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‘Good Medicines’ vs. ‘Bad Drugs’ awareness could curb Rx abuse

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA —According to recent studies, anti-drug campaigns haven’t sunk in among a large and growing number of young people in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released last month, found that 1-in-5 high school students had abused such prescription drugs as painkillers, like Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin (oxycodone), or psychiatric drugs, like Novartis’ Ritalin (methylphenidate). Last year was the first year in which the biennial survey assessed prescription drug abuse among high school students.

Abuse of prescription drugs has grown rapidly in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, pain relievers were the most commonly abused drugs after marijuana among those ages 12 years and older during 2008. A recent study conducted by SAMHSA and the CDC showed that emergency room visits related to prescription painkillers more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, rising from 144,644 visits to 305,885.

“These alarming findings provide one more example of how the misuse of prescription pain relievers is impacting lives and our healthcare system,” SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said. “This public health threat requires an allout effort to raise awareness of the public about proper use, storage and disposal of these powerful drugs.”

Some in the private sector have sought to make such an effort. Drug maker Cephalon announced on June 23 that it had formed a partnership with the American Pharmacists Association and the American Chronic Pain Association to expand a campaign to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse. The program, called “When Good Medicines Become Bad Drugs,” includes a website, GoodMedicinesBadDrugs.com, and educational materials distributed to select pharmacies across the country.

“Prescription medicine abuse is a growing concern in our country, so we need to use every available channel to communicate about safe use,” APhA EVP and CEO Thomas Menighan said. “As pharmacists, we promote public understanding of risks and benefits of prescription medications.”

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FDA advisory committee shoots down Vivus’ Qnexa

BY Alaric DeArment

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. The possibility of a new drug for treating obesity suffered a setback Thursday as a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted against recommending its approval.

The FDA Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 10 to 6 against recommending approval for Vivus’ drug Qnexa (phentermine and topiramate), citing safety concerns such as the possibility of psychiatric problems and birth defects.

“We appreciate the advisory committee’s recognition of obesity as a significant health crisis and the challenges associated with the treatment of this disease,” Vivus CEO Leland Wilson said. “We are disappointed with the advisory committee’s vote.”

The company said it would attempt to address the committee’s concerns. An advisory committee vote is a recommendation, and while the FDA will take it into account when deciding whether to approve a drug, it is not bound to follow it.

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Post-it launches Shopping Genius widget

BY Allison Cerra

LONDON 3M has developed a bargain-shopping widget with the help of its Post-it brand.

Inspired by usage of the classic Post-it note as a shopping list, 3M has developed an evolution of the shopping list for the digital age called Post-it Shopping Genius. How it works: Post-it Shopping Genius sits on your computer desktop, keeping an eye on the price changes for you, locating the cheapest price, and letting you know when it changes. The customizable application enables you to choose from thousands of electricals, durables and other consumer goods, and track up to five at a time.

The application — which can be directly downloaded from http://bit.ly/Post-itGenius and is available on iGoogle, Mac OS X desktop and Windows 7 / Vista desktops — displays up-to-date prices on many thousands of products, which are searchable within the tool.

In related news, 3M announced that it is offering a monthly monetary prize of 1,000 GBP ($1,542) or the value of a user’s shopping list if less as an incentive to those who refer the Shopping Genius application to a friend.

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