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July 2007 Archives

Panel: Avandia Should Remain on Market Despite Risks

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee is recommending that diabetes medication Avandia remain on the market despite evidence that use of the drug increases the risk of heart attacks. According to the New York Times, "[t]he votes - 20 to 3 on the heart attack risk and 22 to 1 on the marketing - were cast after an extraordinary meeting in which officials from the Food and Drug Administration, which brought the committee together, openly disagreed with one another on the course to take." The panel advised the FDA that Avandia labeling should carry warnings of the increased risk of heart attack associated with the drug's use.

Immigration Fee Increase Takes Effect

On Monday, July 30, 2007, higher fees went into effect for applicants for permanent residence in the U.S. and people filing for U.S. citizenship. The new fee schedule was released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in May 2007. Total fees associated with obtaining a permanent resident visa (or "green card") are now $930 (increased from $325), while the cost of filing an application for U.S. citizenship has risen from $330 to $675. The new few schedule includes an increase in fees associated with almost all other immigration services. According to a May 2007 USCIS press release, the new fee schedule provides "necessary funding for the agency to continue strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system, improving customer service, and modernizing business operations for the 21st century."

FDA Hearing on Safety of Avandia

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is holding a hearing on the safety of the diabetes drug Avandia, hearing testimony and scientific evidence on possible links between Avandia use and increased risk of heart attack.

According to the Washington Post, "The panel could recommend not changing the drug's label or putting a "black box" warning on the label; they could even suggest that the drug be pulled from the market. While the FDA isn't required to adopt an advisory panel's recommendation, it typically does." The New York Times reports that FDA scientist Dr. David Graham has recommended that Avandia be pulled from the market due to its safety risks.

Recalled Foods Still on Store Shelves

A number of recalled products linked to recent cases of botulism sickness are still being sold in some stores nationwide. The recalled canned food products are produced by Castleberry's Food Company. According to the Associated Press (AP), "spot checks by the Food and Drug Administration and state officials continue to turn up recalled products for sale in convenience stores, gas stations and family run groceries, from Florida to Alaska. The FDA alone has found them in roughly 250 of the more than 3,700 stores visited in nationwide checks."

Federal Minimum Wage Increase Takes Effect

On Tuesday, the first increase in the federal minimum wage increase in nearly 10 years took effect. The federal minimum wage is now $5.85 per hour, up from $5.15 per hour. In May, Congress finalized a law which would raise the federal minimum wage in three stages -- the first of which came Tuesday -- to $7.25 per hour over the next two years. According to the Associated Press, Tuesday's increase "ends the longest span without a federal minimum wage increase since the pay floor was enacted in 1938."

Illinois Governor Signs Smoking Ban

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has signed a law which bans smoking in most public places throughout the state. According to the Chicago Tribune, "[t]he governor's action, which state health officials said makes Illinois the 19th state with a broad smoking ban, culminated nearly two decades of intense efforts by anti-smoking advocates to curtail smoking in public."

In New York, the state's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Service (OASAS) is proposing that all addiction treatment facilities in the state become smoke-free by July of 2008, and have programs in place to help their patients stop smoking, according to the New York Times.

OxyContin Makers Fined $634.5 Million

OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P. and three of the company's top executives have been ordered to pay a $634.5 million dollar fine for failing to warn the public about the high risk of addiction associated with use of the painkiller. According to the New York Times, "U.S. District Judge James Jones levied the fine on Purdue, its top lawyer and former president and former chief medical officer after a hearing that lasted about four-and-a-half hours. The hearing included statements by numerous people who said their lives were changed forever by the addiction potential of OxyContin, a trade name for a long-acting form of the painkiller oxycodone." In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the results of an investigation which found that Purdue Pharma "trained its sales force to represent to health care providers that OxyContin did not cause euphoria and was less addictive than immediate-release opiates; and allowed health care providers to entertain the erroneous belief that OxyContin was less addictive than morphine."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced an expanded warning for consumers and pet owners regarding canned food products and dog food produced by Castleberry's Food Co. of Augusta, Ga., due to the risk of botulinum toxin. A full list of all recalled Castleberry's products can be viewed in a Press Release from the FDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), released on July 21. According to the press release, "the recall is being expanded after information gathered by the Food and Drug Administration and FSIS indicated that processing malfunctions at the establishment have existed longer than initially estimated." On July 18, the FDA announced that certain cans of hot dog chili sauce have been linked to possible botulism contamination.

Magnet Toys Causing Injuries to Children

A New York Times article is spotlighting a recent spate of injuries and lawsuits related to magnetic toys. Most of the incidents involve injuries to children -- including swallowing and inhalation of the magnets leading to intestinal perforation -- and surgery is required in some cases. According to the Times article, "more than two dozen incidents involving magnet toys have been recorded since 2003," including a number of injuries caused by Magnetix building sets (manufactured by MEGA Brands of Montreal). In April, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that it had received "hundreds of complaints that magnets have fallen out of various toys" and "at least 33 cases where children swallowed loose magnets and required emergency surgery."

House Votes to Increase FDA Power and Funding

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more oversight over prescription drug manufacturers -- including increased FDA regulation of drug safety after products hit the market, and harsher fines for drug companies that engage in misleading advertising or fail to comply with FDA protocols. According to the Washington Post, "lawmakers crafted the legislation in response to complaints about the FDA's handling of serious side effects seen after drugs hit the market. The agency was criticized as slow to act on signs of problems with Merck & Co. Inc.'s arthritis pill Vioxx, which the company withdrew in 2004, and other medicines." The U.S. Senate approved a similar bill in May, so the two branches of Congress are expected to negotiate a unified bill to submit to President Bush.

FTC Hosting "Spam Summit"

On July 11th and 12th, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting a "Spam Summit" workshop. According to the FTC, the Spam Summit "will bring together experts from the business, government, and technology sectors, consumer advocates, and academics to explore consumer protection issues surrounding spam, phishing, and malware." The workshop is free and open to the public at an FTC satellite office in Washington DC, and much of the proceedings are available via Webcast from the FTC.

Microsoft to Spend $1.15 Billion on Xbox Repairs

Microsoft Corporation announced that it will spend $1.15 billion to repair a large number of "Xbox 360" video game consoles, after the company revealed that "on-going testing [has] identified several factors that can cause a general hardware failure indicated by three flashing red lights on the console." The company also announced expanded warranty coverage for affected Xbox consoles: "Any Xbox 360 customer who experiences a general hardware failure indicated by three flashing red lights will now be covered by a three year warranty from date of purchase." While Microsoft has not disclosed the number of consoles that may be impacted, according to the New York Times, "the size of the anticipated repair bill suggests that a third to as many as half of the machines are flawed."

FDA Warns on Buying Medication Online

Buying prescription drugs over the internet can be risky, and may not save consumers money in the long run, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In a press release, the FDA states that "consumers who are trying to save money on prescription drugs don't need to take chances by buying prescription drugs from foreign Internet sites, because low-cost generic versions are available in the United States." The FDA also reminds consumers not to purchase medication online without a prescription, warning that "use of prescription drugs without a prescription is an intrinsically unsafe practice."

Foreclosure Scams on the Rise

Just as the number of homeowners having trouble making their mortgage payments is on the rise, scams related to foreclosure relief are increasing. According to the New York Times, "[t]he schemes take various forms and often involve promises to distressed homeowners of cash upfront, free monthly rent and a chance to retain their houses in the long run. But in the process, someone else takes over the deed, borrows as much as possible against the value of the house and pockets the cash. And, almost always, the homeowners still end up losing their homes." Click on the links below for more information on foreclosure scams:

Fireworks Safety and State Fireworks Laws

Between 2000 and 2006, at least 49 people have been killed by fireworks in the U.S., and half of those deaths were caused by the use of illlegal fireworks, according to a Press Release from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). According to Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord, "[l]ast year an estimated 9,200 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for firework-related injuries. The majority, 6,400, occurred during the one-month period surrounding the 4th of July."

All fireworks devices intended for (or sold to) consumers -- except for firecrackers -- must meet federal performance requirements. In addition, legal issues related to sale and use of fireworks vary from state to state. Below you will find information on fireworks laws. You can also contact your local fire or police department to find out which types of fireworks are legal in your area.