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FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies
The FDA is aiming to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and the risk they pose to consumer health.
September 28th, 2012
12:16 PM ET

FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies

Buyers beware when it comes to buying medicine online, the Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers.  On Friday, the agency launched "BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy," a national campaign to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and their potential risk to consumer health.

“Buying medicines from rogue online pharmacies can be risky because they may sell fake, expired, contaminated, not approved by FDA, or otherwise unsafe products that are dangerous to patients,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.  “Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products.  If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are.  FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks.”

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Dump those (prescription) drugs
An estimated 200 million pounds of unused prescriptions are gathering dust in American medicine cabinets.
September 28th, 2012
11:07 AM ET

Dump those (prescription) drugs

Do a quick inventory of your medicine cabinet. How many unused prescription pills are hanging out there? If you are like many Americans, your answer is probably:

"Twenty hydrocodone left over from getting my wisdom teeth pulled last year," or

"Fifteen oxycodone left over from the C-section when my son was born."

An estimated 200 million pounds of unused prescriptions are gathering dust in American medicine cabinets, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. The problem is, those innocuous-seeming leftovers can end up in the wrong hands and, in extreme cases, lead to an overdose.

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FDA unveils new device that detects counterfeit drugs
The CD3 is a hand-held device developed by the FDA to detect counterfeit drugs and packaging.
September 11th, 2012
02:18 PM ET

FDA unveils new device that detects counterfeit drugs

The Food and Drug Administration has a new cutting-edge tool in its counterfeit drug detection toolbox.

At a symposium Monday, the agency unveiled the Counterfeit Detection Device #3 or CD3, a hand-held device developed by FDA scientists that can be used in the field to detect counterfeit products and packaging.

"This device was designed in-house by FDA scientists in response to the needs for screening in the field," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. "It is low cost compared to other analytical devices, operates with batteries, and requires minimal training to use. It allows for 'real time' comparisons with authentic drugs - and has already proven useful for identifying counterfeit drugs at our busy international mail facilities."

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Senate attacks drug distributors for price gouging
July 25th, 2012
06:05 PM ET

Senate attacks drug distributors for price gouging

The Senate Commerce Committee bashed drug distributors for up-charging patients at a hearing Wednesday about the “grey-market” for short-supply drugs.

The “grey market” is the second-hand market, where drugs, frequently in short supply, are re-distributed and sold by various distributors and wholesalers.

It’s an already dire situation for many patients in need. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, drug shortages have increased nearly 300% since 2005. Many of the drugs on this list are cancer treatments. The “grey market” only exacerbates the price and the shortage issue.

Drug distributors "are profiteers, people who exploit the misery of sick patients to make a quick buck," said committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D- West Virginia).
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Company studying OxyContin's effect in children
July 3rd, 2012
04:22 PM ET

Company studying OxyContin's effect in children

The maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin confirms that a clinical trial is currently underway to measure the opioid's effects in children.

Although doctors can prescribe OxyContin off-label to pediatric patients, the drug - which was overwhelmingly tested in adults - is not approved for use in children by the Food and Drug Administration, and Purdue Pharma says it is not seeking that approval.

To qualify for the study, patients must be between the ages of 6 and 17, have moderate to severe pain, and have already demonstrated a tolerance to opioid painkillers. The study will include 154 children.
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Methadone tied to one-third of prescription painkiller deaths
July 3rd, 2012
02:44 PM ET

Methadone tied to one-third of prescription painkiller deaths

If you are not grappling with cancer-related pain, you probably should not be taking prescription methadone

That is the message spiraling out of startling statistics suggesting using methadone inappropriately is linked to one-third of prescription painkiller overdose deaths.

Methadone accounted for a mere 2% of prescriptions in 2009, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that spans 10 years and 13 states, but was responsible for 30% of prescription painkiller deaths. 

"Methadone is riskier than other opiates for treating non-cancer pain," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, who added that there is limited scientific evidence it works for chronic non-cancer pain. "It should only be used for pain when other drugs haven't been effective."
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Speed, Ecstasy tied to teen depression
April 19th, 2012
07:35 AM ET

Speed, Ecstasy tied to teen depression

The short-lived high teenagers get from using amphetamines or the club drug MDMA - better known as Ecstasy - could lead to longer-lasting depression later on, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Canada interviewed 3,880 teenagers from low-income neighborhoods in Québec. Compared to their peers who used neither drug, teens who reported taking MDMA or amphetamines at least once in the tenth grade had 70% and 60% higher odds, respectively, of experiencing depression symptoms in the eleventh grade.

Using both drugs nearly doubled the odds of depression.
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Opium study raises questions about painkillers
Farmers harvest the opium sap from the poppy plant in Fayzabad, Badakhshan, Afghanistan.
April 17th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Opium study raises questions about painkillers

About 20 million people are using the drug opium or one of its derivatives. A new study suggests new reasons for viewing this as problematic.

Research in the British Medical Journal finds strong connections between people using opium and conditions such as cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory conditions.

"Long term recreational opioid use, even at relatively modest levels, causes important increases in death from multiple different causes," said study co-author Paul Brennan, head of the Section of Genetics at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

Why it matters

Although this study focused on opium for recreational purposes, the research also has significant implications for medicinal uses of opium-derived painkillers - such as morphine and codeine, Irfan Dhalla, assistant professor at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

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March 19th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Synthetic marijuana just as dangerous

It may not be marijuana, but its effects are just as potent. A new report in this week's edition of the journal Pediatrics finds more emergency rooms across the United States are seeing an increase in patients who have used synthetic marijuana.

Known as K2, Spice, Mr. Smiley and Blaze, the product can have similar but sometimes more serious consequences than marijuana?  These synthetic cannabinoids are a blend of plant and herbal materials that have been sprayed with chemicals, which produce a certain toxicity.

Sold in such places at gas stations, connivence stores and on the internet, the synthetic marijuana produce euphoric and psychoactive effects similar to those associated with marijuana. But doctors say there are additional side effects that may be particularly dangerous. The drug can leave patients catatonic and listless. And what makes matters worse, very little is known about Synthetic marijuana or how to treat an adverse reaction or overdose.

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March 5th, 2012
03:42 PM ET

Fluoride pills switched for cancer drugs at CVS

Some families got more than they bargained for at a New Jersey CVS drugstore when their childrens' prescriptions for fluoride pills were filled with a popular breast cancer drug instead.

"We believe that, as a result of a single medication restocking issue at our Chatham, New Jersey pharmacy, 13 families had similar incidents in which a few tamoxifen pills were mixed in with their prescriptions for 0.5 mg fluoride pills," said Mike DeAngelis, a CVS Caremark spokesman.

DeAngelis went on to say that the company is doing a full investigation into how the switch could have occurred.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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