An Alameda County ordinance puts the responsibility for drug disposal squarely on the companies that made the medicines. States and the federal government have considered similar measures, but none has passed.
The first in a new class of drugs that can cure the viral infection that is the leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer is poised for a marketing green light from the Food and Drug Administration. More than 3 million Americans have hepatitis C, but most don't know it.
Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber and Jennifer LaFleur, ProPublica
Paying doctors to prescribe particular drugs is illegal. But drugmakers pay some doctors to talk with their peers about prescription drugs. The speakers say they aren't influenced by the money they get for promoting the drugs. But data show many of them are top prescribers of the medicines.
Emergency contraceptives like Plan B and ella are effective at preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. Claims that the pills are tantamount to abortion, however, aren't supported by science, say researchers. The only way the drugs work is by stopping a woman's body from ovulating.
Small amounts of the drugs that people take end up in wastewater and then in streams and rivers. It's usually not enough to harm the health of humans who swim in or drink the water. But there is growing evidence that pharmaceuticals in wastewater may affect wildlife.
The active ingredient in many sleep aid medications like Ambien stays in the body longer than had been thought, which could leave people drowsy the next day. So the Food and Drug Administration is ordering pharmaceutical companies to change the labeling on drugs containing the ingredient zolpidem.
The year saw some disappointments in the development of drugs to treat Alzheimer's. But the setbacks were offset by progress in other areas. The upshot from this year's mixed results, some scientists say, is that treatment for Alzheimer's needs to start long before forgetfulness and muddled thinking are apparent.