News Chew

Last week the Federal Trade Commission approved orders settling charges against two companies selling caffeine-infused underwear.  Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc. and Wacoal America, Inc. don’t have to recall the underwear made from fabric with microencapsulated caffeine, retinol and other ingredients, but they have to stop pretending the items will do anything but keep your junk in place. Also, they have to pay a combined about $1.5 million towards refunds for those souls that dared to believe.

Do you have questions? Naturally.

Curtain up 

TIC: Have you heard about this caffeine underwear?

TAC: No I haven’t. By all means, tell me about the caffeine underwear. For starters, huh?

TIC: The underwear is infused with caffeine. It’s shapewear and boxer briefs—

TAC: —that you wear? Like, on your body?

TIC: Yes yes of course. That’s the point.

TAC: How bizarre. So, the caffeine in the underwear is meant to leave the fabric and go into your body?

TIC: Well sure. But these two companies that sell them just got fined by the FTC.

TAC: Yea that sounds kind of shady. But, I dunno, I guess the nicotine patch is pretty standard. And don’t they sell transdermal patches with birth control hormones in them? Say, my initial opinion on the topic of caffeine underwear is beginning to change!

TIC: Oh, no no no. That’s not—I see that I’ve confused you.

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News Chew

Any platform where a company can engage directly with potential customers is obviously a powerful tool to be harnessed; a healthy social media presence is important for the success of most businesses. When you work in regulated markets like pharmaceuticals or alcohol, engaging with a potential customer base can get a little tricky, especially where “tricky” means harmful and expensive. Let’s agree that this is also your working definition of “risk”.

It would be hard to argue that a company’s social media presence is anything besides a more dynamic outlet for advertising. For regulated markets, mitigating risk even when advertising in “traditional” platforms like print and TV gets a bit lumpy (e.g. the pretty ad with a lady enjoying a tire swing has to be that much more appealing to allay the turn-off of a full page of micro print describing risks and side effects), but the rules and implications around use of social media is fuzzier, so those risks can grow.

Enter Reg-SM, a new launch from the social-media marketing agency, Attention. Reg-SM specializes in helping businesses in those regulated markets use social and mobile media in ways that are legally compliant.

Just in time, it seems, as last week the FDA proposed new guidelines for companies who post about their drugs or medical devices on social media platforms. The guidelines would require that any tweet or post or unit of social media speech (air quotes optional) promoting a drug or medical device to include the product’s risks and adverse side effects. It’s hard for me to imagine a worthwhile tweet about a prescription drug anyway, but to jam anything but the risks of a drug into a tweet seems impossible.

Always helpful, the FDA has offered a sample tweet for a fictional drug that sounds kind of attractive to me.

NoFocus (rememberine HCl) for mild to moderate memory loss-May cause seizures in patients with a seizure disorder

Sign me up, I guess. Quick aside, though: how odd for a drug to be named after not the affliction (still weird), but the cause of the affliction the drug is meant to address. When I have a headache I reach for my bottle of JawClenchesWhenSleepDeprived.

These new guidelines are going to make it very difficult for companies to tweet about their products.  The FDA’s NoFocus conveniently has only one risk to list, but even relatively safe drugs often have a number of possible side effects and risks. While I’m not sad about maybe never seeing a tweet about Viagra, these guidelines don’t seem to demonstrate a working knowledge of the platform.

Possibly more quietly impactful, the guidelines also prohibit a company from curating discussions on it’s own website by adding positive reviews and taking down negative ones.

News Chew

The DEA held its eighth national prescription drug takeback event at the end of April and pulled in hundreds of tons of pills.

Non-medical use of prescription drugs is undeniably the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. (the only substance with a higher rate of new users is cannabis) and since over half of users are getting the drugs from friends or family, it makes sense that the DEA has focused on diverting that supply at the medicine cabinet before it changes hands.

It seems like the DEA would like us to think that the risk of holding on to old medication is that someone could take them without our consent. A 2012 Carnevale Associates policy brief on the efficacy of drug takebacks reports that users get drugs from friends or family without permission (steal them) only about 5% of the time—keeping our meds away from sneaky cohabitants is hardly the problem. If the DEA’s drug take back program is effective in curbing non-medical prescription drug use, it won’t be because fewer opioids will be available for theft, it will be effective because we will have fewer opioids on hand give to our friends. We are who cannot be trusted with our own drugs.

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News Chew

The DEA has apparently been staking out Midwest Hydroganics of Illinois for a few years; 46-year-old Angela Kirking is only the most recent individual to be hassled after shopping there. Whether or not the search warrant holds, discovering some weed in a lady’s “art room” seems like a waste of clean uniforms.

In the gritty TV show where I imagine all drug raids take place, pulling up a few grams of weed is hardly a DUN DUN DUN moment. I can’t think of a more benign place for marijuana to be found than in the art room of some funky lady who paints faces for a living and eats the petals off her organic hibiscus plant.

Now that she knows the DEA is watching the spot she bought some compost at that one time, she does not plan to take her business elsewhere.

“I’d love to send all my friends [to Midwest Hydroganics] to see how far they take this.”

Her new goal in the drug war is to run the DEA around until they tucker themselves out. This week I am helping my landlord put in a bunch of raised beds and beside the buttloads of weed the City of Oakland requires we grow, I will be sticking in a hibiscus.

Stories like these don’t help the DEA with their reputation for being a little silly and maybe a lot deaf.  In a press conference last week DEA Chief Michele Leonhart provided a pull-quote for all saying the trend of relaxing opinions on cannabis in the U.S. only makes her “fight harder.”

It’s unnerving for a government agent to declare that citizens don’t know what’s good for them and the more those citizens change their minds, the harder that agency will resist changing gears. Because you’ll see, you’ll all see!

America is uninterested in seeing the Angela Kirkings of the world arrested at gunpoint for a stash of what they probably adorably still call dope. But for each article written about an upper-middle-class white lady getting arrested for possession, law enforcement arrests lots of black and brown people for pretty much the same thing without the media saying “boo.” Articles like the one in the Shorewood Patch get picked up because they fit a certain storyline. More on that in a later post

Anyway, if all this seems anecdotal, here comes some fun new data from Pew Research showing that most people in the U.S. think cannabis will eventually be legal everywhere. Regarding the “hard” drugs, a growing majority of Americans believe time and resources are better spent on recovery than prosecution. Also cocaine use is down (yay) and heroine use is up (boo).

News Chew

What responsibility does the cannabis industry have to keep their marketing away from children?

Partnership at, formerly Partnership for a Drug-Free America, has decided against running ads critical of cannabis legalization in Colorado and Washington, but they will be staging an educational PR campaign focused on how legalization could affect minors.

Does free speech mean that cannabis sellers should be able to advertise wherever they want? Marketing restrictions are in place in both Washington and Colorado, but CEO of the Partnership Steve Pasierb has said he believes those restrictions will ultimately fall apart in court. It seems natural that cannabis marketing could go the way of liquor and cigarettes but it has been well argued that those restrictions don’t go far enough. Will it take a lawsuit settlement to restrict cannabis marketing for good?

News Chew

On Monday Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill requiring any individual seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) cash assistance who are deemed “reasonably likely to have a substance use disorder” to undergo drug testing before they can receive cash support.

Does this program provide effective incentives for addicts to get clean? Or is it essentially punitive? Does this mean families with an addict head of household will have to jump through more hoops to pay their and their children’s expenses? How does this help?

Those who test positive for a controlled substance may still receive cash assistance if they enroll in and complete an offered drug treatment plan. Cash assistance will end if any follow-up drug test (during or after treatment) is positive, with substantial waiting periods to re-apply: 90 days for the first positive test, 12 months for the second. Individuals chosen for drug testing will be determined by their answers to a written questionnaire.

It looks like the screening process won’t effect TANF food stamps or EBT, so reflects a logic that a drug addict cannot be trusted with cash money.

Bryant said the new program will “make a positive difference for families impacted by substance abuse,” indicating that the screening process is an appropriate part of the TANF program’s mission to provide a “safety net for families in need.”

It goes into effect July 1st.

The bill:

Gov. Phil Bryant’s March 12 press release