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SATI e-News: August 1, 2002

  

 
In This Issue:
      
    
  FDA Approval of Rx GHB Poses New Challenge for Law Enforcement
 


Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a formulation of GHB for indication of cataplexy, a rare disorder that causes unexpected loss of muscle control. An estimated 20,000 to 50,000 narcoleptics suffer from cataplexy, according to the Associated Press.

Manufactured by Orphan Medical Inc., the drug will be available by prescription only, and will be sold under the brand name Xyrem. The FDA mandated that Orphan distribute Xyrem under strict controls, whereby the drug will only be available to patients from a single, specialty pharmacy controlled by Orphan.

GHB is best known as a “rape drug,” after rapists began to use it in the early 1990s to incapacitate their victims. But it is also widely used recreationally at bars, “rave” parties and other social gatherings to lower inhibitions. In addition, athletes are frequent users, having become addicted after taking the drug as a steroid alternative.

“Approval of Xyrem will make the jobs of law enforcement much tougher,” warns Trinka Porrata, a former Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detective and now a board member of the non-profit Project GHB (www.projectghb.org). Porrata has long opposed approval of Xyrem, and she has testified before both Congress and the FDA as an expert witness.

Besides the diversion of Xyrem for street use, Porrata is also concerned that law enforcement will face the introduction of Xyrem prescription and bottles (real or fake) in overcoming possession charges. “Testing for GHB is already a huge challenge for law enforcement,” according to Porrata. “The introduction of Xyrem adds yet another layer of complexity.”

While Xyrem is a Schedule III controlled substance, GHB remains a Schedule I drug, illegal to possess, transport, manufacture and distribute. Those who defy the law face stiff penalties, including prison terms. Abuse of Xyrem will be treated under Schedule I penalties, according to the Samantha Reid Act.

Sources: Project GHB, www.projectghb.org.

Project GHB offers a PowerPoint slide show presentation on GHB, MDMA and ketamine, which is downloadable for a modest donation of $12. Proceeds benefit Project GHB’s outreach efforts.

“Orphan Medical Announces Approval of Xyrem,” http://www.orphan.com/articledetail.cfm?aid=4&id=342, July 17, 2002, Orphan Medical.

“FDA Approves ‘Date-Rape’ Drug to Treat Sleep Disorder; GHB First Medication to Be Sold for Cataplexy,” Associated Press, July 18, 2002.

“Question and Answer FAQ about Xyrem, FDA web site, http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/xyrem/xyrem_qa.htm.

“FDA Approves Xyrem For Cataplexy Attacks in Patients with Narcolepsy,”
FDA web site, http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/2002/ANS01157.html, July 17, 2002.

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  California Attorney General to Appear at San Diego Conference
   
The Honorable Bill Lockyer, California’s Attorney General, will be on hand to accept the 2003 Visionary Award from SATI and STOPDV at their third annual conference, to be held in San Diego April 23-25. Conference organizers Anne O’Dell (STOPDV) and Joanne Archambault (SATI) announced Lockyer’s acceptance of the award, at the same time as they released the entire conference agenda.
 
Lockyer is being recognized specifically for his successful initiative to process the backlog of tens of thousands of rape kits in the state of California. The Attorney General will be only the second individual to be honored with this distinction. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was the recipient of the first annual Visionary award, which was bestowed at the 2002 SATI/STOPDV conference.
 
O’Dell and Archambault also announced a full and exciting agenda which features 34 experts in sexual assault and domestic violence from all over the country. Conference details and agenda are available at http://www.mysati.com/2003_conference.htm.

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  Crime Labs Suffer From Funding Challenges
   
Houston, Texas
The Houston City Council allocated additional funds for the upcoming fiscal year to address the abysmal conditions of the Houston Crime Laboratory, thanks to the persistence of Jennifer LaCoss who worked at the lab as a Criminalist for the past two years. LaCoss resigned her position while protesting the conditions at the laboratory facility. In her letter, which was copied to the City Council, the Mayor, and the Chief of Police, LaCoss stated that the condition of the laboratory poses a hazard to lab staff and jeopardizes the integrity of the lab’s findings.
 
The funds from the City will be used to help repair the building, which suffered structural damage during a massive tropical storm. Since the storm, the laboratory experienced serious leaks, risking contamination of forensic and biological material.
 
In addition to a $1.5 million federal grant to reduce the DNA backlog, $600,000 in additional City funding will help Houston process and outsource some of the backlog of 19,000 rape kits. At least 1,000 new rape kits are added to Houston’s backlog every year. Laboratory officials are also working to bring the salaries of lab personnel, now at 50% of market value, more in line with comparable positions in the private and public sectors.

Alabama
Dr. James C. Upshaw Downs, the director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, resigned to become medical examiner in Savannah, Georgia. Downs’ resignation came within days after he notified law enforcement officials of cutbacks the department is planning to take October 1 due to a budget shortage of $2.2 million. The proposed cutbacks include closing regional labs, reducing staff and discontinuing transporting bodies to crime labs.
 
Source: Reprinted with permission from DNA Legislation & News, published by Smith Alling Lane, a government affairs firm that provides nationwide governmental affairs services to Applied Biosystems: http://docs.appliedbiosystems.com/hid.taf

Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, the state Forensics Laboratory has announced it will no longer analyze DNA samples or provide expert testimony in rape and murder cases, due to budget cuts enacted by the General Assembly. A spending cut of about $2 million is causing the Department of Health to reduce workload at the Forensics Laboratory and reassign three of its five scientists. Lawmakers specifically cut $100,000 from the lab.
 
Source: Reprinted with permission from DNA Legislation & News, published by Smith Alling Lane, http://docs.appliedbiosystems.com/hid.taf

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  LAPD Mistakenly Destroys 1,100 Rape Kits
   
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) claims lack of training is responsible for the mistaken destruction of forensic evidence in as many as 1,100 rape cases in which prosecution was feasible, according to the Los Angeles Times. The LA Times further reports that the detectives who ordered the disposal of the rape kits were unaware that the California state legislature rewrote the statute of limitations in 2001. The statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault, was increased from six years to ten years and effectively eliminated in cases where a DNA profile is obtained.
 
The LAPD admitted the mistaken disposal of the rape kits only recently after a four-month dispute between the LAPD and the District Attorney’s Forensic Science Director who charged that evidence in as many as 4,000 sexual assault cases in LA County may have been lost or destroyed by law enforcement. County law enforcement officials advised the City Council that their count of the discarded rape kits continues.
 
Sources:
“LAPD Says Evidence Destroyed,” Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2002.
“LAPD Blames Faulty Training in DNA Snafu,” Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2002.

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  Coordinated Community Response Well-Received By Sexual Assault Survivors
   
Sexual Assault victims in San Diego are well-served by its Sexual Assault Response (SART) Team, according to a confidential survey of sexual assault victims/survivors who received services in the county in 2000 and 2001.
 
The county knew they had made significant improvements, such as cutting down on response times by hours for sexual assault victims to be evaluated at the hospital and interviewed by the police. But they did not know how the victims perceived their efforts.
 
The surveys were distributed to 916 victims after their sexual assault examinations. Forensic examiners provided the survey to victims upon discharge from the hospital, and a pre-addressed stamped envelope was included to return the completed survey. A total of 184 surveys were completed and returned, for a response rate of 20.31%.
 
The survey results show that victims are very satisfied with the services they received from the advocates, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), police officers and detectives (this survey assessed the role of first responders only; a separate survey is being designed to evaluate victims’ perceptions of their interactions with the district attorney’s office).
 
SANE’s received the highest rating with 93% of the survivors rating their services as excellent. 87% of the survivors rated the services provided by the community based advocate as excellent to good, and 85 % reported the services provided by the police officers and detectives as excellent to good.
 
 

Service Provider

Victim Advocate

SANE

Officer/

Detective

 

# of Surveys

% of Surveys

# of Surveys

% of Surveys

# of Surveys

% of Surveys

Excellent

149

80 %

173

93%

129

68%

Good

13

7 %

10

5%

31

17%

Average

5

3 %

1

1%

7

4%

Poor

2

1 %

0

0

5

3%

Not Reported

17

9 %

2

1%

14

8%

Total

186

100 %

186

100%

186

100%

   
In their comments, the survivors expressed gratitude for the speed, efficiency and compassion of the SART professionals:

They went beyond the call of duty. I’m deeply grateful.”
 
“I can’t say that any of this was a pleasant experience, but the way everything was handled was comfortable for me.”

“I received swift appropriate response from the time I called 911 to the time I was released. Everyone Involved did an excellent job of making me feel safe and well treated.”

San Diego’s SART team has been in operation since 1991, and holds monthly Systems Review Committee meetings, which are coordinated by Emergency Medical Services. Advocacy services in San Diego county are provided by the Center for Community Solutions, EYE Counseling and Crisis Services and the Women’s Resource Center, North County. VillaView Hospital, Childen’s Hospital and Palomar Pomerado Health System provide forensic nursing services. Please contact Joanne Archambault at joanne@mysati.com for a copy of the complete survey.

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  San Diego Police Department Uses Web Site to Help Increase Reporting of Sexual Assault
   
It has long been the goal of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Sex Crimes Unit to increase reporting of sexual assault, by far the least reported violent crime in any jurisdiction. To help achieve this goal, the department is utilizing the SDPD web site to answer some of the questions known to prevent victims from coming forward.
 
The site explains the rights of the sexual assault victim in San Diego County, including confidentiality as well as the right to revoke his or her testimony at any time, with the exception of domestic violence. The victim is also assured of the right to an advocate, and cites the California penal code that assures that right.
 
The SDPD hopes that by providing this information in an accessible and anonymous setting, survivors will feel safe to explore their options, and that it may encourage many to report their crimes to police.

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  Upcoming Conferences
   
Sept 24-28, San Diego, CA

International Conference on Family Violence
Phone 858/623-2777 ext. 427 or fvconf@alliant.edu.
 
October 9-13, Minneapolis, MN
International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), 10th Annual Scientific Assembly
Register online at http://www.iafn.org/events/02conf/ or contact Kim Marrero at phone 856/256-2425 or iafn@ajj.com.
 
November 7-8, New Orleans
Training in state-of-the-art sexual assault and domestic violence investigation.
Joanne Archambault of Sexual Assault Training & Investigations (SATI) and Anne O’Dell of Specialized Training on Preventing Domestic Violence (STOPDV).
Registration $150 per person, seating limited to 200. More details and registration form at http://www.mysati.com/reg_la_11_2002.htm or email Anne O’Dell at anne2215@aol.com.

For a list of other upcoming events, please contact joanne@mysati.com or visit our Training Schedule.

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