Prozac ingredient in Great Lakes killing off microbes, including E. coli

Marilyn sez, "Scientists in Erie, Pennsylvania, have found that minute concentrations of fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, are killing off microbial populations in the Great Lakes."
Killing off bacteria might seem like a good thing. "Your immediate thought is, 'well, that's good, because they're not supposed to be there anyways," said Mercyhurst College microbiologist Steve Mauro, whose team found fluoxetine in low doses in water near Lake Erie's beaches. "But what about all the other bacteria that are supposed to be there and part of that ecosystem?"

Treating clean lake water with similar strength doses killed off E. coli and enterococcus bacteria, both of which can cause serious infections in humans.

The fluoxetine found in Lake Erie is at very low levels--about one nanogram per liter of water, Mauro said. "It doesn't appear to be at a level that would be harmful to humans," or invertebrates, for that matter, though Mauro suspects that fluoxetine combined with other chemicals could be having a cumulative effect on the lake's ecosystem.

Prozac Killing E. coli in the Great Lakes (Thanks, Marilyn!)

(Image: Prozac, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from arenamontanus's photostream)

ImageShack serves dire warnings to victims of pharmaceutical spams


ImageShack discovered that they were being used by fake pharmacy scammers to host images for their crappy websites and spam. So ImageShack now serves this warning image for all the pharma referrers they can find.

Imageshack Swaps Spam Pages for Scam Alerts

No one will sell sodium thiopental to American executioners

American states are unable to execute their prisoners by lethal injection, thanks to an end to US production of sodium thiopental. Foreign health authorities prohibit selling sodium thiopental if it is to be used in lethal injections, and they will not buy drugs from pharma companies who sell sodium thiopental for that purpose. As a result, the sole US manufacturer, Hospira, has discontinued production of the drug, and no foreign manufacturer will sell to the US. Executions in California and Oklahoma have been delayed as a result of the shortage.
Now the US manufacturer, Hospira, says that it will stop production entirely after a bid to start making sodium thiopental in Italy stalled when the Rome government said it would only license manufacture if the drug was not used in executions.

Hospira said it intended to manufacture sodium thiopental to serve hospitals but "could not prevent the drug from being diverted to departments of corrections for use in capital punishment procedures".

"We cannot take the risk that we will be held liable by the Italian authorities if the product is diverted for use in capital punishment," the company said.

Lethal injection drug production ends in the US

(Image: Lethal Injection Chamber, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from blatantnews's photostream)

Map of prescribed psychiatric drugs in America

MostPharmaGood-1.jpg Good has this map showing the most prescribed psychiatric drugs in America.

Top US psychiatric pharmaceuticals, 2009 edition


IMS, a market research firm, has tallied up the most popular psychiatric prescriptions in the USA for 2009. Notes Gary Price, "The list itself sees Xanax remain at #1 with over 44 million superscription written. Lexapro is at #2 while Ativan is at #3. Several new medicines debuted on the list."

Top 25 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2009 (Thanks, Gary!)

ACLU prevails: US Fed Judge invalidates gene patent

United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet has invalidated Myriad Genetics's infamous "breast cancer patent" -- a patent on genetic mutations that cause breast cancer, which Myriad has exercised in the form of a high lab-fee for analysis on samples (Myriad threatens to sue any independent lab that performs the analysis).

The suit was brought by the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, who argued that US Patent and Trademark Office was wrong to grant patents on genes, as these are not patentable subject matter. The judge agreed, saying that gene patents are patents on a "law of nature" and called the isolation of genes and filing patents on them "a lawyer's trick that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result."

Which sounds to me like a precedent against all patents that rely on isolated genes. Of course, this isn't over: the pharma/biotech stalwarts interviewed in the linked NYT piece are talking appeal, and I'm sure they'll try to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

I think that the problem here is in the untested idea that imparting exclusive rights to the genome will incentivize more research than allowing anyone to build on discoveries in the genome. It's clear that some exclusive rights provide an incentive so some people to do work. But these exclusive rights also scare off people who have good ideas but are worried about being bankrupted by someone who beat them to the patent.

Combined with that is the natural abhorrence many of us feel at the thought that genes might be patented. Genes aren't a good subject for propertization. Your genes aren't even yours -- you didn't create them. Your parents didn't really create them, either. You're your genes' steward, as are we all, and so many of us have a strong intuition that when someone else claims to own something from our genome, they're being ridiculous, or evil, or both.

Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patents with the University of Utah Research Foundation, asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming that the work of isolating the DNA from the body transforms it and makes it patentable. Such patents, it said, have been granted for decades; the Supreme Court upheld patents on living organisms in 1980. In fact, many in the patent field had predicted the courts would throw out the suit.

Judge Sweet, however, ruled that the patents were "improperly granted" because they involved a "law of nature." He said that many critics of gene patents considered the idea that isolating a gene made it patentable "a 'lawyer's trick' that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result."

The case could have far-reaching implications. About 20 percent of human genes have been patented, and multibillion-dollar industries have been built atop the intellectual property rights that the patents grant.

ACLU Challenges Patents On Breast Cancer Genes: BRCA

Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent

(Thanks, Gimpy!)

(Image: Dna rendering, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ynse's photostream)