Drugs seized, four arrested in Seminole bust

On December 6, 2018, members of the Baldwin County Drug Task Force served a search warrant at Browns Landing Road in the Seminole Community. During the search methamphetamine, paraphernalia related to drug sales and other controlled substances were seized.

This operation was the result of cooperation between law enforcement and members of the Seminole community. We initiated the investigation based on information provided by concerned citizens and community leaders. Armed with this information investigators began using other investigative techniques to develop information on their own. This combined effort led to a search warrant for the property.

Partnering with the citizens in our county is key to keeping Baldwin County safe. The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank our community for their continued support.


Gartner: Global smartphone sales stay flat as Chinese companies gain ground

Gartner published its report on smartphone sales for the Q3 2018 period. The overall market grew merely 1.4% and reached 389 million units. While Samsung is ahead, Huawei is catching up, and if it weren’t for Chinese brands like Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo, the global market would’ve declined by 5.2%, compared with Q3 2017.

Company Q3 2018 sales
(in thousands)
Q3 2018
Market share
Q3 2017 sales
(in thousands)
Q3 2017
Market share
Samsung 73,360.1 18.9 85,605.3 22.3
Huawei 52,218.4 13.4 36,501.8 9.5
Apple 45,746.6 11.8 45,441.9 11.8
Xiaomi 33,219.7 8.5 26,853.2 7.0
Oppo 30,563.4 7.9 29,449.2 7.7
Others 153,960.0 39.6 159,742.0 41.6
Total 389,068.2 100.0 383,593.4 100.0

The analysts say Samsung experienced the most significant decline since the company is tracking smartphone sales. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note9 devices could not help reduce the fall, and the Korean maker saw a 14% drop YoY. Combined with Huawei’s massive increase in sales, the gap between the two manufacturers shrunk significantly.

One of the major reasons Huawei is so successful is its aggressive positioning of the affordable Honor devices. A testament for the success in sales are the shopping holidays in India, China, and the Western World, where Honor smashed various records.

Apple’s sales in Q3 2018 remained flat – only 0.7% growth, or just 300,000 smartphones. Anshul Gupta, Research Director at Gartner, said the company is facing fierce competition in China and is targeting an already saturated premium market across the globe. The data shows iPhone XS Max was the more desired smartphone than the iPhone XS.

While the global smartphone market is currently losing steam, technologies like 5G and foldable phones can boost user experience and offer new user value. 2019 will be a year for cautious testing, but 2020 is expected to see 65 million sales of 5G-enabled smartphones.

The foldable devices will arrive as early as next year, but they will be expensive, and it will take time for manufacturers to build an ecosystem around the new handsets, so we shouldn’t expect them to have a major impact on sales volume.


Express Scripts’ Miller says Washington at incredible moment on drug pricing

Express Scripts headquarters in St. Louis.

Whitney Curtis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Express Scripts headquarters in St. Louis.

When the Trump administration outlined its drug pricing blue print last summer, pharmacy benefit managers seemed to be squarely in the cross hairs for reform.

This week, as the administration unveiled new proposals for shaping drug coverage for Medicare Part D pharmacy plans, it became clear that benefits managers are now not so much targets but rather key players, who will carry the ball on drug price negotiations for the government.

“These are actually all the solutions we put in our response to the blue print. We actually said ‘let’s look at international benchmarking … let’s look at Medicare Part B and make it more competitive.’ When you look at what they’re actually proposing it’s what the PBMs do,” Dr. Steve Miller, Express Scripts chief medical officer told CNBC at the Forbes Health Care conference in New York.

Pharmacy benefit managers are companies that control which drugs are covered and negotiate discounts on branded drugs with manufacturers.

Dr. Miller has been an outspoken advocate for the role of PBMs in strong-arming drug makers to lower their prices. Two years ago, Express Scripts very publicly pushed back at drug maker Gilead by excluding its $85,000 Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi in its plans, when the pharmaceutical giant refused to provide a discount on the treatment.

This week the Trump administration proposed allowing Medicare Part D pharmacy drug plans to be more selective on branded drugs from what are known as the six special therapeutic classes, which include cancer treatments and H-I-V antiviral drugs. Right now, Medicare is required to pay for all drugs in those special classes, with only a minor discount.

Executives at rival PBMs have also welcomed the new proposed rules, many expressing relief that the administration has heard what they had to say and reinforced their role in the system.

“I do believe the tone and the rhetoric has changed … there is more in there that broadens the role of PBMs and expands on the tools that are available today,” CVS Health president and CEO Larry Merlo told investors this week.

“I think there is more openness to figure out how we leverage those tools that we’ve done so successfully in commercial market and (bring it) to the government space,” said OptumRx John Prince during UnitedHealth Group’s investor meeting earlier this week.

Dr. Miller sees a potential watershed moment in the year ahead when it comes to drug pricing in Washington. He thinks the administration could find allies on both sides of the aisle in the incoming Congress to move even further with reforms which seemed unthinkable just a couple of years ago.

“I never would have thought I’d have a Republican president in Donald Trump who’s advocating for international price controls, that I would have the former head of Lilly, Alex Azar HHS, advocating for low prices and low rebates, and Scott Gottlieb who’s been spectacular at the FDA accelerating approvals of generics, accelerating approvals of the 2nd and 3rd in class per drug. It’s really an incredible moment,” Dr. Miller said.

While the administration has embraced PBMs, the middlemen in the drug supply chain remain its sights. Officials are also proposing forcing the firms to be more transparent in about the confidential rebates they use in their negotiations with drug makers. The pharmaceutical industry has charged that those discounts contribute to higher list prices, which ultimately result in higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers on high deductible plans.

Express Scripts recently announced that it will now offer employers the option of plans which provide clear cut drug prices, without a rebate structure.

It may be easier for the firm to operate in a post-rebate environment, once its acquisition by Cigna is completed. The two firms recently extended their merger agreement, and expect to secure necessary state approval to close the deal by year’s end.


State Struggles To Find Partner For Push To Lower Prescription Drug Costs

State officials are looking to reduce prescription drug costs in Vermont’s Medicaid program by sidestepping the pharmacy “middlemen,” but they’re struggling so far to find a drug wholesaler that’s willing to sell directly to the state.

Legislation passed earlier this year directed the Agency of Human Services to explore new ways to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. That directive has given birth to the “Vermont Medicaid Drug Wholesaler Savings Initiative” — which, according to one preliminary estimate, could reduce drug costs by as much as $11 million annually.

“Because of course wholesalers sell to pharmacies at one price, and then we pay the pharmacies another price, so there are markups all along the way in the system,” said Nancy Hogue, director of pharmacy services at the Department of Vermont Health Access.

To avoid those markups, Hogue and other state officials are trying to see if there’s a way for the Medicaid program to enter into a “direct contract” with the wholesalers that supply the pharmacies from which the state purchases its drugs now.

But while cutting out the middleman may be an age-old strategy for cutting business costs, Hogue said it isn’t clear yet whether it’ll work for Vermont in this situation.

“Unfortunately we’re not really able to say at this point if it’s a viable concept or not, because we simply don’t have enough information to make that determination.” — Nancy Hogue, Department of Vermont Health Access

Earlier this year, the state issued what’s known as a “request for information” from the drug wholesalers that might be interested in forging a more direct business relationship with the state of Vermont.

No companies responded to the request, however, and Hogue said until state officials have prospective wholesaler partners to talk with, there isn’t much it can do to move forward.

“Unfortunately we’re not really able to say at this point if it’s a viable concept or not, because we simply don’t have enough information to make that determination,” Hogue said.

Hogue said there are other unresolved issues as well — pharmacies, for example, have raised concerns about how the proposed drug-buying program would affect their business models.

And Hogue said the Vermont Medicaid program would need to add new staff to run the prescription drug-buying program and to purchase new software to track inventory and sales — costs that would eat in to whatever savings the state would be able to realize through any new drug-buying arrangement.

According to Hogue, Vermont’s Medicaid program currently spends about $200 million annually on prescription drugs.

“Are we going to be saving enough money to justify all of the additional management that will have to occur to make sure the program works properly?” she said.

Well, Hogue said the answer to that question may still be ‘yes,’ despite all the uncertainties. And she said the state has begun reaching out to wholesalers, to see why they didn’t respond to the initial request for information.

The prescription drug legislation passed earlier this year also directed the Scott adminsitration to explore the possibility of importing drugs from Canada, where prices for medications are often substantially less than in the United States. State officials say they’re still in the process of examining that option.


What kind of physical exercise can help you stay young?

Endurance training, resistance training, or high-intensity interval training — what type of physical exercise will help your body to stay youthful for longer? A new study aims to answer that question.
woman resting after exercise

What type of training should you embrace for healthy aging? New research investigates.

One key factor in cellular health is telomeres, the “safety caps” that protect strands of genetic material within our cells.

As telomeres shorten, that genetic material will start deteriorating, and this will send a signal that the cell is growing old and will soon begin the process of cellular death.

The enzyme telomerase helps maintain the length of telomeres, but, as we age, telomerase becomes much less active, which impacts cellular aging.

Recently, researchers from Leipzig University in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from other research institutions, have been looking at whether different types of physical exercise can slow down processes of biological aging.

The team studied telomere length and telomerase activity in participants who engaged in one of three types of exercise for the duration of the study, namely, endurance exercise, high-intensity interval training, or resistance training.

Endurance exercise is meant to help a person improve their stamina, and it includes activities such as running, swimming, and cycling. High-intensity interval exercise is similar, but it requires a person to undergo short bursts of intense training, followed by rest and recovery, and then intense training again.

Finally, resistance — or strength — training is meant to boost a person’s physical strength, and involves activities such as weightlifting.

The researchers report their findings in the study paper that appeared yesterday in the European Heart Journal.


P.E.I. pharmacists deal with system outages Thursday

The province’s Drug Information System was down intermittently throughout the day

P.E.I. pharmacists were unable to access the province’s Drug Information System throughout much of the day Thursday. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Islanders who visited a pharmacy Thursday may not have been able to get their prescriptions filled. Pharmacists on P.E.I. dealt with issues throughout the day with the system they use when filling prescriptions.

The province’s Drug Information System (DIS) had periods of outages throughout much of the day.

“It certainly has created some challenges being able to fill prescriptions,” said Todd MacKay, the pharmacy manager at Shoppers Drug Mart at 403 University Avenue in Charlottetown.

Only urgent prescriptions filled

The DIS is the system that all pharmacists use every time they fill a prescription.

“If they got something somewhere else, some other pharmacy, we can see any interactions, any other problems that there may be … then we know we’re OK to fill the prescription or make adjustments or whatever’s required,” said MacKay.

With the DIS down, MacKay said there was no other way to verify what other prescriptions people may have filled elsewhere.

Pharmacist Todd MacKay says this is not the first time there have been issues with the Drug Information System, but that it is a rare occurrence. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

He said the majority of people who came into the pharmacy Thursday agreed to come back later to fill their prescription. However, in urgent cases, it was necessary to come up with “workaround” solutions in order to fill prescriptions right away.

“In that emergency situation you have to … get some information from the patient as to what other meds that they might be on, and go on some of that information, which may not be as reliable as the DIS,” said MacKay.

“You’ve got to make that judgment call as to whether, is there a greater risk in the patient not receiving their medication right now, or is the greater risk that if they receive their medication and there’s some issue on the DIS, so it’s just a case-by-case basis.”

‘Rare exception’

MacKay said the system first went down shortly after 8 a.m. It was back online briefly several times throughout the day. As of 5 p.m., staff at the pharmacy said the system was functioning again.

In an email statement, the province confirmed there were outages throughout the day, caused by “intermittent system communication issues.”

The province’s information and technology shared services division said it “will keep investigating and monitoring to ensure a complete return to full service.”

MacKay said the outages were inconvenient, and mean extra work for pharmacists. However, he said any system has a chance of going down, and says he has generally been satisfied with the reliability of the DIS.


12 fabric-covered gadgets that show how technology can be more cosy

12 fabric-covered gadgets designed for you to cosy up to

Fabric-coated tech products have slowly but surely padded into the market in 2018, suggesting a future of gentle, unobtrusive devices. Here’s a look at some of the best examples.

Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort first predicted the rise of cosy technology more than 20 years ago, in the seminal exhibition Softwear. Her vision was for a future where working from home was typical and technology blended into domestic life.

This year saw Edelkoort reprise the topic for a joint exhibition with Google at Milan design week, having been struck with the tactility and soft curves the company put into its hardware.

“We’re at a place where technology is already in our lives, we know it’s in our lives, but how do we make it fit more into our lives, and how do we make it feel more human?” said Google’s vice-president of hardware design Ivy Ross at a Dezeen talk at the event.

“For us, that was through soft curves… Everything is familiar, human, rounded.”

The appearance of fabric-covered gadgetry can be seen as part of this broader trend to return a sense of calm to domestic life. Samsung has recently made a television disguised as a painting on the wall, while Nendo designed a speaker from wood.

But textiles have probably been the most common way tech companies have introduced tactility and cuddliness into their products.

Here are 12 of the most interesting examples:

Fabric-covered gadgets: Google Daydream View virtual-reality headset

Google Daydream View virtual-reality headset

Google has emerged as one of the trailblazers in soft tech products, with nearly all of its current hardware line having a textile component.

One of the most striking examples is the Daydream View virtual-reality headset, released in 2016 and designed to hold a smartphone. The headset brings games and apps from the phone into VR. Small product design studio Planeta made a similar fabric headset earlier in the same year.

Fabric-covered gadgets: Microsoft Surface laptops

Microsoft Surface laptops

Another tech giant to have embraced fabric is Microsoft. Its Surface line of laptops features fabric where users have come to expect a metallic texture – on their keyboards.

The fabric is Alcantara, an Italian-made microfibre that looks and feels similar to suede. It is meant to “add a touch of luxury” to the devices while providing a comfortable palm rest. It’s found on the type covers of the Surface Laptop 2, and Surface Go and Surface Pro 6 convertible tablets.


Two thirds of required pediatric post-marketing drug studies are missing

The FDA requires clinical studies of new drugs in pediatric populations, since many drugs developed for use in adults are also used in children. These studies are often requested after the drug is approved in adults, as “post-marketing” trials. However, a study from Boston Children’s Hospital finds that only about a third of these mandatory trials were completed within an average of seven years. As a result, most new drug labels continue to lack information needed for use in children, and most FDA-approved medications remain untested in children.

The findings, published November 19 in JAMA Pediatrics, constitute an audit of the main policy responsible for ensuring that child-specific drug information is available to clinicians and patients.

“More than 50 percent of all drugs approved by the FDA lack information on how to safely and effectively use the drug in children,” says Florence Bourgeois, MD, MPH, of the Pediatric Therapeutics and Regulatory Science Initiative at Boston Children’s Hospital (pedrx.org). “As a clinician, I was struck early on by how little evidence we often have to guide medication use in children. Although the FDA has an established process to ensure medicines are safe and effective in adults, this has historically been lacking for children.”

Mandated studies in children

In 2003, Congress passed the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA) to increase pediatric drug research. It authorized the FDA to mandate clinical studies in pediatric populations to assess drug safety and effectiveness and provide information on appropriate dosing and administration in different pediatric age groups.

When it was passed, PREA allowed manufacturers to seek deferrals from pediatric studies in certain cases, allowing them to complete the studies after the drug was approved. Over time, implementation has relied heavily on deferrals and in 2007, when PREA was renewed, it was decided to make all deferred studies post-marketing trial requirements.

Study findings

In the JAMA Pediatrics study, Bourgeois and colleagues assessed the implementation of these post-marketing studies from 2007 to 2014, including both new drugs and new indications for already-approved drugs. During that time frame, the FDA approved 114 new drugs and new indications subject to pediatric study requirements under PREA. A total of 222 pediatric post-marketing studies were required for these drug approvals.

As of December, 2017, only 34 percent of pediatric studies were completed. Of those completed, 45 percent had results were reported in a journal.

At the time of approval, only 16 percent of drugs approved with post-marketing studies had any information on pediatric efficacy, safety or dosing in their labels. This increased to only 41 percent after a median follow-up of seven years.

Perpetuating off-label prescribing

“We have a powerful legislation in place that sets the standard that all drugs relevant to pediatric health hit the market with some information on their safety and efficacy in children,” says Bourgeois, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Unfortunately, we are still seeing long delays between the approval of a drug and the availability of pediatric information. This perpetuates off-label drug use that may be unsafe or ineffective.”

Bourgeois says that PREA requirements apply only to drugs that are deemed relevant to pediatric conditions. Drugs with orphan indications are exempt from any pediatric study requirements. “But we feel that pediatric studies should also be performed for orphan drugs on a case-by-case basis, since many orphan diseases start in childhood,” says Bourgeois.

She notes that PREA was broadened in 2017 to apply to all oncology products, even if they have received an orphan drug designation. This type of amendment to PREA might benefit other pediatric conditions as well, she says.

Strengthening PREA?

The team suggests additional FDA oversight and use of enforcement tools to ensure completion of pediatric studies. They also recommend reevaluation of the deferral process to identify trials that could be required to be finished sooner, and additional examination of the barriers to trial completion.

“Our goal is to strengthen the PREA legislation,” says Bourgeois. “This will require not only a careful examination of how the legislation has been implemented, but also consideration of the challenges that industry is likely encountering when trying to complete these trials. We may need additional conversations to better understand how to maximize our resources and obtain pediatric data for the drugs that are most likely to impact children’s health.”


How to Stop Hair Loss

Image result for How to Stop Hair Loss

If you’re starting to lose your hair, there’s a perfect solution!

“Extra” spoke with Dr. John Kahen of Beverly Hills Restoration, who has formulated a new plan to grow hair with the help of platelet-rich plasma.

The procedure injects your own platelets into your scalp, which means there is no surgery!


Say it is so, Joe: California to reject cancer warning to coffee drinkers

A cup of coffee, yesterday.

California officials, having concluded coffee drinking is not risky, are proposing a regulation that will essentially tell consumers they can drink without fear.

If the regulation is adopted, it would be a huge win for the coffee industry which faces potentially massive civil penalties after losing an eight-year-old lawsuit in Los Angeles superior court that could require cancer warnings on all coffee packaging sold in California.

Judge Elihu Berle found that Starbucks and other roasters and retailers failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any cancer risks. He had previously ruled the companies had not shown the threat from the chemical was insignificant.

The unprecedented action Friday by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment rejected that ruling, following a review of more than 1,000 studies published this week by the World Health Organization that found inadequate evidence that coffee causes cancer.

The state agency implements a law passed by voters in 1986 that requires warnings of chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects. One of those chemicals is acrylamide, which is a byproduct of coffee roasting and brewing.

“The proposed regulation would state that drinking coffee does not pose a significant cancer risk, despite the presence of chemicals created during the roasting and brewing process that are listed under Proposition 65 as known carcinogens,” the agency said in a statement.

“The proposed regulation is based on extensive scientific evidence that drinking coffee has not been shown to increase the risk of cancer and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.”

Attorney Raphael Metzger, who won the court case on behalf of the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, said he was shocked the agency would move to nullify the court decision and undermine its own report more than a decade ago that drinking even small amounts of coffee resulted in a significant cancer risk.

“The takeaway is that the state is proposing a rule contrary to its own scientific conclusion. That’s unprecedented and bad,” Metzger said. “The whole thing stinks to high hell.”

The National Coffee Association had no comment on the proposed change. In the past, the organization has said coffee has health benefits and that the lawsuit made a mockery of the state law intended to protect people from toxics.

Scientific evidence on coffee has gone back and forth but concerns have eased recently about possible dangers, with some studies finding health benefits. Coffee companies do not deny that acrylamide is found in coffee, but argue it is only found at low levels and is outweighed by other benefits such as antioxidants that reduce cancer risk.

The state agency’s action comes about a week after bipartisan bills were introduced in both houses of US Congress to require science-based criteria for labels on food and other products. One of the sponsors, Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, alluded to the California coffee lawsuit as an example of misleading warnings.

“When we have mandatory cancer warnings on a cup of coffee, something has gone seriously wrong with the process,” Schrader said. “We now have so many warnings unrelated to the actual health risk posed to consumers, that most people just ignore them.”

The lawsuit against Starbucks and 90 companies was brought by the tiny nonprofit under a law that allows private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the state and collect a portion of civil penalties for failure to provide warnings.

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, better known as Proposition 65, requires warning labels for about 900 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. The law has been credited with reducing cancer-causing chemicals, but it has been criticized for leading to quick settlement shakedowns and vague warnings that are often ignored.