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Rainbow Fentanyl Targeting Teens, Binge Eating Treated By Deep Brain Stimulation, and Naloxone Price Soars for Uninsured
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
DEA Warns of Brightly-Colored Fentanyl Used to Target Young Americans
The Drug Enforcement Administration is advising the public of an alarming emerging trend of colorful fentanyl available across the United States. In August 2022, DEA and law enforcement partners seized brightly-colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 18 states. Dubbed “rainbow fentanyl” in the media, this trend appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl made to look like candy to children and young people.
“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States.”
Brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.
Deep brain stimulation may be treatment for binge eating disorder, study suggests
A well-timed jolt of high-frequency electricity to a region of the brain implicated in food cravings appears to tamp down the impulses at the heart of binge eating disorder, researchers report.
Out-of-control eating that causes shame, regret, or health problems is psychiatry’s most recently recognized eating disorder.
In a feasibility study that involved just two female patients, researchers at Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania tried treating binge eating disorder with a form of deep-brain stimulation similar to that used for epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.
Expanding on work conducted on mice, the team discovered that the cravings just before an episode of binge eating set off a specific low-frequency electrical pattern in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. That structure plays a key role in one of our most primitive mammalian behaviors: the pursuit of pleasure.
Once researchers identified the exact signature of the participant’s brain waves before, during, and after an episode of out-of-control eating, the electrodes were repurposed. When the system detected the distinctive electrical patterns of an impending episode, it delivered a brief — and to the women, undetectable — burst of high-frequency electrical stimulation that was intended to scramble the indiscriminate “Eat!” signal.
If the pre-binge electrical pattern didn’t immediately respond, the stimulation was repeated until it did. Each woman got an average of roughly 10 minutes a day of electrical stimulation — a far more limited use than is common in the treatment of disorders like OCD.
The intervention showed promise in both patients. Over the six months of the study’s initial phase, it reduced the frequency and severity of out-of-control eating episodes and prompted weight loss — about 18 pounds in one patient and 13 pounds in the other. For one subject, that was 4.5% of her body weight; for the other, 5.8%.
Out-of-Pocket Cost of Naloxone Soars for Uninsured Individuals
While the cost of naloxone has declined for individuals with health insurance, the cost has sharply risen for uninsured individuals in recent years, according to new data from RAND Corporation.
Despite concentrated legislative efforts to improve access to naloxone by passing laws that ease requirements around prescribing and dispensing the medication, many states are falling short by failing to address financial barriers, study lead author Evan Peet, an economist at RAND, said in a news release.
“The price of naloxone is almost certainly an impediment to more-widespread adoption among the uninsured,” Peet said. “Policymakers who want to further expand access to naloxone—particularly among the uninsured and vulnerable—need to pay greater attention to the out-of-pocket costs.”
RAND researchers’ findings were based on an analysis of more than 700,000 prescription records from 2010 to 2018 for both generic and name-brand naloxone. More than 70% of US retail pharmacies were accounted for in the data. In 2014, the average per-prescription out-of-pocket cost for naloxone was $27 among insured individuals, compared to $35 for those who were uninsured. By 2018, the out-of-pocket cost for those without insurance soared to $250, compared to just $18 for those with health insurance.
During the period studied, the total number of naloxone prescriptions grew exponentially, with 386,249 prescriptions written in 2018, up from 11,432 in 2010.
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