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Posted - Feb. 12, 2004 at 7:20 a.m.



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Feb 12, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- SIMPLE STEPS CAN LOWER TRANS FAT

Eating foods with trans fat may cause up to 30,000 premature heart disease deaths each year but simple dietary changes can lower intake. Harvard researchers say the fat, found in margarine and similar products, may damage arteries by raising low density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol while lowering the more beneficial HDL. The researchers say avoid shortening and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil but use olive or canola oil. They say buy margarines labeled "trans-fat-free" or those softer at room temperature, and do more cooking at home to avoid hidden trans fat in restaurant foods.

CHEAPER PRESCRIPTIONS: ASK AND YOU MIGHT RECEIVE

Asking a doctor about drug prices could lead to a less expensive prescription, according to an online survey of 2,238 U.S. adults. Two in five adults say they asked their doctors about the pros and cons of drugs they were being prescribed. About half of these, 23 percent, said they also discussed cost. One in seven overall said a less expensive drug was prescribed after asking about cost. Health plans often have tiered co-pay plans to encourage the use of less expensive drugs, said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive, which conducted the survey. Taylor said he expects the trend of prescribing low-cost alternatives in response to patient requests to grow as co-pays increase.

GAMBLING ADDICTION A GROWING CONCERN

Compulsive gambling is on the rise and now is recognized as a psychiatric disorder, a Harvard Mental Health Letter says. About 1 percent of Americans are compulsive gamblers, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Compulsive gamblers often think about past and future bets and where to get the money for them. The addiction is usually treated with a combination of therapy, 12-step groups and motivational interviewing. More research needs to be done, however, on the long-term effectiveness of treatments. Most compulsive gamblers are men but the problem is also growing among women, and more blacks than whites are compulsive gamblers, the letter says.

CONCERN RAISED OVER ONLINE PHARMACIES

Clinicians need to know more about online pharmacies to be able to give their patients proper advice, researchers say. Online pharmacies offer advantages over traditional, "brick-and-mortar" pharmacies but clinicians should learn more about the sites to help protect patient safety and improve communication, researchers from the Los Angeles Medical Centers report. Consumers like the convenience and privacy of ordering online but some sites have raised legal issues by dispensing drugs through consulting only "cyberdoctors" or using no prescription at all. Others illegally import prescription medications. Physicians and pharmacists should find out why patients prefer using online pharmacies over face-to-face relationships to see what practices can be borrowed, said lead author Dr. Constance Fung of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

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(EDITORS: For more information about TRANS and GAMBLING, contact Christine Junge at Christine_Junge@hms.harvard.edu. For DOCTOR, Bonnie Hughes at (585) 214-7541 or bhughes@harrisinteractive.com. For ONLINE, John Murphy at (507) 284-5005 or newsbureau@mayo.edu)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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