Archive for March 27th, 2015

FDA approves Viagra

On this day in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves use of the drug Viagra, an oral medication that treats impotence.

Sildenafil, the chemical name for Viagra, is an artificial compound that was originally synthesized and studied to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a form of cardiovascular disease). Chemists at the Pfizer pharmaceutical company found, however, that while the drug had little effect on angina, it could induce penile erections, typically within 30 to 60 minutes. Seeing the economic opportunity in such a biochemical effect, Pfizer decided to market the drug for impotence. Sildenafil was patented in 1996, and a mere two years later–a stunningly short time compared to other drugs–it was approved by the FDA for use in treating “erectile dysfunction,” the new clinical name for impotence. Though unconfirmed, it is believed the drug was invented by Peter Dunn and Albert Wood.

Viagra’s massive success was practically instantaneous. In the first year alone, the $8-$10 pills yielded about a billion dollars in sales. Viagra’s impact on the pharmaceutical and medical industries, as well as on the public consciousness, was also enormous. Though available by prescription only, Viagra was marketed on television, famously touted by ex-presidential candidate Bob Dole, then in his mid-70s. Such direct-to-consumer marketing was practically unprecedented for prescription drugs (now, sales and marketing account for approximately 30 percent of the pharmaceutical industry’s costs, in some cases more than research and development). The drug was also offered over the internet–customers needed only to fill out an “online consultation” to receive samples.

An estimated 30 million men in the United States suffer from erectile dysfunction and a wave of new Viagra competitors, among them Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil), has blown open the market. Drug companies are now not just targeting older men like Dole, but men in their 30s and 40s, too. As with many drugs, the long-term effects of Viagra on men’s health are still unclear (Viagra does carry warnings for those who suffer from heart trouble), but its popularity shows no signs of slowing. To date, over 20 million Americans have tried it, and that number is sure to increase as the baby boomer population continues to age.

California AG asks court to stop ‘Sodomite Suppression Act

If the court does not grant her a special exemption, California’s Attorney General may be obligated by law to process a ballot initiative that would legalize the killing of homosexuals.

Named the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” the initiative calls for putting to death “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification.”

Under California law, the Attorney General’s Office has the responsibility to prepare and issue all submitted ballot initiatives, releasing them to the public for signature gathering.

“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement Wednesday, asking the court to relieve her from the obligation to process the proposal.

“If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism,” Harris added.

Submitted by Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, the initiative reads: “Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

The proposal also declares that individuals who distribute “sodomistic” propaganda “shall be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.”

California has practiced direct democracy through referenda since 1849. Ballot proposition initiatives were introduced in 1911. A ballot initiative that collects enough signatures – currently five percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election, or 365,880 – becomes a Proposition and will be put before voters in the November general elections.

“My understanding is that once you’ve paid your fee, submitted your language, the Attorney General is obligated to write a title and summary,” Bakersfield political consultant Stan Harper, who has written several of his own ballot initiatives, told local KBAK/KBFX News.

“Once you sign these, your name goes to the registrar of voters, and anybody can look up your name to see what petitions you’ve signed,” Harper added.

Meanwhile, community activist Charlotte Laws has submitted her own ballot initiative, dubbed the ‘Intolerant Jackass Act.’ It parodies the language of McLaughlin’s proposal and calls for “any person who brings forward a ballot measure that suggests the killing of gays or lesbians” to be punished by having to donate $5000 to a “pro-gay” or “pro-lesbian” organization and undergo three days of “sensitivity training” each month for a year.