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National Transportation Safety Board investigators say both the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration failed to catch the deliberate understatement of the helicopter’s weight by the company that leased the aircraft to the Forest Service.

They say the helicopter was more than 1,000 pounds overweight on Aug. 5, 2008, when pilots tried to take off from a rugged mountaintop clearing near Weaverville, Calif.

The helicopter was airborne less than a minute when its rotor began to slow and it crashed into trees.

FDA

E-cigs fall under tobacco rules

RICHMOND, Va. | A federal appeals court says electronic cigarettes should be regulated as tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration rather than as drug-delivery devices, which have more stringent requirements.

The ruling means their makers won’t have to conduct expensive clinical trials to prove to the FDA that the products are safe and effective as a stop-smoking aid.

The decision is a setback to the FDA and other public health organizations, which had argued e-cigarettes should be regulated like nicotine replacement gum or patches. They also have warned that e-cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals and are being marketed to children.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington backed a lower court ruling that the devices should be considered under the agency’s authority over tobacco, which means they would follow the same restrictions as traditional cigarettes and tobacco products.

Some sellers of e-cigarettes sued the FDA last year after the agency told customs officials to refuse entry of shipments into the U.S. A federal judge ruled in January that the FDA can’t stop those shipments, saying the agency had overstepped its authority.

JUSTICE

3 drug firms to pay $421M

The Justice Department says three pharmaceutical manufacturers have agreed to pay $421 million to settle allegations that the companies reported inflated prices for numerous products.

The government says the companies knew that federal health care programs relied on the inflated prices to set payment rates.

The three companies involved in the settlement are Abbott Laboratories Inc., B. Braun Medical Inc. and Roxane Laboratories Inc.