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Friday, March 27, 2015

San Francisco Drug Take-Back Program

A large percentage of prescription drugs abused in America are acquired, not by prescription, but rather by people getting their hands on unused pills. Many people do not finish all the pills in their bottles, and in many cases the drugs are forgotten about. If prescription narcotics are not appropriately disposed of, they often wind up finding their way to abusers. While efforts to set up National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days has had some effect on the problem, the reality is that many drugs do not find their way to disposal.

San Francisco, in an unprecedented move, is the first major city calling on “Big Pharma” to fund and administer take-back programs for unused and unexpired medications, The Wall Street Journal reports. Last week, the City Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that would require the drug companies to cover the cost of drug disposal. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee has until Friday to sign the bill or it automatically becomes law.

Three years ago, a similar bill was passed in Alameda County, California, to establish take-back programs covered by drug companies, according to the article. Naturally, the drug companies had something to say about the bill and fought back, they filed a lawsuit which claimed that the Alameda County program interferes with interstate commerce and discriminates against out-of-state companies.

The move in San Francisco has the drug companies concerned that it will embolden other municipalities to enact similar laws. The drug companies claim that there is no evidence the programs will alleviate diversion of medication, and that take-back programs shift costs to out-of-state consumers, the article reports.

“The drug manufacturing industry supports efforts to help consumers safely dispose of unwanted medicines. However, there is no rationale for mandating new, costly and redundant disposal options when both the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration support voluntary in-home disposal in conjunction with voluntary programs, national and local take-back days,” says John Murphy, associate general counsel at the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund

Recently a number of countries have made efforts to combat tobacco products by requiring alternate packaging. While it would seem that sovereign nations would have the power to choose how tobacco products are controlled, the reality is that Big Tobacco has extremely deep pockets giving them the ability to take on entire countries and manage to squash any new tobacco control policies.

In an attempt to assist low and middle-income countries fight Big Tobacco, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have started a global fund to help countries combat legal challenges to their smoking laws, The New York Times reports. The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund will take-on the tobacco industry’s use of international trade agreements that hinder countries from passing strong tobacco control laws.

“In an ominous trend, in some countries the battle between tobacco and health has moved into the courts,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “We will push back hard.”

So far, $4 million, a number expected to grow, has been pledged by the two powerhouse charity organizations, according to the article.

“The fact that there is a fund dedicated to taking on the tobacco companies in court sends a message that they are not going to get a free ride,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “If they say that’s not a lot of money — yes, well, take a look at who’s behind it. We just picked $4 million just to say, ‘O.K., here, let’s start it.’”

With smoking rates plummeting in more affluent countries, tobacco companies have been fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their third-world markets. Many countries simply do not have the economic power to combat the billion dollar tobacco industry. Countries that do pass stricter laws quickly find themselves in court over breaking international trade agreements.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will administer the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund.

Friday, March 13, 2015

DEA Efforts Lead to Drug Shortages

In the midst of a prescription drug epidemic crippling America, the last thing you might think you’d hear is that there is a prescription drug shortage. However, a new report conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that there is a shortage of prescription narcotics and stimulants, The Wall Street Journal reports. The cause of the shortage is the result of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) setting quotas on drug production.

The DEA, in an attempt to prevent diversion of controlled substances, sets quotas that place ceilings on the amount of certain substances that can be made available in the United States. While this sounds important, the GAO report found that the DEA hasn’t managed the quota process in an effective manner, resulting in drug shortages, according to the article.

“Each year, manufacturers apply to [the] DEA for quotas needed to make their drugs,” wrote the GAO in its report. But, the “DEA, however, has not responded to [the drug makers] within the timeframes required by its regulations for any year from 2001 through 2014… Manufacturers who reported quota-related shortages cited late quota decisions as causing or exacerbating shortages of their drugs.”

Due to “weak internal controls,” making it challenging to manage quotas, the GAO report found that the lack of quality-control checks to help determine the accuracy of year-end reports has resulted in drug shortages. The GAO recommended the DEA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) update an agreement allowing the two agencies to work better together to reduce the shortages. The DEA should also perform periodic data checks, in order to improve the quota process.

The DEA responded to the GAO report, stating that the GAO is not familiar with how quotas are determined, according to the article. They said the Agency has no control over drug manufacturers’ decisions and that there is not a “causal relationship” between shortages and establishing quota procedures.

Clearly, most users of prescription narcotics do not abuse the drugs; preventing abuse should not result in lack of availability.

Friday, March 6, 2015

More Than Half Of Americans In Favor Of Legalization

Marijuana is on the mind of many Americans, in fact more than half. A new survey has found for the first time, more than half of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization, The Washington Post reports.

The General Social Survey, lauded as one of the most legitimate surveys, is conducted every two years. Between March and October of 2014, the GSS conducted interviews with 1,687, they asked the respondents the question: "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?" Up 9 percent from 2012, fifty-two percent of the respondents were in favor of marijuana legalization, according to the article. They found that 42 percent were opposed to it, and 7 percent were undecided.

With legalization in four states, and quasi legal status in Washington D.C., many expect more states to join the pack in 2016. The success of Colorado and Washington’s programs has people in other states witnessing the billions of dollars being injected into state economies due to the high taxation on marijuana sales. Not to mention the money saved by not having to jail people for non-violent marijuana offenses.

Naturally, not everyone is thrilled about marijuana legalization, but fighting the building steam of the pro-legalization movement may be a challenge that cannot be met. The steady rise in public opinion favoring legalization, as well as the vast coffers at the disposal of legalization advocates, creates serious obstacles for those against it. The anti-legalization camp has been simply outspent across the board, the article reports.

Politically, republicans have traditionally been opposed to marijuana legalization, but it appears that the tides may be changing. A number of young republicans are now in favor of legalization, notes the article. This may be due to republicans lightening up on the drug, with the hopes of drawing the Millennial vote.
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