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hep c cure

10/16/14 3:30pm

Expensive New Hep-C Drug from Gilead Approved By FDA

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Gilead Sciences has won FDA approval for a new combination hepatitis C treatment drug called Harvoni. Harvoni is a combination of sofosbuvir, the active ingredient in Sovaldi, and a new medicine from Gilead called ledipasvir, which is not available as a stand-alone product.

The two drugs attack the virus in different ways. Although the new drug promises to cure most hepatitis C patients without requiring other medicines, the close to six-figure cost of the treatment will exacerbate tensions between the drug companies and the health insurers over spiraling prices.

The cost of the treatment is a staggering $94,500 for the most typical patients, who will be treated for 12 weeks. Still, the new single orange pill needs to be taken just once a day and will cure most patients. American citizens with hepatitis C who cannot convince their insurance carriers to cover the new treatment will certainly be angry to be placed in a dangerous holding pattern due to expense.

Gilead Sciences recorded the biggest drug launch in history with Sovaldi this past year, making the company a lightning rod for critics of drug prices. Sovaldi alone costs $84,000 for a typical course, but it must be combined with other therapies that have definite side effects. The new drug regimen has very limited side effects, particularly in comparison to past treatments for HCV like pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Wall Street analysts estimate the company racked up roughly $9 billion in sales since the launch earlier this year.

Tensions between insurers and pharmaceutical companies have risen as the drug makers have increased prices repeatedly and then priced new drugs higher than the older therapies. Steven Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, a pharmacy-benefits manager, explained that, “If pharma continues to price based on what the market will bear, I promise you it’s not sustainable.”

To control costs, insurers have been trying to restrict the use of Sovaldi to sicker patients, keeping many out in the cold. Harvoni can be taken without the injections that Sovaldi is supposed to be taken with. The injections can cause bad side effects like depression, fatigue, and headaches. In clinical trials, Harvoni performed better than regimens containing Sovaldi, curing a slightly higher percentage of patients.

Donald Jensen, director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Liver Diseases, who has done clinical-trial research for Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies, expressed his excitement about the approval of Harvoni. “To get an even better cure rate without the injections and with therapy as short as eight to 12 weeks is clearly revolutionary,” he said.

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By John Lavitt

bad trip

10/16/14 1:00pm

Man on 'Bad Trip' Terrorizes Small Town, Goes to McDonald's

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A Washington man is facing 14 criminal charges, including robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft of a firearm, criminal trespassing, and vehicle prowling, after what he alleged was a “bad trip” on acid caused him to black out for a week.

The crime spree, which lasted from September 26 to October 3, started in Roy, Wash., where police became aware of the suspect, 23-year-old George Jacobson, after receiving two calls from residents in the town.

Jacobson’s first victim, Sherman Deach, discovered the suspect in his barn clutching a single black boot. Jacobson ran from Deach when he threatened to sic his dogs on him. Jacobson then broke into a neighboring house within a half hour, where he was discovered by his second victim, Nikki Foster, in her kitchen.

Jacobson allegedly drew a gun he had found in the family’s back bedroom. He demanded food and water, so Foster made him a sandwich. While he ate, Jacobson told Foster he was on a “spiritual journey” and that his “boot contained jewels.”

Eventually, Foster and her husband, who arrived later, were able to persuade the suspect to leave. They drove him to the end of the driveway and warned him not to come back. Only later did they discover that their gun was missing, police said.

Jacobson was not heard from again until the morning of October 3, when a witness discovered him rummaging through a car, in which he left a stash of stolen knives when he became spooked and ran off. Later, he was found in the home of Sally Andrews, “holding both her wallet and her breath mints,” according to Vocativ, which obtained court documents that “offer a vivid snapshot of the carnage.”

Jacobson stole Andrews’ car, crashed it into a ditch, and abandoned it. His next stop was the home of Robert Sheets. Gun drawn, Jacobson demanded a fresh pair of clothes, wearing nothing but a pair of red shorts himself. Sheets complied. Jacobson then asked him for a ride home to Rainier, about eight miles away.

On the way, the suspect insisted they make a quick stop at McDonald’s, where the two men got soft drinks at the drive-thru. Sheets dropped Jacobson off in Rainier, where he was picked up soon after by police. Police said Jacobson was clearly high and sporting a fresh scar in the middle of his forehead when he was arrested.

In police custody, Jacobson admitted he “prefers meth,” but was on a “bad trip” after taking acid about a week before. He had been blacking out ever since.

Jacobson is currently being held in the Pierce County Jail on a bond of $1 million.

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By Victoria Kim

religion and AA

10/16/14 10:30am

Atheist Inmate Receives $2 Million Settlement Over Forced 12-Step Drug Rehab

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Barry Hazle. Photo via

An atheist and former inmate has received a nearly $2 million settlement after being sent back to jail for refusing to participate in a 12-step treatment program.

Barry Hazle, 46, was sentenced to probation for drug possession in 2004 and then ordered to prison in 2006 after violating his probation by using methamphetamine. He was released on parole a year later and then ordered to complete a 90-day inpatient treatment program.

Despite requesting a secular treatment program, he was sent to a 12-step program modeled after AA. After objecting to the religiously based 12-step regimen, he was deemed in violation of his probation and sent back to prison for 100 days.

But after two federal court rulings, Hazle has officially settled with the state of California and its contractor, WestCare California, for $1.95 million over wrongful incarceration in violation of his religious liberty. Money was not Hazle's main objective in bringing the suit. "I just want to make sure that somebody else doesn’t have to go through this kind of thing," he explained.

“[The treatment program] told me, 'Anything can be your higher power. Fake it till you make it,’” said Hazle. “I have to become powerful to overcome problems in my life...A higher power, to me, is a fiction."

The state’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation has attempted to respect religious views by ordering agents to refer paroled drug and alcohol offenders to nonreligious treatment programs if they objected to the higher power elements of a 12-step program. However, an August 2013 ruling in this case showed that WestCare never received the order and didn’t understand what made an “alternative non-religious program."

A federal judge had ruled in 2010 that Hazle’s rights were violated, but declined to offer financial compensation. It was only last year that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a retrial after ruling that he in fact was entitled to compensation for loss of liberty.

Hazle admitted to relapses in his struggles to stay clean over the years, but said he is “no longer a user” and is “committed to [my] recovery.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

celebrities on drugs

10/16/14 8:30am

Amy Poehler Reveals Former Cocaine Use, Still Occasionally Smokes Pot

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Actress and comedian Amy Poehler is making light of the far-from-funny moments she had while doing drugs in her upcoming memoir.

In the book, Yes Please, which is scheduled to be released on Oct. 28, Poehler talked about her former cocaine and ecstasy use, and the comedowns she experienced from it afterwards.

Describing cocaine as a drug which she “instantly loved, but eventually hated,” she recalled struggling the day after using it and said that it’s “terrific if you want to hang out with people you don’t know very well and want to play ping-pong all night. It’s bad for everyone else.”

She also revealed taking ecstasy once at a New Year’s Eve party and said the morning after left her “so sad I wanted to sink into the carpet and permanently live there…I thought I had no friends.”

Poehler also admitted to still occasionally smoking marijuana, but said her use was limited due to inability to perform or write while high. She also makes it a point to not smoke near her two young sons because “how do you explain to [your kids] that you can’t play Rescue Bots because you have to spend all day in bed eating Cape Cod potato chips and watching The Bicycle Thief?”

The recreational drug use is in stark contrast to that of her comedy BFF Tina Fey, who told Women’s Health magazine in 2007 that she never experimented with illegal substances. "I have had surgeries before when I've been unconscious, but I have never used any kind of recreational drug," she said. "I want to be on record saying this, so my daughter can see it one day in the future. I am extremely square and obedient in nature!"

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

10/16/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 16, 2014

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Mark Holden "not drunk" on DWTS. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

internet addiction

10/15/14 7:30pm

Google Glass User Becomes First Diagnosed for Internet Addiction Disorder

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The first reported case of internet addiction disorder has been treated, according to a new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

The patient’s addiction to Google Glass surfaced when the man, a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman, checked into the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program (SARP) for alcoholism treatment in September 2013. It was noted that he “exhibited significant frustration and irritability related to not being able to use his Google Glass.” The Navy's 35-day residential treatment requires patients to avoid addictive behaviors including consuming alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. Electronic devices are also not allowed.

Withdrawing from using the device was more difficult for the patient than abstaining from alcohol, according to Dr. Andrew Doan, head of addictions and resilience research with SARP and co-author of the paper on the patient. “He said the Google Glass withdrawal was greater than the alcohol withdrawal he was experiencing,” Doan said.

In the beginning of his treatment, the patient suffered from “involuntary movements to the temple area and short-term memory problems.” In the two months since he bought the device, he had also begun experiencing dreams as if viewed through the device’s small window. Doctors noticed the patient repeatedly tapping his right temple with his index finger, an involuntary mimic of the motion used to switch on the device. The man had been using the device for around 18 hours a day, removing it only to sleep and wash.

Internet addiction disorder is not recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official reference guide to the field. But Doan believes internet addiction is real, and it is only a matter of time before research and treatment catch up.

“People used to believe alcoholism wasn’t a problem—they blamed the person or the people around them,” he said. “It’s just going to take a while for us to realize that this is real.”

According to the study, the patient “has a history of a mood disorder most consistent with a substance induced hypomania overlaying a depressive disorder, anxiety disorder with characteristics of social phobia and obsessive compulsive disorder, and severe alcohol and tobacco use disorders.”

After the patient’s residential treatment, he noticed a reduction in irritability and the involuntary movements to his temple, as well as improvements in his short-term memory and clarity of thought processes. However, the dreams about looking through the device’s lens continued. He was released and referred to a 12-step program for his alcohol abuse issues.

“There’s nothing inherently bad about Google Glass,” Doan told The Guardian, describing the danger of being so exposed to the neurological reward of using the device. “It’s just that there is very little time between these rushes. So for an individual who’s looking to escape, for an individual who has underlying mental dysregulation, for people with a predisposition for addiction, technology provides a very convenient way to access these rushes.”

“[T]he danger with wearable technology is that you're allowed to be almost constantly in the closet, while appearing like you’re present in the moment,” he added.

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By Victoria Kim

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