Health Highlights: Nov. 5, 2008

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Drug Tricks Body Into Burning Fat

An experimental drug called SRT1720 tricks the body into burning off fat and protected mice against weight gain and insulin resistance even when they ate a high-fat diet, French researchers say.

The drug, a chemical cousin of the red wine extract resveratrol, shifts metabolism into the fat-burning mode that's normally triggered when energy levels are low, BBC News reported.

After 10 weeks of treatment, a low dose of SRT1720 partially protected against weight gain in mice on a high-fat diet. At higher doses, the drug completely prevented weight gain, said the study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

While these results are promising, scientists said more research into the safety and effectiveness of the drug is needed before it could be used in humans, BBC News reported.

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Big Increases Seen in Medicare Drug Plan Premiums, Co-Payments

American consumers can expect to see large increases in Medicare drug-plan premiums next year, along with higher co-payment costs, according to consulting firm Avalere Health.

The firm's analysis predicted premiums at the 10 largest drug plans will rise an average of 31 percent, with some rising more than 60 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported.

For example, the 2.7 million enrollees in the nation's biggest Medicare drug plan -- AARP Medicare Rx Preferred, sponsored by UnitedHealth Group -- are expected to face an average premium increase of 18 percent, to $34.92 a month. The plan will still have the same $7 co-payment for generic drugs, but enrollees who buy brand-name drugs on the insurer's preferred drug list will pay 21 percent more ($36.40) for each purchase.

The 1.4 million enrollees in the third-largest drug plan, Humana Inc.'s PDP Enhanced, will see an average premium hike of 51 percent, to $39.56 a month. Average co-payments for generic drugs will rise 75 percent, to $7, and increase 60 percent, to $40, for preferred brand-name drugs.

For this analysis, Avalere averaged expected prices for plans in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. The actual price consumers pay for premiums, deductibles and co-payments will vary depending on a number of factors, including what drugs they use and what part of the country they live in, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Left-Handed People More Inhibited: Study

Left-handed people are more likely to be inhibited, according to researchers at the University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland who compared 46 lefties and 66 right-handers, BBC News reported.

The participants were given a behavioral test that assesses personal restraint and impulsiveness. The results showed that left-handers are more likely to feel anxiety, shyness or embarrassment about doing or saying what they want.

Left-handers were more likely to agree with statements such as "I worry about making mistakes" and "Criticism or scolding hurts me quite a bit."

The findings could be due to wiring differences between the brains of left- and right-handers, said study leader Dr. Lynn Wright, BBC News reported.

"Left-handers are more likely to hesitate, whereas right-handers tend to jump in a bit more," Wright said. "In left-handers, the right half of the brain is dominant, and it is this side that seems to control negative aspects of emotion. In right-handers, the left brain dominates."

The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Posted: November 2008


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