Pharmaceuticals

It used to be common for drugmakers to ply medical students with meals and gifts as a way to curry favor with America's next generation of doctors.

But times are changing.

To curb the influence of drug companies, most U.S. medical schools have now instituted policies that restrict or ban gifts altogether. The policies appear to have a lasting effect.

A key federal panel Friday recommended placing new restrictions on Vicodin and similar prescription painkillers.

At the conclusion of an emotional two-day hearing, the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted 19-10 to recommend the agency change how drugs that contain the opioid hydrocodone are classified as controlled substances.

A large study is providing a rare glimmer of hope for patients with pancreatic cancer, perhaps the deadliest of all malignancies.

By the time they're diagnosed, most patients with pancreatic cancer have advanced disease that's spread to the liver and lung. And the primary tumor may be inoperable because it's wrapped around vital blood vessels and nerves.

A few years ago, a doctor started prescribing Michael Israel painkillers for bad cramps in his gut. Israel had been struggling with Crohn's disease, a chronic digestive disorder, since he was a teenager.

"So he was prescribed, you know, Lortab, or Vicodin or whatever. You know, they would flip-flop it from one to another," says Avi Israel, Michael's father.

Then one day, Michael confessed that something was wrong.

Chances are you've received an email with a subject line like this "The hottest method to please your beloved one" or this "Want to get good health for low prices?" Emails offering "low cost med pills!"

You've probably wondered — who is sending these emails? Does anyone actually click on these links? What happens when they do?

Drugmaker Merck just stuck a fork in a vitamin-based drug to prevent heart disease and stroke.

The company is withdrawing Tredaptive, a long-acting pill combining niacin (No. 3 in the long list of B vitamins) and laropiprant, a chemical that reduces the unpleasant skin flushing caused by high doses of niacin.

An apparent feud between two black market pharmacies has shed light on a shady global industry.

"Rx-Promotion and SpamIt probably are responsible for upward of 50 or 60 percent of spam that you and I got in our inboxes over the last five years," said Brian Krebs, a cyber-security reporter who chronicled the alleged feud on his website. "It's just a ridiculous amount of problems that these two guys cause for everybody."

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it was requiring companies that make Ambien and similar sleeping pills to sharply cut the doses of the drugs.

If you've spent years CRANKING YOUR MUSIC UP TO 11, this item's for you.

A drug developed for Alzheimer's disease can partially reverse hearing loss caused by exposure to extremely loud sounds, an international team reports in the journal Neuron.

Before you go back to rocking the house with your Van Halen collection, though, consider that the drug has only been tried in mice so far. And it has never been approved for human use.

We're living in the golden age of generic drugs.

Eight in 10 prescriptions are filled with generics rather than brand-name drugs these days.

The generics are usually inexpensive. Think $4 for a month's supply of the depression drug fluoxetine (or Prozac) at Wal-Mart. If you have insurance that covers pharmaceuticals, your copay will be lower with a generic than a brand-name drug, too.

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