Food and Drug Administration OKs a stronger version of the widely abused painkiller hydrocodone. The agency said it approved the extended-release pill Zohydro ER for patients with pain that requires “daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment.” Hydrocodone is currently sold in combination pills like Vicodin to treat pain from injuries, surgery and migraines. The new drug is the first pure hydrocodone drug approved in the U.S. The move came despite an 11-2 vote against the drug by an FDA expert panel last year. The approval dismayed public health advocates who had been cheered by a recommendation made by the FDA Thursday to tighten how doctors prescribed the most commonly used narcotic painkillers. Taken together, the pair of decisions spotlighted what critics say is the FDA’s struggle to balance its conflicting regulatory roles. The Associated Press, The New York Times

Internal documents reveal the corporate money behind an “independent” science group.  The American Council on Science and Health bills itself as an independent research and advocacy organization devoted to debunking “junk science.” It has waded into public health debates to defend fracking, to fight New York City’s attempt to ban big sugary sodas and to dismiss concerns about the potential harms of the chemical bisphenol-A  and the pesticide atrazine. The group insists that its conclusions are driven purely by science. Yet internal documents show that ACSH depends heavily on funding from corporations that have a financial stake in the scientific debates it aims to shape. Mother Jones

Study finds that 500 U.S. children die in hospitals every year after suffering gunshot wounds. The assessment, the first-ever tally  of such fatalities, also estimated that 7,500 kids are hospitalized annually after being wounded by gunfire. That figure reflected more than an 80 percent increase during the 1997-2009 period tracked by the two doctors who conducted the study. In a presentation at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the study’s authors said eight of every 10 firearm wounds were inflicted by handguns.  They said the national conversation about guns should shift toward the danger posed by smaller firearms. The study findings helped fill some of the void created by restrictions on federal gun research due to pressure from gun control opponents in Congress. NBC News, Discovery, HealthDay

Toyota Motor Corp.’s first loss in a sudden acceleration suit could spur hundreds of similar cases. Last week’s verdict in Oklahoma against the Japanese automaker centered on its electronics, which have been a focus for plaintiffs seeking to prove safety defects. Toyota has argued that many incidents of unintended acceleration stemmed from drivers who stepped on the gas instead of the brake. But the Oklahoma plaintiffs successfully argued that Toyota’s electronic throttle system was flawed, causing the car to speed out of control. Toyota reached a confidential settlement in the suit, which involved a fatal 2007 Camry crash. The deal came after a jury assessed $3 million in compensatory damages but before it decided on a punitive award. Los Angeles Times

Medical device company settles long-running foreign bribery case. Stryker Corp. agreed to pay $13.3 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve the allegations, without admitting or denying wrongdoing. The Kalamazoo, Mich.-based company  disclosed in 2007 that U.S. authorities were examining possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars bribes to foreign officials. An SEC investigation found that Stryker units in Argentina, Greece, Mexico, Poland and Romania made $2.2 million in illicit payments, describing them as legitimate expenses such as charitable donations and travel expenses. Stryker said it has enhanced its anti-corruption program. It also said it was advised that the Justice Department closed its separate investigation. The Wall Street Journal

Farm groups cheer a U.S. judge’s ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency in an agricultural runoff case. The judge found that the EPA could not require a West Virginia poultry operation to obtain a permit for its stormwater, saying that its discharges were covered by a Clean Water Act exemption for agricultural storm water. Farm groups had feared that a favorable ruling for the EPA would open concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to new permit requirements. But environmental groups said the decision threatens the Chesapeake Bay and other U.S. waters. As FairWarning has reported, the EPA has suffered repeated court setbacks in its efforts to curb water pollution from massive livestock operations. E&E Publishing, The Associated Press

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein