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Big pharma

9/25/12 5:52pm

Reckitt Pulls Its Suboxone Tablets From the US Market

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On their way out Photo via

Reckitt Benckiser—the British company that manufactures Suboxone—is taking its tablet formulation of the drug off the US market, it announced today. Reckitt says it notified the FDA last week of its plans to withdraw the pills, “due to increasing concerns with pediatric exposure.” Its announcement links the decision to a report the company received 10 days ago from the US Poison Control Centers that found Suboxone tablets—which are dispensed in bottles with child-proof caps, like most other prescription pills—were about eight times likelier to fall into kids' hands than the company's Suboxone films, which come in individual sealed envelopes. It’s unclear exactly how many pediatric exposures are involved, as the announcement cites only rates of exposure. Reckitt has yet to respond to The Fix's request for a copy of the report.

Reckitt’s global medical director, Tim Baxter, MD, told The Fix last month that the company knows of just four cases of children dying due to the accidental ingestion of Suboxone tablets. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that, in 2009 (the most recent year with available data), buprenorphine products in general were involved in 1.3% of ER visits. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which is used in short-term detox and longer-term medication assisted therapy. Its partial-agonist action makes it much less likely to cause fatal respiratory depression than full agonists—including popular painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone—which commonly come in pill form, not individually wrapped doses. Reckitt’s decision to pull the tablets coincides with imminent plans to introduce its new, patented higher-dose films—and comes in the wake of Reckitt losing its patent on the pills. The company notified shareholders last year that it could lose more than 80% of profits from Suboxone tablets if a cheaper generic alternative emerges. But a spokesman denies that this is the reason for the newly-announced decision.

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By Jennifer Matesa

eating disorders

9/25/12 4:46pm

Lady Gaga Launches "Body Revolution"

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"Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15" reads
the caption. Photo via

After enduring recent media attacks over her perceived weight gain, Lady Gaga has responded by boldly opening up about her struggles with eating disorders, and rallying her fans with the launch of a "Body Revolution." Some allegedly altered photos were published of a fuller-framed Gaga earlier this month; tabloids described the singer as "meaty," and slammed her for "piling on the pounds." She responded earlier today by posting underwear-clad photos of herself on her website, with the caption: "Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15," and has since launched a subsection of her site entitled Body Revolution. "My mother and I created the BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION for one reason: 'to inspire bravery.' This profile is an extension of that dream," she writes on the site, "Be brave and celebrate with us your 'perceived flaws,' as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous." She also encouraged her fans to post photos of themselves: "Hey Guys its Gaga… Now that the body revolution has begun, be brave and post a photo of you that celebrates your triumph over insecurities." 

The singer has previously spoken about battling eating disorders as a teen, and coping with media pressure since becoming famous. "Weight is still a struggle," she said earlier this year. "Every video I’m in, every magazine cover, they stretch you—they make you perfect. It’s not real life." Within a few hours of its inception, Body Revolution seems to have generated the support of many fans (aka "little monsters"); the site already features a mosaic of photos and stories about people recovering from eating disorders, living with disability and surviving cancer. There's also a photo of Gaga's dad's stomach with the caption: "He's proud but has lost ten lbs and is working out too feel better, be healthy." Many fans thank the pop star for "making me feel brave." Under Gaga's original photo, one struggling anorexic writes: "i've been relapsing a lot lately and all i do iscry about my body and i feel like i wish i never did recover but this. looking at this is making me strong. You inspire me. If you can be strong, i can too."

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By May Wilkerson

Civil Liberties

9/25/12 3:54pm

Should Cops Need Warrants to Force DUI Tests?

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The Supreme Court will decide on motorists'
rights in January. Photo via

The Supreme Court is considering whether or not police officers should be able to force a suspected drunk driver to take a breathalyzer test or have blood drawn at a hospital. Judges are split on whether compelling someone to take one of these tests counts as an “unreasonable search,” as prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Prosecutors in the test case argue that police need to act quickly because alcohol in the body rapidly disappears from the blood—but lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union say that police officers should have to obtain a search warrant before they can make someone take a test. It all started when a Missouri highway patrol officer stopped a driver named Tyler McNeely for speeding. The officer said McNeely smelled of alcohol, slurred his speech and failed roadside sobriety tests. But he refused to provide a breath sample—so the officer brought him to the hospital and forced him to give a blood sample. McNeely’s blood alcohol level was 0.154, nearly double the legal limit of .08%. But in March, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out that blood test evidence, saying that the police must obtain a warrant first. The US Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in January.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Alcoholism

9/25/12 2:31pm

Treating Alcoholism Saves You Money

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Strapped for cash? Might be time to quit.
Photo via

Alcoholics who receive treatment significantly reduce the financial burden of their addiction on their families, according to a new German study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers looked at 48 families with an alcoholic family member, and found that after 12 months of treatment, the costs directly related to that family member’s alcoholism fell from an average of $832 per month to $178 a month. This means that the average costs incurred by alcoholism decreased from about 20% to just over 4% of the total pre-tax family income. Even in the case of relapse, treatment reduced the costs by an average of $80 a month. And the families were saving more than just money—the average amount of time spent caring for the alcoholic member dropped from 32 hours a month to just 8 hours a month. "When [researchers] look at effects on families, addiction studies mainly focus on problems such as domestic violence and depression, not on the financial burden of caring for an alcoholic," says lead author Dr. Hans Joachim Salize, of the Central Institute of Mental Health. "But when health services and policymakers study the costs and benefits of treating alcoholism, they need to know that treatment has an immense financial effect not just on the alcoholic but also on his or her spouse, partner, children and parents. The benefits of treatment reach well beyond the individual patient."

As a caveat, the cost of addiction treatment may be much different in Germany than in countries like the US. But still, the average cost of residential treatment for alcohol or drug abuse was $3,840 per admission in 2002, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Compared with the amount of cash spent on alcohol along with the costs of the consequences and loss of productivity, it would seem likely that treatment would reduce the financial burden on an addict's family, no matter what country they live in.

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By Chrisanne Grise

gambling addiction

9/25/12 12:49pm

Does Giving Kids Lotto Tickets Get Them Hooked?

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The gift that keeps on taking Photo via

Buying lottery tickets and letting your kids scratch them off may sound like fun family bonding to some parents, but it could be planting the seeds for a gambling problem—and other addictive behaviors—later in life. This is according to a new study led by author Priya V. Kundu and investigators Corey E. Pilver, Rani A. Desai, and Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin from the Yale School of Medicine, who observed 2,000 high school students in Connecticut. They found that students who had been given lottery tickets as children developed more permissive attitudes towards gambling than those who did not receive tickets; they also found a correlation between the age at which a child started playing lotto, and the severity of their gambling problem as an adult. Problem gambling was also linked to other conditions such as depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and has been previously linked to suicide. "Our research suggests that family members and friends should consider the possible negative impact of giving children or adolescents lottery tickets as gifts," said Marc Potenza, professor of psychiatry, child study, and neurobiology, and senior author of the research. However, the study couldn't determine whether early gifts of lottery tickets influenced problem gambling in later adulthood, since researchers did not follow students over time.

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By McCarton Ackerman

marijuana bust

9/25/12 12:08pm

Chris Brown Busted For Pot While On Probation

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Even Breezy has to obey the law. Photo via

Here's one woman Chris Brown won't be able to abuse: the judge in his probation case. Judge Patricia Schnegg ordered the rapper to court yesterday after the singer tested positive for marijuana while still serving a five year probation sentence for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna back in February 2009. Chris told the probation department in Virginia (where the assault took place) that he had a medical marijuana card in California and took the drug there. The judge also took issue with Brown not completing the mandatory 180 days of community labor as part of his agreement, but he claims he did most of the hours alone and simply "didn't sign in." She ordered him to register with California probation within 72 hours and attend a probation-violation setting hearing on November 1. However, Brown will not have his probation revoked because she had not imposed drug testing as a condition. "You are not only in the public eye but you are on probation to me," Patricia warned him. "You are on probation for five years and you still have a couple left. Your conduct is important." Speaking of altered judgment, Rihanna wished Brown the best with the hearing, tweeting: “Praying for you baby, my best wishes are with you today! Remember that whatever God does in our lives, it is WELL DONE!!! #1Love.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

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