10:29 AM, Sep 30, 2015 • By VICTORINO MATUS
Remember all the commotion surrounding the first commercials for Viagra? It wasn't just the content per se that had people talking—it was also the voiceover that casually warned you to "call your doctor right away if you experience a sudden decrease in vision or an erection lasting longer than four hours." But then the airwaves were flooded with ads for a vast array of pharmaceuticals like Zoloft, Lyrica, and Humira. We started tuning out the side effects warnings the way we do car dealership caveats (blah-blah-blah-APR financing-blah-blah). But a new ad for a sleep aid has caught people's attention—the potential side effects are riveting.
The ad was for Belsomra. It sounds promising—the Merck drug targets the neurotransmitter connected to "wake messages." In the commercial, sleep is embodied by a soft, furry creature. A woman cradles it in her bed, resulting in sleep, much like being touched by the green butterfly in the Lunesta ad. But then the furry critter disappears and the woman searches the house for it, finally finding it playing with another furry being representing wakeness. She embraces her sleep pet and all is well.
Direct-to-consumer television ads for biopharmaceutical products began in the 1990s. Those disclaimers for the most significant risks have always been a part of the deal under FDA guidance. A good thing at that, considering Belsomra's disclaimers:
Do not take Belsomra if you have narcolepsy. While taking Belsomra, do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you feel fully awake. Walking, eating, driving, or engaging in other activities while asleep without remembering it the next day have been reported. Belsomra should not be taken together with alcohol. Abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, confusion, agitation, or hallucinations. The temporary inability to move while falling asleep or waking up and temporary leg weakness have also been reported. In depressed patients, worsening depression including risk of suicide may occur. Alcohol may increase these risks. Side effects include next-day drowsiness.
If that weren't bad enough, on the website, it also mentions "'sleep-walking' or doing other activities when you are asleep like eating, talking, having sex, or driving a car."
So on the one hand, you may be relieved of your insomnia—something that affects some 60 million Americans each year (Dr. Carol Ash was particularly upbeat about Belsomra's prospects last year on CBS). On the other hand, you might have suicidal thoughts, have a conversation with someone, have sex with that person, and drive around looking for a late-night snack and not remember any of it. (Carolyn Gregoire over at the Huffington Post is similarly disturbed by all this. Her post is entitled "This Sleeping Pill Commercial Is Absolutely Terrifying.")
It's enough to make you wish for the simple days of "Viva Viagra."
9:42 AM, Aug 24, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
New Jersey governor Chris Christie says America needs a "strong law enforcer as president" in a new 30-second TV ad. In the spot, Christie, a Republican, lists off examples of "lawlessness in America and around the world under Barack Obama," including the terror of ISIS, sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, drug problems, and "Iranian radicals with nuclear weapons. Christie adds in leading Democratic candidate for president into the mix.
"Now, Hillary Clinton thinks the law doesn't apply to her," he says with an image of a computer server on screen. "Really?"
4:04 PM, Aug 6, 2015 • By DAVID MURRAY and JOHN WALTERS
“We … say for first time non-violent drug offenders, no more prison. They are going to mandatory inpatient drug treatment because this is a disease, and the war on drugs has been a failure. . . . And what we need is a country and a President who will stand up and say this is a disease and we need to fix it.”
Gleanings and observations.12:36 PM, Aug 3, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Libertarians in Colorado are flying high after their success in getting marijuana legalized in the state. In our little town of Aspen, there are now seven stores in which eager consumers – I perhaps should say addicts because one user recently held up a store, threatening staff with a hammer, because he absolutely positively had to have the $11,000 worth of weed – can satisfy their desire for the stuff. Score one for libertarians.
1:35 PM, Jul 17, 2015 • By DAVID W. MURRAY and JOHN P. WALTERS
After the removal of Ronald Rogers, the long-serving Pardon Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice who failed to please President Obama over issues of clemency, his replacement, Deborah Leff, has begun to operate the new ‘Clemency Project 2014.’ It is an effort to turn felons back on the streets, under more relaxed criteria.
2:14 PM, Jul 14, 2015 • By JOHN P. WALTERS
On Monday, President Obama announced the results of his war on unjust sentences and the incarceration of large numbers of low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Now in the seventh year of his presidency, he has added just 46 federal felons to the list of those whose sentences he has commuted.
Obama's only granted 0.2% of clemency petitions.2:29 PM, Jun 2, 2015 • By JOHN P. WALTERS
“The quality of mercy is not straine’d,” implored Shakespeare’s Portia, meaning it should not be difficult or forced. But President Obama’s Clemency Project, an effort to free “a whole bunch of good citizens who committed one little mistake” and ended up with more than 10 years in prison, is starting to look a little, well, “strain’d," indeed.
1:46 PM, Apr 11, 2015 • By DAVID W. MURRAY and JOHN P. WALTERS
President Obama this week told an audience in Jamaica that U.S. efforts against illegal drugs were “counterproductive” because they relied too much on incarceration—particularly for “young people who did not engage in violence.”
8:22 PM, Apr 9, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Barack Obama took a shot at the war on drugs at a town hall event today in Jamaica. The president, responding to a question from an audience member, even went so far as to call the effort "counterproductive."
The questioner started, "My question has to do and surrounds U.S. policy as it regards the legalization, the decriminalization of marijuana."
8:26 AM, Jan 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Football great Mike Ditka says that, if he had an 8-year-old son right now, he wouldn't let him play football. He made the remarks in an episode of HBO's Real Sports, which will air tonight.
The Chicago Tribune has the exchange:
Ditka: “If you had an 8-year-old kid now, would you tell him you want him to play football?”
Gumbel: “I wouldn't. Would you?”
3:35 PM, Jan 9, 2015 • By IKE BRANNON
Even in the giddy afterglow of the new Congress, when all things seem possible, few Republicans seriously think that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed in 2015. More realistically, various politicians have averred that a Republican Congress may have the wherewithal to repeal some of its more unpopular provisions and fix a few others.
9:33 AM, Jan 8, 2015 • By DAVID W. MURRAY
The Colorado Gazette reports this week that “Colorado is taking a novel approach to marijuana education — not telling people to avoid the drug, just to use it safely.”
7:01 AM, Dec 31, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
For at least eight months in 2013 and 2014, letter carrier Devona Charley of Washington, D.C., delivered more than just letters and junk mail. The twenty-seven year old now-former U.S. Postal Service employee was sentenced to a year and a day in prison plus 6 months of home detention, part of three years of a supervised release plan imposed by a plea agreement on drug and bribery conspiracy charges.
11:31 AM, Dec 25, 2014 • By DAVID W. MURRAY
In April of this year, the Obama administration announced it would “reformulate” clemency guidelines for federal prison offenders. As the Washington Post described it, “Justice Department Prepares for Clemency Requests from Thousands of Inmates.” The paper claimed that this “unprecedented campaign to free nonviolent offenders” would continue for two years and that DOJ would “reassign dozens of lawyers to its understaffed pardons office to handle the requests from inmates.”