FDA Orders Registry

For Accutane Users

The thousands of Americans who take the acne drug Accutane -- and people who prescribe and dispense it -- must enroll in a national registry, part of a major government program to tighten access to the medicine that causes birth defects.

The Food and Drug Administration enacted unprecedented restrictions yesterday in trying to keep Accutane and its generic competitors on the market while also trying to ensure that women who use the pills do not get pregnant.

"This is a system that has been long in the works, and many would say is long overdue," said Sandra Kweder, FDA deputy drug chief.

Since Accutane hit the market in 1982, more than 2,000 pregnancies among users have been reported. The vast majority ended in abortion or miscarriage, but the FDA counts more than 160 babies born with drug-caused defects.

A baby can suffer severe brain and heart defects, mental retardation, and other abnormalities.

Balloons Retooled to

Study Global Warming

Atmospheric researchers studying global warming have sought for years to determine why readings taken from weather balloons did not show the same increases as readings on the ground. The difference has fueled skeptics of global warming.

Weather balloons are sent up around the world twice a day, and older versions of the balloons used temperature probes that were exposed. The result was higher-than-normal readings on probes sent up in daytime because of the sunlight exposure.

In more recent years, probes were developed that were shielded from the light.

As a result, as readings were rising on the ground they were not doing so up in the air because the extra solar heating was no longer warming the probes.

After correcting the problem, researchers at Yale University estimate there has been a global temperature increase of 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, per decade, for the past 30 years. Their findings were published in yesterday's online issue of the journal Science.

-- From News Services