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Morning Roundup: April 21, 2014

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Ford ponders what to order from the bar during his
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By Shawn Dwyer

watch what you eat

4/18/14 7:30pm

Man Mistakenly Takes Meth, Walks Into Walmart Naked

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Attention, naked shoppers... Shutterstock

While it's best to avoid drugs altogether, if you are going to partake, make sure you know what drugs you have before taking them.

That’s the lesson Kevin Patrick, 36, of Fort Mill, S.C. learned the hard way. On Wednesday, Patrick was arrested for walking into a Walmart store wearing nothing but a pair of black tennis shoes after accidentally taking crystal meth.

“I’ve had a problem with drugs in the past. I still like to do ecstasy once in a while,” he told local news station WSOC-TV. “I accidentally got methamphetamine instead and it really made me crazy.”

Patrick recalls sleeping at this sister’s house and then waking up naked in his pickup truck, which was parked in the Walmart parking lot. He went inside for reasons that were not apparent to him at the time before being discovered in the electronics section.

Patrick was unaware that he was naked until he was actually inside. “I got some weird looks, obviously.”

Once the police arrived, they found a pair of shorts in his truck and made him put them on before escorting him out. Patrick was later charged with public disorderly conduct. “It’s really fuzzy to me, but that stuff made me so paranoid, I thought I was being arrested anyway,” he said.

“I’m really depressed,” Patrick said when asked by the reporter about how he felt. “It’s all over the news. I’m going to have to move because of this.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

saving lives

4/18/14 5:30pm

Support On the Rise for Giving Naloxone to Emergency Personnel

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The growing chorus of support for equipping first responders with naloxone, a lifesaving drug that can reverse heroin overdoses, was bolstered by comments by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who called on state and local law enforcement agencies to provide police and firefighters with greater training and access to the medicine.

In remarks prepared for a speech for the Police Executive Research Forum, Holder said, “I urge state policymakers and local leaders throughout the nation to take additional steps to increase the availability of naloxone among first responders, so we can provide lifesaving aid to more and more of those who need it.” Naloxone hydrochloride, or Narcan, is an opiod antagonist that blocks the brain cell receptors activated by heroin and prescription drugs like oxycodone, and will restore arrested breathing within minutes of administration.

As police and firefighters are often the first people to reach a person in the throes of an overdose, many law enforcement agencies have pushed to equip their personnel with naloxone in order to save lives. The drug is credited with saving more than 10,000 lives since 1996, when the first community-based opioid overdose prevention programs were implemented. To date, 17 states have passed laws that expand access to naloxone.

Despite these numbers, naloxone has also drawn criticism for providing a false safety net for addicts while also posing a dangerous threat in the hands of untrained or non-medical professionals. Republican Governor Paul LePage of Maine has voiced some of the strongest opposition to expanding naloxone use in his state, where overdose deaths quadrupled between 2011 and 2012. Supporters of expanded access counter these claims by noting the relative ease in using naloxone injectors, which is currently introduced into the body via a nasal spray.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved a newer, hand-held auto injector which delivers the drug into the muscle and requires no training.

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By Paul Gaita

Sponsored Post

4/18/14 3:31pm

Back From the Abyss: The Autobiography of a Low-Bottom Alky

It was 1982. I was 32 years old. I had just taken a job as the editorial director of a newsletter publishing company. I needed to hire a freelance writer immediately. 

Kieran Doherty appeared in my office. He was older than the other candidates by more than 20 years. 

“I’m ready to work,” he said as soon as he sat down.

I looked at his resume. Lots of experience as a reporter and newspaper columnist.

“Why are you interested in doing this,” I asked. “It seems like a step down.”

“I need a job,” he said.

He was a great hire… for six months. Then he didn’t show up on Monday… or Tuesday… or the rest of the week.

Several months later, out of the blue, he walked into my office, sat down, and said, “Remember me?”

“Where the hell have you been?” I asked.

“I will tell you the truth,” he said. “But you won’t like it.”

“Try me,” I said.

And that’s how I was introduced to the amazing life story that Kieran eventually turned into a riveting book, full of wit, bravado, and Irish charm.

In Back From the Abyss: The Autobiography of a Low-Bottom Alky, he takes the reader on the wild ride that was his life. Surviving a childhood as tough as Frank McCourt’s in Angela’s Ashes, we watch him change from altar boy to rebel… then throw away a promising career in the theater. We follow him through his almost unbelievable adventures in the military… through four marriages and countless lovers… through the alcohol-fueled crimes that ultimately landed him in prison. 

And along the way, we get a feel for the internal pain, the constant struggle of the “low-bottom” alky to make it from one day to the next.

To get the entire story, click here.

– Mark Morgan Ford

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By Sponsored Post

changing times

4/18/14 3:30pm

Eric Holder Optimistic, Cautious About Legal Marijuana

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Attorney General Eric Holder continues to maintain a veneer of optimism – with considerable reserve – in regard to marijuana legalization efforts across the country.

Speaking at a federal courthouse in Charleston, S.C. last week, the Obama administration’s top law enforcement figure stated that he was “cautiously optimistic” about efforts in both Colorado and Washington to legalize and regulate marijuana use. Last August, Holder allowed both states to have their ballot-approved laws go into effect, while also outlining guidelines for federal prosecutors to curb efforts to pursue small-time drug possession charges and allow marijuana businesses greater access to banking services.

The states were also told to follow a set of eight guidelines regarding the distribution or sale of marijuana to minors or states where marijuana remains illegal, among other priorities, or face prosecution through the Justice Department. “As I indicated to both [of the states’] governors, we will be monitoring the progress of those efforts [to maintain the guidelines]," Holder said. "And if we conclude that they are not being done in an appropriate way, we reserve our right to file lawsuits."

Holder expressed a similar level of caution when asked about the impact of Colorado and Washington’s legalization efforts on other states and districts. Already, Holder’s home base of Washington, D.C., has taken the steps to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and a number of states, including Florida, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Michigan have either implemented similar laws or have submitted them for votes.

“I think a lot of states are going to be looking to see what happens in Washington [and] Colorado before those decisions are made in substantial parts of the country,” Holder said. “I think there might have been a burst of feeling that what happened [in those states] was going to be soon replicated across the country. I’m not sure that is necessarily the case.”

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By Paul Gaita

a new cure

4/18/14 1:00pm

High Price of Breakthrough Hepatitis C Drug Expected to Decline

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A new breed of hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment has arrived, giving hope to the estimated 185 million people who are infected worldwide. But it’s yet unclear how it will be affordable to the general population at its current $1,000-a-pill price tag.

With the advent of the breakthrough HCV drug, which works by targeting the protein that makes the virus and stopping it from replicating, scientists writing in the New England Journal of Medicine declared that “it may now be possible to imagine the global eradication of [chronic hepatitis C].”

Traditional therapy of HCV involves up to a year of treatment with multiple drugs, including the injected immune-system modulator, interferon. Side effects include fatigue, nausea, and even depression. The new breed of HCV treatment is a game changer. It has been shown to boost cure rates and reduce the duration of treatment, with fewer side effects. In a study by University of Texas Health Science Center researchers, the leading new HCV drug Sovaldi cured 96 percent of patients of HCV after 24 weeks. Older drugs cure about 75 percent of those treated and take 24 to 48 weeks of treatment.

This is good news for the hundreds of millions of people around the world, including an estimated three million Americans who are infected with HCV. But the new drug’s hefty price tag is a turn-off for the majority of those hepatitis C positive who reside in low- and middle-income countries.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a “concerted effort” to reduce the price of HCV medicines in their new guidelines for treating HCV. Sovaldi, which is made by California-based Gilead Sciences, debuted last December at $1,000 a pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. The drug’s unattainably high price spurred Democrats in the House Energy & Commerce Committee to write to Gilead, asking for an explanation of the company’s pricing methodology.

But like what happened with HIV drugs, the price of these HCV drugs are expected to decrease over time, once factors like price competition and pressure from non-governmental agencies kick in. “We’ve been here before,” head of the global hepatitis program at WHO Stefan Wiktor said. “Competition and generic production really are the keys to reductions in prices,” he said.

The WHO guidelines confirm this trend. “The experience with HIV, where the price of antiretrovirals was reduced by nearly a hundred fold through the introduction of generic drugs, has shown that the key to achieving low prices for medicines is to use a multipronged approach."

Similar versions of Sovaldi — all-oral treatment regimens with the same high cure rate — are expected to be released over the next two years, which should also drive down the cost of the drugs. “We are going to go from a monopoly to seven or eight players,” said ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum. “In my mind that is what will drive pricing down.”

And a generic version of sofosbuvir, of which Sovaldi is a brand name, may be in the works as well. Its maker, Gilead, is in negotiations with several Indian manufacturers to produce a generic version of the drug, according to executive vice president of corporate and medical affairs Gregg Alton. In March, the company confirmed that it will supply Sovaldi in Egypt at a reduced price of $900 for a 12-week course, or about one percent of the American price. Egypt has the world’s highest prevalence of HCV due to the use of contaminated needles in the 1970s.

For now, millions of people will have to wait. Pressure from non-governmental agencies, academics, and patients worked to drive down the price of antiretroviral drugs. In their guidelines, the WHO urged these entities to take action once more. "National governments, international agencies, donors, civil-society organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry will need to work together to help assure that hepatitis C treatment is affordable and accessible for all those who need treatment," the guidelines said.

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By Victoria Kim

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