Tag: drugs

AstraZeneca to slash jobs

AstraZeneca has become the latest company to issue P45s.

The drugs company, which recently obtained a £5 million government grant to expand its  Alderley Park research and development centre has said it will be slicing jobs.

It will be closing the Alderley Park R&D facility, which will mark the loss of 550 jobs there and 150 elsewhere in the UK over the next three years.

A further 1,600  jobs are also at risk, with the company also announcing these will be moved   from the Cheshire centre to Cambridge where Astra is relocating its headquarters and creating a new £330 million R&D centre.

It said it had chosen the new site as the town offered Cambridge University, local hospitals and biotech companies, which offered a talent pool and opportunities for collaboration.

It added that by 2016, the new site was expected to house a “highly-skilled workforce” of approximately 2,000.

AstraZeneca tried to soften the blow, claiming in a statement that it would continue to have a strong presence in the North West with some 3,000 employees at Alderley Park, its Macclesfield manufacturing site and the MedImmune vaccine manufacturing facility in Speke.

It is just over a year since the company, which employs 6,700 workers at eight UK sites, announced 7,300 job cuts as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Search data could spot drug side effects

Researchers at Stanford University and Microsoft recently found that people were searching for serious side effects of combining two drugs even before doctors identified the link themselves.

It doesn’t sound very reassuring, but researchers believe they could use search logs from millions of web users to pinpoint dangerous interactions between prescription drugs. Such interactions are notoriously difficult to predict and monitor in controlled conditions, reports New Scientist

The researchers mined the US Food and Drug Administration’s database of adverse drug events to find commonly used drugs which could pose a threat when combined with other drugs. The found that some antidepressants, such as paroxetine and pravastatin, could interact together to put patients at risk of developing diabetes.

Then they kindly asked Microsoft for help and Redmond obliged, providing an add-on to its Internet Explorer browser, allowing millions of consenting users to share their search histories anonymously.

The researchers then cross referenced searches for paroxetine and pravastatin with searches for typical symptoms of high blood sugar levels. It worked and they found a spike in searches mentioning the symptoms and drug names.

However, it should be noted that researchers used data collected from Internet Explorer users, and they tend to represent the mouth breathing sections of the human gene pool. 

Researchers use electricity to give patients opiate high

Researchers have found a way to give patients with severe facial pain a natural high.

Through the use of electricity, doctors at the University of Michigan, Harvard University and the City University of New York , have created a method of stimulating the brain to produce an opiate like substance in migraine patients, one of the body’s most powerful painkillers.

Although they are yet to completely work out how our why this happens, Alexandre DaSilva, assistant professor of biologic and materials sciences at the U-M School of Dentistry and director of the school’s Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort Lab, said the findings would go some way to explaining what happens in the brain that decreases pain during the brief sessions of electricity

During the study, DaSilva and his fellow doctors processed electricity through sensors on the patient’s skulls, and intravenously administered a radiotracer that reached important brain areas. They applied the electrodes and electrically stimulated the skull right above the motor cortex of the patient for 20 minutes during a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

The stimulation is known in medical circles as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

The radiotracer was specifically designed to measure, indirectly, the local brain release of mu-opioid, a natural substance that alters pain perception, which the researchers said was a better option of offering patients “pharmaceutical opiates” and avoiding side effects such as addiction.

DaSilva said the risks were low because the dose of electricity being administered is “very small”. 

Compared to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is used to treat depression and other psychiatric conditions, using amperage in the brain ranging from 200 to 1600 milliamperes (mA), the tDCS protocol used in DaSilva’s study delivered 2 mA.

One session apparently immediately improved the patient’s threshold for cold pain by 36 percent. However, it didn’t do much for the patient’s clinical, TNP/facial pain, but the researchers suggested that repetitive stimulation over several sessions is required to have a lasting effect.

Next, they will investigate long-term effects of electric stimulation on the brain and find specific targets in the brain that may be more effective depending on the pain condition and patients’ status.

For example, the frontal areas may be more helpful for chronic pain patients with symptoms of depression.

"Internet use disorder" studied

A leading team of shrinks is investigating if “internet-use disorder” is real and if it should be included in a worldwide psychiatric manual.

It has been suggested that kids who are addicted to using electronic devices 24/7 should be diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Mike Kyrios, Professor of Psychology told the Sun Herald  that with kids, gaming is an obvious problem. But, overall, technology use could be a potential problem.

Shrinks argue video game and internet addictions share the characteristics of other addictions, including emotional shutdown, lack of concentration and withdrawal symptoms if the gadgets are removed.

This can have a devastating impact for children and families as social interaction and even food are neglected in favour of the virtual worlds.

The move to include”internet-use disorder” is part of the Australian Psychological Society’s submission to the international manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). This is the shrink’s “bible” and when it is revised in May it will include internet-use disorder as a condition ”recommended for further study” in its revised edition in May next year.

Of course this means in the US that children could be over-treated and even medicated for playing computer games. It seems that everything in the US involves expensive medication – apparently it is easier than than just clipping kids around the lugholes and telling them to stop being such spoilt brats. 

US drugs case dropped over storage

A US drugs case got dismissed because of costs related to the criminally low data storage that drugs cops have.

In 2007, Dr. Armando Angulo, was indicted in 2007 on charges of illegally selling prescription drugs. He hid in Panama which refused to extradite him.

But, according to Slashdot, the DEA has so much electronic data that maintaining it is now a hardship and the government wants to drop the whole case.

The amount is really tiny by modern standards. The material is contained in two terabytes of electronic data and this takes up five percent of DEA’s world-wide electronic storage capacity.

Given that you can probably store the entire case on a portable hard drive, you might wonder what the DEA is complaining about. What is perhaps more alarming is that the coppers can only have 60TB of storage space. We would have thought that with these flash storage systems and cloud providers the DEA could have all the storage space it could eat for a few thousand a year. The entire case could be preserved by popping to Best Buy and getting a new hard drive for about $500. Not much when you have a budget of $2 billion.

Stephanie Rose, the US attorney for northern Iowa does not seem to think this is the case. She said that continued storage of these materials is difficult and expensive.

It is not just the electronic evidence – the case has “several hundred boxes” of paper documents, along with dozens of computers and servers.   

Mexican drug cartels build their own radio network

Mexico’s drug cartels have proven that all the snooping on State networks just drives criminals elsewhere.

According to Associated Press, the drugs barons are so miffed at coppers trying to listen into their conversations that they have built their own dark radio network with an associated internet connection.

The Zetas know that the military is moving against them thanks to the fact that its many eyes and ears on the street can phone them with a high-end handheld radio.

The signal goes onto a network of concealed radio towers powered by solar panels and repeated across Mexico.

Mexico’s army has begun attacking the system, and have been stunned by just how large it is. They have seized hundreds of pieces of communications equipment in at least three operations since September. Earlier this month, the Mexican army said it had seized a total of at least 167 antennas, 155 repeaters, 166 power sources, 71 pieces of computer equipment and 1,446 radios.

The gear ranges from professional-grade towers to handheld radios, and had been recently extended from the US borders down eastern Mexico’s Gulf coast and into Guatemala.

The signal was encrypted and meant that it did not need the official cellphone network. It also offered a better signal when you went deep into the Mexican countryside.

The brains behind the network was Jose Luis Del Toro Estrada, a communications geek who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine in federal court in Houston, Texas, two years ago.

It was based around millions of dollars worth of legally available equipment. He paid communications specialists to maintain and run the system and research new technology.

The Mexican coppers insist that the network is not that big and say that it is made up of smaller local systems that were not connected to each other due to technical limitations. Their argument was Del Toro was talking up his own importance as part of US plea bargaining.

But AP said that hacks have heard cartels using radio equipment to broadcast threats on soldiers’ frequencies, and the whole system was controlled by computers that enabled complex control of the radio signals. This allowed the cartel to direct its communications to specific radios while bypassing others.

The whole lot was done on the cheap and is surprisingly effective. It might be time that BT and other telcos had a look at how it was done as they claim they cannot connect parts of Wales to the network for anything less than a few million pounds. 

Anonymous cancels attack on Zeta

Hacking crew Anonymous seems to have realised that it has bitten off more than it can chew by threatening one of the most violent drugs gangs in Mexico.

After an Anonymous follower was kidnapped by the Zeta drug gang in Mexico, supporters said they would retaliate by naming criminal collaborators.

The problem is that Zeta does not really work like that. While a normal Anonymous victim might have to spend the day cleaning up their servers and calling the cops, if Zeta becomes a victim, heads literally roll.

Zeta is also a bit stressed at the moment. Recently the bodies of 35 Zeta members were dumped onto a highway in Veracruz so now was probably not a good time to start a fight.

Still Anonymous had a go at firing a shot over the bows of the outfit. The website of former Tabasco attorney general Gustavo Rosario Torres was defaced, accusing him of being a Zeta collaborator. But this was old news. In 2008 anti-crime activists came forward with a taped conversation between Torres and a deputy talking about a $200,000 cocaine deal.

Global intelligence firm Stratfor warned that if supporters of the Anonymous movement accuse people of collaborating with the Zeta gang, it could put those named at risk, even if the accusations are false.

While foreign Anonymous members might be safe from the machetes of Zeta, local supporters could end up hanging from railway bridges.

Zeta hung two bloggers rom an overpass with a sign warning bloggers and “online snitches.” A decapitated body of another social-media reporter was found with a similar warning.

Anyway all this has caused most of Anonymous to pull out of the campaign. However a member known as Sabu has insisted that the operation will continue. 

Social networking leads to drug abuse

A daft poll carried out in the US claims that teens are more at risk of switching to hard drugs if they use social notworking sites like Facebook.

In the latest attempt to blame a social ill on something that is fashionable, The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University claims that time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs.

The report claims that that 70 per cent of teens aged 12 to 17 – 17 million teenagers – spend from a minute to hours on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites.

But social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use booze and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites. Now since every US fundamentalist believes that marijuana and booze leads to heroin and crack use, it is fairly clear that the war on drugs must include Facebook.

CASA Founder and Chairman Joseph Califano said the results are profoundly troubling. The anything goes, free-for-all world of internet expression, suggestive television programming and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse.

While we might applaud Mark Zuckerberg being shot 230 times in a drugs bust, or at least being arrested for pushing drugs, the puritan universe where Califano lives is infinitely more scary.

Fortunately like most Far Right views it is completely bogus. The CASA interviewed only 1037 kids and 528 parents.

Results revealed that half of teens who spend any time social networking in a given day have seen pictures of kids “drunk, passed out, or using drugs on these sites”.

Yep, you got it. Half the kids have seen pictures of pissed and stoned kids on the site so that makes them immediately pop around to the shops and buy a pack of Silk Cut.

Only 14 percent of teens who reported spending no time on such sites in a given day said they have seen pictures of drunk, passed out, or drug-using kids on the sites.

Now comes the intesting claim. “Teens who had seen such pictures were four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, three times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription, and twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day at most.”

Eh? How does that work then. If you watch the news you will see pictures of drug people, does this mean that people who watch the news are five times more likely to be stoned?

Teens who had seen such pictures were also more than twice as likely to think they would try drugs in the future, and much more likely to have friends who used illegal drugs, the report claims.

So this is not about social networking it is about banning pictures of people when they are drunk or stoned appearing online.

“Especially troubling – and alarming – are that almost half of the teens who have seen pictures … first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger,” the report said. “These facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children.”

Not really. To be honest reading this report made me want a drink. Therefore it is fair to say that idiot silly seasion knee-jerk right wing reports lead to alcoholism. Parents should forbid their children from reading such stupid reports online. 

Ozzy Osbourne's genome mapped

Ozzy Osbourne is to have his genome sequenced by scientists desperate to know how the hell he’s managed to stay alive.

Geneticists in biohazard suits gave the £27,000 test to the dove-devouring, bat-biting Black Sabbath singer to try and find out how specific genes can protect against the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

Nathan Pearson, director of research at Massachusetts firm Knome, told Sky News: “Sequencing and analysing individuals with extreme medical histories provides the greatest potential scientific value.”

(Don’t tell a soul, but there’s a personal motive, too: geneticists are notorious party animals. It’s a little-known fact that Watson and Crick were high as kites on acid and booze when they ‘discovered’ the structure of DNA. It isn’t, in fact, a double helix at all, but a simple straight line.)

“Somebody said to me this morning, ‘To what do you attribute your longevity?’ I don’t know,” he once said. “I mean, I couldn’t have planned my life out better. By all accounts I should be dead!”

Of course, Ozzy’s a reformed character now. At our last office party, he restricted himself entirely to wheatgrass juice – handy, as it happened, when we needed a designated driver to take everyone to A&E. In retrospect, the flying competition wasn’t such a brilliant idea.

Ecstasy used to treat post traumatic stress disorder

Recreational drugs have been the focus of much negative attention of late with the oh-so-predictable moral panic in the tabloid coverage of M-CAT use. Corrupting our young’uns these drugs are, they say. And with stories of a new variety of legal high named MDAI about to hit the market in the UK it appears that despite the move to criminalise users of the ‘plant fertilizer’ there is little hope of respite from the heavy-handed scaremongering in the media.
However, a relatively rare pro-drugs story has cropped up recently regarding a positive application of the clubbers’ drug of choice; ecstasy.  Rather than focusing on more widely discussed side-effects such as a risk of liver failure, and an even higher risk of dancing like a twat whilst listening to trance music, scientists at a conference in California have revealed how ecstasy is being used to combat symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Many people who are afflicted with PTSD following an event such as sexual abuse or witnessing an act of extreme violence are usually offered cognitive behavioural therapy and drugs such as paroxetine and setraline to combat symptoms.  However there are often cases where sufferers don’t respond to treatment and it is hoped that administering MDMA will work in such instances.

The study conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studes, a non-profit research company who have battled since the mid-eighties to test the medicinal effects of various banned substances such as marijuana, looked at how serotonin released in the brain by MDMA would allow PTSD patients to calm feelings of fear and defensiveness during recuperation.

20 subjects were looked at who were resistant to traditional methods and were given ecstasy on two to three occasions over the course of 20-30 psychotherapy sessions.  Two months later only 15 per cent still exhibited symptoms of PTSD compared to 85 per cent as seen in a control group taking placebo pills, while long term effects were similarly positive.