Hep C by Kwiatkowski. HCV is a life-threatening viral infection that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, kills more Americans each year than HIV. Treatment is difficult and not always effective. Kwiatkowski was reported to have told his attorneys, “I’m going to kill a lot of people out of this.”

Lupetin said the class action suit he filed has been given the go-ahead. The suit represents about 2,200 people who were sent letters from UPMC notifying them they might have been exposed to HCV. “These are people who did not contract HCV but were forced to fear for their well-being and undergo unnecessary medical testing due to the alleged negligence of UPMC and Maxim,” Lupetin said. 

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By Jennifer Matesa

too much caffeine

12/04/13 5:35pm

Can You Actually Overdose on Caffeine?

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Not so good to the last drop
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With the continuing popularity of energy drinks, pills, and candy, more and more caffeine users are reporting adverse consequences as a result of consuming energy produces. Recent episodes of caffeine poisoning have confirmed the fears of those who consume too much: it is possible that you can overdose on caffeine. And sometimes, you can die.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency room visits attributed to energy drinks more than doubled from 10,068 in 2007 to 20,783 in 2011. Reports of people suffering from the adverse effects of too much caffeine have poured in from across the country and the world. Christian Brenner started feeling tremors and having hallucinations as he was driving down an Ohio freeway shortly after taking five Magnum 357 caffeine pills. Luckily, he was able to pull over and walk off the effects. But John Jackson of Birmingham, England, was not so lucky: he died of a caffeine overdose after consuming too many Hero Instant Energy Mints. While it was unclear how many he ingested, the manufacturers of the mint stated that based on the caffeine levels in his blood, Jackson must have eaten "over 300 of our mints, which is staggering," a company spokesperson said.

Doctors put the safe dose of caffeine at about 200 to 300 milligrams per day, which is equivalent to two-to-four cups of coffee. In contrast, the pills Brenner took had 200 mg of caffeine each, which means he ingested triple the amount considered safe. Meanwhile, energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster contain anywhere between 80 and 240 milligrams. One of the problems with the new formulations, according to Barbara Crouch, executive director of the Utah Poison Control Center, is that people - and very often kids - drink two or three of the energy drinks at once to get a quick buzz. "When you pound down more than one energy drink verses sipping a cup of coffee, you're not metabolizing it the same way," said Crouch. And given the amount of food in the stomach, adverse consequences do not seem all that far-fetched. "There is absolutely such a thing as caffeine poisoning," she said. "And the dose essentially makes the poison."

As a result of the increasing prevalence of news reports on health-related problems due to energy products, the Food and Drug Administration plans to closely examine caffeinated foods, drinks, and supplements. "We are contracting with the Institute of Medicine to conduct a public meeting to obtain additional scientific information and expert input on caffeine and are actively reaching out to the food industry and health care practitioners to discuss concerns about caffeine in conventional foods and dietary supplements," said FDA spokesperson Teresa Eisenman.

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By Allison McCabe

major league stimulants

12/04/13 3:43pm

Adderall Use On The Rise In Major League Baseball

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Ruiz was 1 of 8 players who tested positive in 2013
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Adderall, an amphetamine used to to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, has now found its way into Major League Baseball. A drug report conducted between the MLB and MLB Players’ Association was recently released and confirmed that eight players tested positive for using performance enhancing substances. Seven of the positive tests were for Adderall and one was for Methylhexaneamine; all of the players, most notably Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies, faced disciplinary action afterwards. The findings came from 5,391 tests conducted from the 2012 off-season till the end of the 2013 post-season, which included 4,022 urine samples and 1,369 blood samples.

However, the positive tests reported don’t account for the huge number of players who have received “Adderall exemptions” due to medical treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder. The report implies that 10 percent of MLB players are treated for ADD with Adderall, which is approximately double the rate of the general population. Twenty-eight Adderall exemptions were granted in 2006, but skyrocketed to 103 in 2007 after amphetamines were banned and that number continues to rise. The report also stated that 13 “non-analytical” positives resulted in disciplinary action. None of these players failed a drug test, but the MLB dug up enough evidence related to their ties with Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs that suspensions were handed down.

The MLB Players’ Association confirmed last January that players would now receive random in-season blood tests for human growth hormone and begin new tests to catch players using testosterone; players were previously only given drug tests during spring training and the off-season. During the 2012 season, All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon, and San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal all tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and were given 50-game suspensions.

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By McCarton Ackerman

yes, we should

12/04/13 1:45pm

New Poll Shows Americans Want Congress to be Drug Tested

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Pee for thee, but not for me. Photo via

According to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, over three-quarters of Americans like the idea of lawmakers peeing in a cup and submitting to random drug testing. Only seven percent oppose. Of the 78 percent who want members of Congress to be tested for drugs, sixty-two percent said they “strongly” favor such a measure. The same poll also found a strong majority favoring drug testing for welfare and unemployment recipients, 64 in favor and 18 percent opposed.

But lawmakers, particularly Republicans, aren’t exactly accepting of the idea of random drug testing for themselves even though they have passed laws on the state and federal level requiring the same for welfare, unemployment, and food stamp recipients. In April 2013, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas signed into law a bill that required such testing, calling drug addiction a “scourge in Kansas.” The bill sailed through the legislature before landing on Brownback’s desk for a signature.  “This is a horrific thing that hits so many people,” he said. “What this effort is about is an attempt to get ahead of it and, instead of ignoring the problem, start treating the problem.” Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed legislation to drug test food stamp recipients, while last year Congressional Republicans pushed testing for people on unemployment.

In light of the recent news about Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) getting busted for buying cocaine, it’s not surprising talk has turned to drug testing Congress, especially when peeing in a cup is rapidly becoming commonplace for the rest of us. Turns out that House Rule 635, adopted in 1997, does allow for the random drug testing of its members. The rule says in part, “The Speaker, in consultation with the Minority Leader, shall develop through an appropriate entity of the House a system for drug testing in the House. The system may provide for the testing of a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House.” To date, there has been no confirmation of any House member being tested under the rule.

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By Shawn Dwyer

robbie williams strikes again

12/04/13 10:37am

Recovering Addict Robbie Williams Still Smoking Pot

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A relapse waiting to happen?
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Robbie Williams is raising eyebrows in the recovery community by admitting he's not fully sober, but also claiming he's okay with it. The British singer has several trips to rehab for alcohol and drug abuse under his belt, but has been sober ever since meeting his wife Ayda Field in 2006. However, Williams said that despite having an infant daughter, Theodora, he smokes marijuana once in a while and even revealed to the Daily Mail that he had gotten high two days before the interview. 

"No big drug sessions...Just a small amount, purely to relax. I'm allowed to go crazy once in a while, just as long as I don't lose control," he said. "I have to be there to take care of my daughter, right? That is the good thing - by putting responsibility on my shoulders, she is also taking care of me." Despite his pot use, Williams has made it clear that he hasn't touched alcohol for 13 years.

It seems that the former Take That singer has a rather loose approach when it comes to addiction and his own sobriety. Williams shockingly told reporters last summer that he would do drugs again if Theodora decided she wanted to experiment with them. He also admitted regretting first getting sober at the age of 19, claiming that he wished he had a "few more years of partying" under his belt before getting sober at "29 or 30."

Williams also outraged addiction advocates last year by launching his own gambling website, Robbie Williams Poker. Although money was not at stake in the games, users did need to pay for certain tournaments in the form of a buy-in so they could compete for merchandise, concert tickets and a chance to meet him.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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