Regulators Approve Drug Intended to Fight Growing Global Threat of Tuberculosis

Food and Drug Administration clears Sirturo for patients with multidrug resistant tuberculosis. The Johnson & Johnson drug is intended to treat a resistant form of tuberculosis, a bacterial infection mostly involving the lungs, that is uncommon in the U.S. but growing globally. The potentially fatal disease affects as many as 630,000 people worldwide who can’t be cured with existing therapies alone. Sirturo, also known as bedaquiline, is not expected to be a large moneymaker for Johnson & Johnson because the disease is prevalent in poorer countries unable to afford high prices for the treatment. Providing the drug, though, could help the company create goodwill internationally. Still, the FDA said the drug has “significant risks.” The Wall Street Journal, MedPage Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Researchers say energy drinks provide little, if any, benefit beyond a caffeine kick. The findings of the handful of scientific studies of the drinks counter claims by companies that promote their products as specially engineered blends that provide something more than simply a caffeine lift. Producers claim that “Red Bull gives you wings,” that Rockstar Energy is “scientifically formulated” and Monster Energy is a “killer energy brew.” U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., has called for an investigation of the industry’s marketing claims. The drinks, the fastest-growing part of the U.S. beverage market, already are under Food and Drug Administration scrutiny after reports of deaths and serious injuries possibly linked to their high caffeine levels. The New York Times

Trial set to begin this month against oil giants accused of contaminating New Hampshire groundwater. The case against ExxonMobil and Citgo stems from a suit filed by New Hampshire in 2003 against 26 energy concerns that claimed the gasoline additive MTBE tainted groundwater in a state where 60 percent of the population relies on private wells. The state later reached settlements with all of the companies except ExxonMobile and Citgo. New Hampshire seeks more than $700 million in damages to test all of the state’s private wells and public drinking water systems and to cover cleanup costs. MTBE, used since the 1970s to reduce smog-causing emissions, was found in the late 1990s to contaminate drinking water when gasoline is spilled. The Associated Press 

Ban on arsenic in chicken feed begins in Maryland. The state becomes the nation’s first with such a ban, although Canada and the European Union already bar the practice. Last year Pfizer suspended sales of Roxarsone, an arsenic-based drug that fights parasites in animals, after a federal test showed trace amounts of the known carcinogen in livers of chickens. Perdue Farms stopped using the additive years ago, and some restaurants, including McDonald’s, bar suppliers from using it. But growers in Maryland continued to use stockpiles of feed with the additive. The Democratic lawmaker who sponsored the bill argued that arsenic has seeped into the state’s soil and waters for decades through chicken waste, which is often used as fertilizer. The Washington Post

California regulators cite hazards at warehouse handling Walmart goods. State workplace safety authorities proposed nearly $57,000 in penalties based on six charges against NFI Industries, the operator of the Mira Loma, Calif., warehouse, and nine against Warestaff, which recruits workers for the operation. NFI said it would appeal the charges, which include blocked walkways and failing to maintain injury and illness prevention programs. The company also is contesting state charges involving a nearby NFI warehouse in Chino, Calif. As FairWarning has reported, warehouse companies in Southern California’s Inland Empire are fighting a union drive to organize thousands of mostly low-wage workers in the supply chain for retail giant Walmart. The (Riverside, Calif.) Press-Enterprise, The Wall Street Journal

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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