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FDA approves portable drug overdose treatment

Federal health regulators approved a drug overdose treatment device Thursday that experts say will provide a powerful, life-saving tool in the midst of a surging epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Similar to an EpiPen used to stop allergic reactions to bee stings, the easy-to-use injector — small enough to tuck into a pocket or a medicine cabinet — will be prescribed for emergency use by the relatives or friends of people who have overdosed.

The hand-held device, called Evzio, delivers a single dose of naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose, and will be used on those who have stopped breathing or lost consciousness from an opioid drug overdose. Naloxone is the standard treatment in such circumstances, but until now, has been available mostly in hospitals and other medical settings, when it is often used too late to save the patient.

The decision to quickly approve the new treatment, which is expected to be available this summer, comes as deaths from opioids continue to mount, including an increase in those from heroin, which contributed to the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in February. Federal health officials, facing criticism for failing to slow the rising death toll, are under pressure to act, experts say.

“This is a big deal and I hope gets wide attention,” said Dr. Carl R. Sullivan III, director of the addictions program at West Virginia University. “It’s pretty simple: Having these things in the hands of people around drug addicts just makes sense because you’re going to prevent unnecessary mortality.”

—Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times

Japan cancels whale hunt off Antarctica

TOKYO — Japan has canceled this year’s whale hunt off Antarctica just days after an international court ruled against the killings.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would comply with the court order, although the ministry in charge of the hunt canceled it for this year only, leaving open the possibility that Japan may try to revive it under different legal reasoning.

Japan had relied on a loophole in a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allowed killings for research purposes. The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday said that the scientific output from Japan’s whaling program in Antarctica appeared limited and suggested that the hunt was continued for political reasons.

While the hunt is not widely popular in Japan, it is backed by a group of nationalistic lawmakers who paint opponents as trampling Japanese culture.

—Martin Fackler, The New York Times