PHARMACY

ER visits related to opioid abuse skyrocket, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA Emergency room visits due to abuse of prescription pain relievers more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, according to a new government study.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that the number of ER visits linked to abuse of prescription opioids went from 144,644 in 2004 to 305,885 in 2008, a 111% increase, based on data from SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network, which tracks drug abuse data from emergency rooms.

“The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest-growing drug problem,” Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske said. “And this new study shows it is a problem that affects men and women, people under 21 and those over 21.”

Oxycodone, the generic name for Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin, was the biggest culprit, with ER visits rising during the 2004-2008 period by 152% to 105,214. Hydrocodone was the second most cited drug with a 123% rise to 89,051 visits, followed by methadone with 63,629 visits, a 73% rise.

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FDA approves Jevtana

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment for advanced prostate cancer, the agency said Thursday.

The FDA announced the approval of Sanofi-Aventis’ Jevtana (cabazitaxel), a chemotherapy drug used with the steroid prednisone. The agency said the drug was the first treatment for advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer that has worsened during or after treatment with docetaxel, also a chemotherapy drug used in advanced prostate cancer. Hormone refractory prostate cancer happens when prostate tumors continue to grow despite treatments meant to reduce the body’s production of the male hormone testosterone, which helps prostate tumors grow.

“Patients have few therapeutic options in this disease setting,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Oncology Products director Richard Pazdur said. “FDA was able to review and approve the application for Jevtana in 11 weeks, expediting the availability of this drug to men with prostate cancer.”

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Report: Oregon State Board of Pharmacy declares marijuana as drug with medical use

BY Alaric DeArment

SALEM, Ore. The makers of the 1930s documentary “Reefer Madness” would be furious at the news, but it likely will come as a relief to people with certain diseases and marijuana law-reform advocates.

The Oregon State Board of Pharmacy voted Wednesday to have marijuana classified as a drug with medical use, according to reports from a local TV station. The decision makes the state to reclassify it as such.

Under the decision, marijuana will be known as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it has high potential for abuse but still has medical benefits. Previously — and still in all other states — marijuana was a Schedule I drug, meaning it had no medical benefits.

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