Synthetic marijuana for pharmacists
Feb24

Synthetic marijuana for pharmacists

As a former pharmacy professor, I’m honored that a couple of our old and new blogposts have been picked up by colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. Clinical Assistant Professor and drug information specialist, Jennifer Seltzer, PharmD, and her intern, Tiffany LaDow, PharmD, included us in their online durg information alert entitled, “‘Spice’ It Up – A New Way to Get High: What Pharmacists Need to Know.” This type of distillation by LaDow and Seltzer is representative of exactly the kinds of briefs I used to enjoy writing for the Colorado Pharmacists’ Society and are what motivated my establishment of this blog when I was out of academia. I always found that practicing pharmacists appreciated these kinds of timely alerts complete with the basic science underlying these developments. My only suggestion to my pharmacy colleagues is that they might care to embed hyperlinks in their reference list. I’m not being entirely self-serving (although I appreciate the readership). If you’re going to go through the trouble to reference blogposts and other peer-reviewed references complete with the URLs, just embed the URLs for easy clicking. In fact, one of the URLs in the reference list has a spacing issue that improperly directs the readers when copying-and-pasting. Nevertheless, thank you for directing Texas pharmacists to our humble little blog! Thanks to TIME Healthland writer and author, Maia Szalavitz While we’re on this topic, I also need to thank science journalist, Maia Szalavitz, for citing our work yesterday in the widely-read TIME Healthland blog where she is a regular contributor. “Outlawing ‘Legal Highs:’ Can Emergency Bans Hinder Drug Development?” addresses the often-overlooked consequences of broadly assigning compounds to Schedule I of the US Controlled Substances Act: Compounds that may not have been adequately studied for therapeutic benefit might never be fully investigated if relegated to this most-restricted status. By definition, Schedule I compounds have no known medical benefit. However, if they are not studied for medical benefit, none will be found. In support of this notion, Szalvitz cited a 2005 Journal of Neuroscience paper from a Spanish neurodegeneration research group led by Dr. Maria de Ceballos at Madrid’s Cajal Institute. Following from work showing that senile plaques from Alzheimer’s disease patients express cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors, the investigators showed that synthetic cannabinoids can prevent β-amyloid peptide-induced activation of microglial cells, known to produce inflammatory mediators that are neurotoxic. Preventing an major neurodegenerative disease with psychoactive compounds might not necessarily lead to a major therapeutic advance. However, the basic pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders can certainly be advanced by access to these research tools. DEA...

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NC legislators aim to clean up “bath salt” omission
Feb19

NC legislators aim to clean up “bath salt” omission

Earlier this week, I wrote about on the comprehensive chemistry text in two North Carolina state bills – H12/S9 and H13/S7 – to criminalize distribution, sales, and possession of compounds present in a variety of legal-high, designer drug products. One bill specifically addressed compounds present in synthetic marijuana compounds whose extensive list included those eponymous JWH compounds synthesized in the laboratory of Clemson University Professor Emeritus, John W. Huffman (featured here). The other bill addressed mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone; 4-MMC) and other structural analogs of this amphetamine and cathinone derivative. However, I noted my surprise at the time at the omission of a compound more commonly associated with so-called bath salt products: MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone. My neuroscience blogging colleague DrugMonkey also remarked to me of his surprise since most other states deal with MDPV in the same legislation with mephedrone/4-MMC because of their structural similarity. But on Thursday I was tipped off by WRAL-TV Capitol News Bureau Director, Laura Leslie, that a separate bill, Senate Bill 77 (S77), was just filed by State Senator Stan Bingham (R, NC-33) that specifically proposes to criminalize MDPV. Unlike the earlier bills, this one does not appear to currently have a House counterpart so I’m unclear as to how this will be dealt with in the other body. The bill now goes to judiciary committee. The “bath salt” phenomenon began to grab US media attention in late 2010 as state poison control centers began to receive reports of emergency room visits by people using legal high products that were not synthetic marijuana. According to Mark Ryan, Louisiana Poison Control Center Director, these products are sold under such names as Cloud 9, Ivory Wave, Ocean, Charge Plus, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove and White Dove. These currently skirt drug laws by claiming “not for human consumption” or as bath salts, plant food, or insect repellent. As with synthetic marijuana products, an advantage of these drugs is that they can’t be detected by the most common urinary drug screens such as the SAMHSA 5 (Quest Diagnostics example here). These products providing those on probation or otherwise subject to mandatory drug testing with a psychoactive alternative to amphetamines or Ecstasy. TIME Healthland writer, Maia Szalavitz, remarked to me recently of her concern about kids hearing stories about “bath salts” and then trying to smoke Mom’s Calgon. Not a good idea. Trying to do so may indeed, “take me away.” From a neuropharmacology perspective, even less data are available on MDPV than for mephedrone. MDPV is the 3,4-methylenedioxy derivative of pyrovalerone, a compound first synthesized by Heffe in 1964 and investigated in the 1970s in Europe as...

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NIGMS proud of support for chemistry
Feb16

NIGMS proud of support for chemistry

Dr. Jeremy Berg, Director of NIH’s National Institute for General Medical Sciences, is well known across the academic science blogosphere for engaging with his stakeholders. Dr. Berg comments on blog posts, returns researcher e-mail messages, and is an all-around role model when it comes to serving his grantees (Disclosure: I hold a NIGMS award but am on record as feeling this way about Dr. Berg even before I received my current grant). So, it’s not surprising that his other NIGMS leaders also reach out in their respective areas. Today, my attention was just brought to this February 9th post by Dr. Mike Rogers, Director of the NIGMS Division for Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry, at the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog. There, Dr. Rogers acknowledges the International Year of Chemistry but citing the long record of NIGMS in supporting chemistry research: The launch of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 is a good opportunity to reflect on the NIGMS role in supporting research in this central field of science. NIGMS is the leading institute at NIH in funding chemical research, supporting a range of studies focusing on such areas as the development of synthetic methodologies for new drug discovery and synthesis; the role of metals in biological systems; and the discovery of new analytical techniques for the detection, identification and quantification of human metabolites. In fact, just about every branch of chemistry has a connection to the study of human health [boldface mine – DK]. Dr. Rogers notes therein that NIGMS has supported the work of laureates for 36 Nobel Prizes in chemistry. On the other end of the spectrum, he notes the active role in mentoring that NIGMS has been playing, particularly with new faculty workshops in organic and bio-organic chemistry since 2005. You can read the complete Chemistry at NIGMS post by Dr. Rogers...

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Strong chemistry in NC bills banning legal highs
Feb12

Strong chemistry in NC bills banning legal highs

On Wednesday, two bills passed unanimously in the North Carolina State Senate that would outlaw synthetic cannabimimetics and mephedrone. These compounds are currently sold as Spice incense (e.g., K2, Black Mamba) or “bath salts” (e.g., Ivory Wave), respectively. (Many thanks to WRAL-TV Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and fellow blogger DrugMonkey for alerting me to these bills via Twitter.). Legislatively, similar bills have been passed and laws enacted in states and municipalities around the US while a proposed scheduling rule by the federal drug agency, the DEA, languishes in an administrative and legal morass. The synthetic marijuana bill, House Bill 12 (Senate 9) and the mephedrone bill, House Bill 13 (Senate 7), were originally both put forth in the NC House by co-sponsors led by Representative George Cleveland (R, NC-14) of Jacksonville, North Carolina, home to the US Marine base Camp Lejeune. Cleveland himself is a retired, 25-year US Marine. The US military has been far ahead of other state and federal agencies in prohibiting use of these chemicals and associated products. But for readers of this blog, the part of the NC bills that most impressed me was the exhaustive and near-encyclopedia listing of chemicals to be outlawed under the bills. For example, while the DEA has proposed to only regulate five compounds (and implied prohibition of structural analogs), take a gander at this list: The following controlled substances are included in this schedule: (6) Synthetic cannabinoids. – Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any quantity of the following substances, their salts, isomers (whether optical, positional, or geometric), homologues, and salts of isomers and homologues, unless specifically excepted, whenever the existence of these salts, isomers, homologues, and salts of isomers and homologues is possible within the specific chemical designation: a. Naphthoylindoles. Any compound containing a 3‑(1‑naphthoyl)indole structure with substitution at the nitrogen atom of the indole ring by an alkyl, haloalkyl, alkenyl, cycloalkylmethyl, cycloalkylethyl, 1‑(N‑methyl‑2‑piperidinyl)methyl, or 2‑(4‑morpholinyl)ethyl group, whether or not further substituted in the indole ring to any extent and whether or not substituted in the naphthyl ring to any extent. Some trade or other names: JWH‑015, JWH‑018, JWH‑019, JWH‑073, JWH‑081, JWH‑122, JWH‑200, JWH‑210, JWH‑398, AM‑2201, WIN 55‑212. b. Naphthylmethylindoles. Any compound containing a 1H‑indol‑3‑yl‑(1‑naphthyl)methane structure with substitution at the nitrogen atom of the indole ring by an alkyl, haloalkyl, alkenyl, cycloalkylmethyl, cycloalkylethyl, 1‑(N‑methyl‑2‑piperidinyl)methyl, or 2‑(4‑morpholinyl)ethyl group, whether or not further substituted in the indole ring to any extent and whether or not substituted in the naphthyl ring to any extent. c. Naphthoylpyrroles. Any compound containing a 3‑(1‑naphthoyl)pyrrole structure with substitution at the nitrogen atom of the pyrrole ring by an alkyl, haloalkyl, alkenyl, cycloalkylmethyl, cycloalkylethyl,...

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Open-access: ACS honors African American chemists for Black History Month
Feb07

Open-access: ACS honors African American chemists for Black History Month

In the United States, the month of February is known as Black History Month – a time to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to all facets of our lives. The ACS has done an absolutely wonderful job in offering an open-access feature on eleven of the most noteworthy Black chemists from across American history. The stories of these remarkable individuals span from New Orleans chemist Norbert Rilleaux and his industrial evaporation process for sugar refining to Marie Maynard Daly, the first African American woman Ph.D. in chemistry, then all the way up to our first two African American presidents of the American Chemical Society. The individual entries are accompanied by other ACS-associated resources such as the National Historic Chemical Landmark program – where the work of three of the featured chemists is honored – and biographies put together by the ACS-affiliated Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia who I spoke of last week. For science educators, whether at K-12 or university level, these biographies are fabulous for helping students appreciate just how rich the field of chemistry is with African American contributions. In all of these cases, these outstanding investigators had to overcome great obstacles to their success, societal and financial. However, we should all celebrate these remarkable individuals for their contributions to our rich history – regardless of their individual heritage. The eleven chemists represented in this feature are timeless giants in the field. In my field of natural products, the chemist Percy Julian is revered – and his story was elegantly portrayed in the PBS NOVA documentary, Forgotten Genius. Julian is perhaps best known for his original work on the synthesis of the cholinesterase inhibitor, physostigmine, for glaucoma and the search for cortisone precursors to treat the most debilitating forms of rheumatoid arthritis. My only criticism of this feature is that the lack of a twelfth block on the graphic above is rather glaring – as is the presence of only one woman. Does this mean that there was difficulty in identifying one more Black chemist of similar stature? If so, we – I mean all of us in chemistry and chemistry education – need to do a better job in providing equal opportunities to African American chemistry students and those of other traditionally marginalized groups. This is otherwise a tremendous resource – make sure you peruse it to see how you might best use this information in your own teaching or personal appreciation for the history of the...

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