- - Thursday, January 10, 2013

PHARMACEUTICALS

The Food and Drug Administration is requiring makers of Ambien and similar sleeping pills to lower the dosage of their drugs, based on studies suggesting that patients face higher risks of injury because of morning drowsiness.

The agency said Thursday that research shows that the drugs remain in the bloodstream at levels high enough to interfere with alertness and coordination, which increases the risk of car accidents.

Regulators are ordering manufacturers to cut the dose in half for women, who process the drug more slowly.

Doses will be lowered from 10 milligrams to 5 milligrams for regular products, and 12.5 milligrams to 6.25 milligrams for extended-release formulations.

The FDA is recommending that manufacturers lower the dosage for men as well, though that is not a requirement.

The new doses apply to insomnia treatments containing the widely prescribed drug zolpidem, which is sold under brands including Ambien, Edluar and Zolpimist and in generic forms.

TRANSPORTATION

Amtrak losses decline to lowest level since ‘70s

Amtrak’s fiscal 2012 operating loss was the lowest in nearly 38 years, Joseph Boardman, the railroad’s president and CEO, said Thursday.

The $361 million loss for the year ending Sept. 30 was down 19 percent from the previous year.

The last time Amtrak losses were less was 1975.

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Boardman also laid out an agenda for this year that includes delivery of the first of 70 electric locomotives and 130 long-distance passenger cars, expansion of the Acela Express high-speed service in the Northeast with an additional New York-Washington round trip, and beginning the work necessary to acquire more high-speed trains.

AUTOMOBILES

Nissan to expand production in Mississippi

CANTON, Miss. — Nissan Motor Co. will assemble its Murano crossover vehicle in its Mississippi plant beginning in late 2014.

Canton plant manager Dan Bednarzyk says Nissan will add 400 jobs to its current total of more than 5,000. Nissan wouldn’t say how much it will spend to start making Muranos there.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says the state isn’t offering additional incentives.

Nissan now makes the Murano in Kyushu, Japan. The Canton plant, north of Jackson, will be the only worldwide assembly location.

RETAIL

Democratic lawmakers say Wal-Mart lied about bribes

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Mike Duke found out in 2005 that the retailer’s Mexico unit was handing out bribes to local officials, according to emails obtained by lawmakers.

The lawmakers say the emails contradict earlier claims by Wal-Mart senior executives that they weren’t aware of bribes being made by the company.

Democratic Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Henry A. Waxman of California released emails Thursday that indicate that Mr. Duke and other senior Wal-Mart officials were informed multiple times starting in 2005 about the bribes.

U.S. law forbids American companies from bribing foreign officials.

The lawmakers shared the emails, which they say they got from a confidential source, with Wal-Mart on Wednesday, and sent a letter to Mr. Duke asking for a meeting to discuss them.

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said Thursday that the letter that the lawmakers wrote to Mr. Duke “leaves the wrong impression that our public statements are contradicted by the information they released today.”

JAPAN

Cabinet approves $224 billion stimulus plan

TOKYO — The Japanese Cabinet approved a fresh stimulus spending of more than $224 billion Friday, rushing to fulfill campaign pledges to break the world’s third-biggest economy out of its long deflationary slump.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision at a news conference, where he said the measures were intended to add 2 percent to Japan’s economic growth and contribute 600,000 jobs.

Mr. Abe urged the central bank to move more aggressively to encourage lending and meet a clear inflation target.

Mr. Abe took office late last month after a parliamentary election victory by the Liberal Democratic Party, which is touting public works spending and subsidies to strategically important sectors as part of its plan to pull the economy out of recession.

The proposal also raises military spending by $1.1 billion from the $52.3 billion budget last year, the first such increase in a decade. The increase is partly aimed at beefing up monitoring and defenses around islands in the East China Sea that are the focus of a simmering territorial dispute with China.

From wire dispatches and staff reports