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Nation in brief: Panel rejects weight-loss drug

Federal health advisers unanimously rejected a weight-loss drug Wednesday after hearing testimony that it increases the risk of suicidal thoughts, even in patients without a history of depression.

The manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis SA, further failed to show the drug rimonabant is safe, the panel said.

The back-to-back, 14-0 votes by the expert panel made it unlikely the Food and Drug Administration will approve the drug. The agency usually follows its panel’s advice, but it isn’t required to do so.

“There is a reasonable suspicion we better learn some more and watch this affair more closely before we launch into massive use of this drug,” said panelist Dr. Jules Hirsch, a senior physician at New York’s Rockefeller University.

In studies, patients given the once-daily tablet reported twice as many psychiatric side effects, including depression, anxiety and sleep problems, than those who received sham treatment, Dr. Amy Egan, an FDA medical officer, told the advisers.

“The numbers of events are small, but in aggregate they are worrisome,” Egan said.

New York

Haitian soccer players go AWOL

Most of a Haitian national youth soccer team apparently deserted the squad during an airport stopover hours before a planned Wednesday trip to South Korea to prepare for the upcoming FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

By Wednesday afternoon, five or six of the 13 missing players had returned to the airport and turned themselves in to team officials, said Felix Augustin, the Haitian consul in New York. It was unclear where the youngsters had been and why they had left the team, he said.

Most of the team’s 18 players, all under age 17, had gone missing from John F. Kennedy International Airport between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Augustin said.

The players arrived from Haiti on Tuesday and were scheduled to leave early Wednesday for Seoul, South Korea, to play in an exhibition tournament ahead of the World Cup, which takes place in South Korea from Aug. 18 to Sept. 9.

Augustin said authorities believed adults not traveling with the team may be involved in the players’ desertion and warned they could face criminal charges unless they turn over the minors.

Clay City, Ky.

Police chief killed by handcuffed man

A trusting, small-town police chief – the city’s only officer – was fatally shot Wednesday after he cuffed a suspect’s hands in the front instead of the back, authorities said.

In most circumstances, officers cuff in the back to restrict mobility. But cuffing in the front was a practice that Chief Randy Lacy, 55, often used when arresting people he knew, said Greg Adams, a Powell County sheriff’s deputy. The suspect, who had been stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence, had a long criminal history, records show.

It wasn’t clear how the suspect accessed a gun. But Lacy kept an extra gun in his cruiser between the front seat and the console, Adams said.

Charges were pending against Jamie Barnett, 37, state police spokesman Phil Crumpton said.


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