- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gout-drug approval first in 40 years

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first new treatment for gout in more than 40 years, a company said Saturday.

Takeda Inc. said Uloric, a once-daily drug, was approved by the FDA on Friday to fight gout, a painful joint disease that mainly strikes middle-aged men. About 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from gout, a form of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood.

Uloric works by reducing levels of uric acid.

In healthy people, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and excreted from the body in urine. But high levels lead to the formation of needle-like crystals that become deposited in the joints, causing intense pain and swelling. Many patients experience their first attack of gout in the big toe. The disease can progress, causing deformities.

“We are pleased to offer a new treatment option, the first in 40 years, to the more than 5 million Americans who have hyperuricemia associated with gout, fulfilling an unmet need,” said Alan MacKenzie, president and CEO of Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc., which is based in Deerfield, Ill.

‘Guns for Roses’ nets 200 weapons

COLUMBIA, S.C. | Police in South Carolina gave away roses on Valentine’s Day. All you had to do to get one for your sweetie was turn in a gun.

Hoping to get the weapons off the streets with the “Guns for Roses” program, authorities in two central South Carolina cities set up a program in which anyone who turned in a gun received a free rose and a Best Buy gift card.

At a Columbia church, five cars lined up to turn in guns before the exchange had even started. At the end of the day, Columbia area police had collected 191 weapons and police in Sumter collected 32.

“We’ve got a great turnout so far,” said Richland County sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Chris Cowan.

A handgun was worth a $100 gift card, while a rifle or shotgun netted a $50 gift certificate. Lt. Cowan said one man turned in six handguns, worth $600 in gift cards.

Octuplets mom loses publicist

LOS ANGELES | The public relations group that has represented octuplets mother Nadya Suleman is stepping down because of death threats, its president said Saturday.

Joann Killeen also said the mother now has an agent, Wes Yoder, the same man who arranged book and music deals for the McCaughey septuplets a decade ago and publicity for Southern California pastor Rick Warren.

The Killeen Furtney Group was ending its free representation after receiving at least 100 graphic e-mailed threats and swarms of nasty voicemails that went to the Los Angeles agency, Ms. Killeen said. Some messages threatened Ms. Suleman, but others were aimed at her spokespeople.

“They’d put me in the wood chipper and throw me in the bottom of the ocean and hope I die,” Ms. Killeen said.

Word that the 33-year-old single unemployed mother is receiving public assistance to care for the 14 children she conceived through in vitro fertilization has stoked furor among many people. Police are investigating the threats.

Bill would arm churchgoers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. | Arkansas pastors may soon have to worry about more than their flocks’ spiritual battles. After a number of shootings in churches nationwide, should congregants be allowed to bring concealed weapons into their sanctuaries?

Under current Arkansas law, holders of concealed weapons permits can take their guns anywhere they want, except bars and houses of worship. A bill now before the state Senate, which the House passed Wednesday, would let churches decide whether weapons should be allowed.

“I believe it would disturb the sanctity and tranquility of church,” said pastor John Phillips, a bill opponent who was shot twice in the back as he finished a service 23 years ago. If a church opts out, “Do you want ushers to stop you at the door and frisk you?”

Nathan Petty, a pastor at Beech Grove Baptist Church in Fordyce, has presented to legislators a petition from 40 preachers who support the bill.

“It’s not about gun rights; it’s about church rights,” Mr. Petty said. “Is it right for the state to make that decision for the church?”

School district votes for four-day week

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. | A school district has decided to shrink the school week from five days to four in an effort to save cash because of the deepening recession and falling enrollment.

The Bisbee Unified School District board voted Thursday to close schools every Friday for the next two school years. District Superintendent Gail Covington had recommended the shortened school week as a way to save $500,000 each year in the small southeastern Arizona town.

School days would be lengthened by an hour to make up the lost instructional time.

Bisbee Unified had just under 1,000 students during the 2007-2008 school year at four schools: an elementary, middle, junior high and high school. The superintendent has proposed closing the middle school and moving some grades.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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