Friday, May 11, 2007

substances, substances, substances

Today's summary of Substances In the News...

Legal and Profitable

I know it may shock you, but occasionally pharmaceutical manufacturers sneak a peak at their bottom line when deciding what do do about a drug -- such as, whether to admit that a painkiller is really, really, really addictive. That is what Purdue Frederick has admitted that it did with regard to the painkiller OxyContin.

Now, the fact that a painkiller is highly addictive should not disqualify its use. In the United States, we are too quick to take a moralistic tone about opiates and other painkillers -- out of fear of having somebody become addicted, we are extremely careful about "managing pain". In the absurd extreme, many patients who are in the terminal stages of a disease -- in other words, will soon die -- are denied adequate levels of painkillers. WTF? If somebody has some horrible cancer and his or her life is being measured in weeks, dope them up and let them be comfortable. And tell the DEA to back off.

But back to hillbilly heroin I mean Limbaugh's Choice I mean OxyContin. Seems Purdue held some data back about its addictive qualities for fear of creating bad press. Drug companies MUST comply with disclosure requirements -- OxyContin is a useful drug but doctors have the right to know about its side effects, including the level of addictiveness, when choosing whether and how to use it. And lest you think the $635 million Purdue and three of its executives will pay is adequate penalty, well consider that since 2000 revenues from OxyContin have topped $9 billion (billion, with a 'b').

Legal, Profitable, but Not Suitable for Viewing

The Motion Picture Association now tells us that for new movies, depictions of smoking will be a factor in deciding what a rating will be. Smoking TOBACCO, that is, a legal (albeit dirty, expensive, and unhealthy) product. Oh give me a break. Are you really worried about some character lighting up influencing little Johnny and Becky more than their parents' habits, or those of their friends and the other kids in the neighborhood? More than the advertising for cigarettes found in many magazines that enjoy significant readership among the under-18 crowd? More than Marlborough sponsorship of racing cars?

But still, pretty significant (but not too graphic) levels of violence will still be OK for PG-13 and even PG ratings. I'd rather that the kids see characters smoking cigarettes and even engaged in (non-explicit) sexual activities than blowing each other away with guns.

Legal, Profitable, and Deceptive

And now 29 states are urging Anheuser-Busch to warn people who buy their new alcohol plus caffeine mixtures about the dangers of mixing uppers and downers. I've never tried Spykes, Tilt, or Bud Extra -- but the attorney generals of these 29 states said that these booze-spiked concoctions look like Red Bull and other so-called energy drinks, and their flavors -- mango? chocolate? and packaging appeal to teens.

Appeal to teens? Forbid the thought, says Anheuser piously. Surely, just because it is fruity and sold in convenience stores and looks like Red Bull and comes in bottles small enough to slip into your pocket, this couldn't be considered an entree to drinking for the teensters?

Maybe they can use a cartoon character called Spyke to warn teens against the dangers of these delicious, cheap, mildly alcoholic buzzes, and give away lots of free products too.



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