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Friday, February 27, 2015

HIV Outbreak Linked to IV Opana Use

Today, when most people think of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), they envision the deadly disease affecting people in Africa or in other developing nations around the world. However, HIV still disrupts the lives of many Americans, contracted through risky sexual behavior and intravenous drug use.

While efforts to provide clean needles and education programs for safer drug use have diminished HIV prevalence dramatically, there are still a number of Americans contracting the deadly virus. The opioid epidemic in America has lead many abusers to crush pills into powder for injection, and with IV drug use often comes the sharing of needles.

In Indiana, health officials report a fast-spreading outbreak of HIV due to the injection of one particular drug, the painkiller Opana, USA Today Reports. Per milligram, Opana is more powerful than OxyContin.

"Addicts use and misuse needles," said Karyn Hascal, president of The Healing Place in Louisville, which serves Southern Indiana addicts. "When you have injectable drugs like prescription pills and other narcotics being abused as much as they have been, (Hepatitis) C and HIV are soon to follow. I knew that HIV and Hep C would come back."

State health officials have confirmed 26 HIV cases, and have four additional suspected cases, according to the article. The outbreak is the largest the state has ever seen in one region, and most of the cases can be directly linked to the injection of Opana.

“Because prescription drug abuse is at the heart of this outbreak, we are not only working to identify, contact and test individuals who may have been exposed, but also to connect community members to resources for substance abuse treatment and recovery,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner, Jerome Adams in a statement.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vyvanse Approved for Binge-Eating

Drugs which promise to cause weight loss have long been desired, the problem is that historically such drugs have caused more harm than good. Everyone wants to be fitter, happier, and more productive. Some are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve that goal. But, what many women found with the drug Fenfluramine/phentermine “Fen-Phen,” while the drug succeeded at helping women lose weight; the drug was accompanied by potentially fatal health problems and dependence.

Amphetamine drugs, which have long been used to treat people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are known to suppress one’s appetite - a side effect which is appealing to those who would like to lose weight. It comes as little surprise that drug manufacturers who make amphetamines would like to exploit that market. The drug company Shire, the makers of Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine), has begun aggressively marketing their drug as a treatment for binge-eating, The New York Times reports.

Vyvanse is an FDA approved drug for the treatment of ADHD, but was recently approved for marketing as a treatment for binge-eating disorder. It is not hard to see that using amphetamine based drugs for appetite suppression is a slippery slope, and the drug will appeal to people who just want to lose weight. It is clear that Shire also sees the value of that market, considering they hired retired tennis player Monica Seles as a paid spokeswoman for the company and she is actively on a media tour to promote the drug, according to the article.

“Once a pharmaceutical company gets permission to advertise for it, it can often become quite widely prescribed, and even tend to be overprescribed, and that’s a worry,” said Dr. B. Timothy Walsh, professor of psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. He points out that using “talk treatment” therapy for binge-eating disorders has been more widely studied.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FDA Considers Snus Pouches

English: General Snus (portion)
It is fair to say that there is nothing healthy about tobacco, whether one is smoking it or chewing the harmful substance. Different types of cancer have been tied to tobacco in every form, most commonly lung, mouth, and throat cancers.

One of the more recent forms of tobacco use is what known as ‘snus’ pouches, a form of chewing tobacco which comes in tea bag like pouches which users place between their lips and gums. One of the makers of ‘snus’ pouches is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to re-certify their product as being a “modified risk,” the Associated Press reports.

The company, Swedish Match, argues that while their product is addictive, it is less harmful than smoking. On top of that, Swedish Match, which has sold snus in the United States since 2007, wants to be able to remove one of the required health warning labels about oral cancer.

While there are a number of public health experts who condemn any type of tobacco use arguing there is no safe way to use tobacco; some say lower-risk alternatives like smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes improve public health by discouraging the smoking of regular cigarettes. The makers of tobacco products, according to the article, are searching out new ways of increasing profits, as cigarette sales continue to decline due to increased taxes, health concerns, smoking bans and social stigma.

The FDA has announced that it will consider the requests at a two-day Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee meeting in April. The FDA usually follows its committees’ recommendations, according to the AP.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vermont Moves Towards Legalization

The marijuana legalization movement continues as 2016 draws closer. Vermont may become one of the next states to legalize marijuana, making it the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature, the Huffington Post reports. Known as Senate Bill 95, the measure would legalize the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21.

Due to the drugs widespread use, Sen. David Zuckerman, a member of the state's Progressive party, is sponsoring the bill which would allow adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to nine plants, according to the article. However, personal cultivation would only be able to take place in secure indoor facilities.

"One can experiment with alcohol, as many do, and use marijuana, as many do, and turn out to be a positive and productive member of our society," Zuckerman said. “Certainly, I’ve not hidden the fact that I recreationally used while I was in college, and yet I turned out to be a productive business person."

Tax revenue generated from marijuana sales would be used for:
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Services
  • Drug Use Public Education Programs
  • Law Enforcement
  • Marijuana Research
"My bias on legalization is toward legalization," said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D). "Let’s remember, we have this conversation and we pretend that you can’t get marijuana now. In the real world, folks, if you want to get marijuana in Vermont, we’re in Lala Land if we’re pretending you can’t. The question is how do we move to a smarter approach that doesn’t promote addiction, that doesn’t promote abuse and really accepts the reality."

Last week, Vermont lawmakers, lobbyists and law enforcement officials visited Colorado with the hope of acquiring more information about the effects of recreational marijuana legalization, the article reports.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Using CBD for Pediatric Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy

The search to find the medical efficacy of marijuana continues as more people become interested in the drug. The medical marijuana movement and subsequent legalization in multiple states, has opened doors for researchers to probe the drug.

The Sanjay Gupta report, where he recanted his condemnation of the medical values of marijuana - after seeing first hand that cannabis had life changing effects for children suffering from epilepsy, sparked the interest of a number of parents who found that traditional medicine wasn’t cutting it. Recent research has been working on a better understanding of an ingredient in marijuana known as CBD (cannabidiol), which clinical findings have shown that CBD may reduce seizures - making it an effective choice for treating pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy, Science Daily reports.

A research team at Stony Brook University has identified fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) as intracellular transporters for two ingredients in marijuana, THC and CBD, according to the article. This may help researchers explain how CBD works within the cells. The researchers outline their findings in a paper, titled "Fatty Acid Binding Proteins are Intracellular Carriers for THC and CBD."

"Anandamide, an endocannabinoid, has been shown to have neuroprotective effects against seizures in basic research studies and this may turn out to be a key mechanism of seizure control," explained Dale Deutsch, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and a faculty member of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery at Stony Brook University. "Therefore by CBD inhibiting FABPs, we could potentially raise the levels of anandamide in the brain's synapses."

In 2013, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave a $3.8 million grant to the research team, the article reports. The goal was to pinpoint endocannabinoid transporters to develop drugs for pain and inflammation.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.