NATION: FDA warning: Alcoholic energy drinks unsafe

FDA warning: Alcoholic energy drinks unsafe

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters Wednesday to four manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks often consumed by college students, saying the caffeine added to their beverages is an ‘‘unsafe food additive.’’

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks is a public health concern and can lead to ‘‘a state of wide-awake drunk.’’ Evidence has shown their consumption has led to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults, she said.

The government could eventually seize the products if the companies continue to make and market them. The companies have 15 days to respond to the letters and either explain how they will take their products off the market or defend their drinks as safe.

The government came under increasing pressure as college students have been hospitalized in recent months after consuming the drinks. The FDA said experts have raised concerns that the caffeine in the drinks can mask a person’s feeling of intoxication, leading to risky behavior. Many of those who consume the drinks are underage drinkers.

Doctors stunned at how well drug lowers cholesterol

CHICAGO — An experimental drug boosted good cholesterol so high and dropped bad cholesterol so low in a study that doctors were stunned and voiced renewed hopes for an entirely new way of preventing heart attacks and strokes.

‘‘We are the most excited we have been in decades,’’ said Dr. Christopher Cannon of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who led the study of the novel drug for Merck & Co. ‘‘This could really be the next big thing.’’

The drug, anacetrapib (an-uh-SEHT’-ruh-pihb), will not be on the market anytime soon. It needs more testing to see if its dramatic effects on cholesterol will translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths. Merck announced a 30,000-patient study to answer that question, and it will take several years.

SUV ticketed 3 times before body noticed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico parking attendants ticketed a rental vehicle parked on campus three times without noticing a dead woman slumped in the front seat.

Police found the body of the 47-year-old woman in the sport utility vehicle on Nov. 11. Her husband had reported her missing Nov. 4.

Albuquerque police spokeswoman Sgt. Trish Hoffman said Wednesday the woman’s death appears to be a suicide, and police have closed their investigation. Hoffman said spotting her earlier would not have changed the outcome.

She said the driver’s seat was laid back and the woman appeared to be asleep. Hoffman also said she could not be seen easily.

GM to price common shares at $33 for IPO

DETROIT — General Motors says its common stock will sell for $33 per share when its initial public offering takes place today.

The IPO brings the U.S. government closer to getting back part of the $50 billion it gave GM to help it through bankruptcy protection last year.

The government will sell 412 million shares and get $13.6 billion. It will still have about 500 million shares, or about 33 percent of GM. It would have to sell them for $53 a share, or $26.4 billion, for taxpayers to get back their $50 billion back.

Illinois mulls more gambling to fight deficit

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers are taking a new look at expanded gambling as a way to reduce the state’s massive budget deficit.

Lawmakers have talked for years about adding new casinos or putting slot machines at racetracks, but the proposals have always fallen apart. They’re getting more serious attention now, with the state facing a roughly $15 billion deficit.

The plan under discussion would add five new casinos -- one in Chicago and four others around the state. Existing casinos would be allowed to expand.

Mine executive blames explosion on natural gas

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chief executive of Massey Energy Co. is changing his tack on what caused the coal mine explosion that killed 29 miners in West Virginia, blaming the tragedy on natural gas rather than methane.

Massey investigators have discovered the Upper Big Branch mine was inundated at the time of the April explosion with natural gas, which the company now blames for causing the nation’s deadliest coal mine explosion since 1970, Don Blankenship said Wednesday in New York.