Wednesday Briefing

Industry-funded foundation that downplayed risks of narcotic painkillers shuts down. The closing of the American Pain Foundation comes as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is launching an investigation into the makers of opioid painkillers and the groups that champion them. The foundation received 90 percent of its $5 million in funding in 2010 from the drug and medical-device industry, and its guides for patients, journalists and policymakers played down painkiller risks while exaggerating benefits. It is unclear whether the group’s decision to close “effective immediately” was related to the Senate probe. The foundation described itself as the nation’s largest organization for pain patients. ProPublica

Guidelines proposed to protect children from overexposure to radiation from medical scanning. The Food and Drug Administration today called on manufacturers of X-ray machines, CT scanners and angiography equipment to design devices that will be safer for the youngest patients. The use of CT scans, which show more detail than standard X-rays but entail far more radiation, and other medical imaging has soared in recent years. But research shows that scans are performed too often. That’s of particular concern for children, because their rapidly growing tissues are more sensitive to radiation and they have more years ahead of them for radiation-triggered cancers to develop. USA Today, The Associated Press

More than 1,300 tubes at the San Onofre nuclear plant are so damaged that they will be taken out of service. The figures released by Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s operator, are the latest disclosure in a probe of equipment problems that have kept the north San Diego County plant sidelined for more than three months. The two reactors shut this year each have nearly 10,000 tubes, and the number retired is well within the limit allowed to continue operation. But Edison officials backed away from a company executive’s comment last week that the utility hopes to restart at least one of the twin reactors next month. Likewise, federal regulators said there is no timetable for a restart. The Associated Press, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Federal Aviation Administration faulted for slow response to whistleblowers’ claims of flight safety violations. The Office of Special Counsel, which looks into whistleblower claims by federal workers, outlined seven instances where the FAA took as long as two years to respond to employees’ charges. Among the substantiated allegations were that controllers at a busy air traffic control operation in Long Island, N.Y., slept in the control room at night, left shifts early and used personal electronic devices while on duty. “These disclosures paint a picture of an agency with insufficient responsiveness given its critical public safety mission,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a letter to President Obama. Reuters, The Associated Press

Study finds that half of drug labels lack information on safety and proper doses for children. U.S. Food and Drug Administration researchers based their conclusions on an evaluation of more than 500 medication labels in 2009. Experts said the lack of labeling information often stems from the difficulty, partly for ethical reasons, in conducting drug research on children. But the result is that doctors are hampered in treating them. “Kids are mostly healthy but they still get heart disease, they still get lung disease, they still get endocrine disease, they still get arthritis, they still get many of the diseases that adults get — and it’s in those populations that we can’t get things studied,” an FDA researcher said. Reuters

Workplace safety regulators cite violations at plants in Pennsylvania and Texas. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration charged Bazzini Holdings, a candy maker, with 15 safety violations at its Allentown, Pa., plant. The agency, which proposed fines of $56,400, launched its investigation in November after a plant employee’s arm was amputated. Separately, OSHA charged CertiFit Inc. with nine safety violations at the auto parts company’s plant in San Antonio, Texas. The case stemmed from a January accident in which an employee was killed when a delivery truck backed into a loading dock where the the victim was working. OSHA has proposed penalties of $46,000. OSHA

Recalls: Sportspower trampolines sold by Walmart, Kolcraft bassinetsCleveland Beansprouts alfalfa sprouts, Solid Gold dog food

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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