Reg Watch

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has proposed classifying the obesity drug Lorcaserin as a controlled substance, a move that would limit how often a doctor could prescribe it.

If added to the narcotics classification list, Lorcaserin — often known by the brand name Belviq —would join the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the sleep aid Ambien and stimulants like Modafinil as schedule IV drugs.

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The Food and Drug Administration approved Lorcaserin earlier this year, after first rejecting it in 2010 for heart-related safety reasons.

The drug has not yet been marketed in the United States or abroad, but testing suggests that the drug might cause hallucinations. Due to the drug’s ability “to produce euphoria in humans, it is anticipated that there will be significant use contrary to or without medical advice,” DEA said.

In animal testing, Lorcaserin decreased the amount of food rats ate in a 24-hour span. For humans taking more than the recommended dose, the drug had high instances of making the patient feel “spaced out” and “detached,” according to DEA. 

Federal officials say the drug could produce a psychiatric dependency in users, though not a physical one. 


DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is beginning to establish standards for implementing provisions from the America Invents Act, which becomes effective in March of next year. 

The patent legislation received a hefty amount of criticism before it was signed into law. Among the more controversial items was a change in the patent award system from a “first-to-invent” to a “first-to-file” procedure, which critics argued would give favor to large corporations over small investors. 

Wednesday’s notice in the Federal Register only handles the portion of the law that would enact a classification below being a “small” entity inventor, called a “micro-entity” inventor. Hoping to curb the advantage larger companies may have in developing new products, micro-entities would receive a 75 percent reduction in patent application fees and other charges. Those costs, fees and charges for legal help can run into the thousands of dollars.

Among the qualifications for micro-entity consideration, the notice states, an inventor must have fewer than four patents and have an income less than three times the median American income — which, according to the most recent Census Bureau report, is just over $150,000. If there is more than one applicant, each person’s income must be below that level.


DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

The Rural Housing Service is offering up to $19.9 million in additional assistance for housing projects that serve low-income residents in rural areas.

The money is not available for new projects, but to refinance existing federal loans and ensure that rental projects will “continue to deliver decent, safe and sanitary affordable rental housing for 20 years or the remaining term of any agency loan, whichever ends later.”

Other uses include grants that are required to go toward “the cost of correcting health and safety violations or other physical needs of the [housing] project” and credits for an owner who lives in a project and pays for necessary construction costs.