Boston doctors say genes may make the most common asthma drug, albuterol, less effective in some of the 15 million Americans with the respiratory condition. Their study, published in The Lancet, shows more than 2 million Americans have a genetic variation that affects the effectiveness of the drug, which is inhaled for short-term relief of breathing difficulties. Patients with this variation might benefit from decreasing albuterol and using other medications to treat their asthma, says lead study author Dr. Elliot Israel, director of clinical research and respiratory therapy at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He advises patients who use albuterol several times a week, especially those with the genetic variation, to talk to their doctors about other options that may offer them additional benefits.
USING OTC DRUGS COULD SAVE BIG BUCKS
Using nonprescription cold medications could save the United States $4.75 billion a year, Northwestern University scientists say. The study, sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and presented at a meeting of the World Self-Medication Industry in Beijing, shows most of the savings from taking over-the-counter medications for common upper respiratory infections would come from improved work productivity and fewer unnecessary visits to the doctor, says study leader Dr. Martin Lipsky. "It's important for people to understand the signs and symptoms of these common conditions and to know that many nonprescription products are available to treat symptoms at a fairly low cost," he says. On average, sufferers miss 8.7 work hours with each cold, Lipsky says.
HYPERTENSION MAY AFFECT 60 PERCENT OF AMERICANS
Under revised definitions, nearly 60 percent of American adults may have high blood pressure or be on the verge of getting it, Illinois scientists say. The findings, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine by University of Illinois, Chicago, researchers, show 58.2 percent of the 4,805 adults surveyed had either hypertension or prehypertension, a new, lower-threshold designation set last year by the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Prehypertension is indicated by systolic/diastolic readings of between 120/80 and 139/89. A person with either the systolic or diastolic blood pressure within this range is considered prehypertensive. Hypertension remains defined as 140/90 or above. Youfa Wang, assistant professor of human nutrition, and Qiong Joanna Wang, a biostatistician, found prehypertension or hypertension most prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks (63 percent), especially men (69 percent); seniors 60 and older (88 percent), and those with less than a high school education (65 percent). Obese individuals also were at high risk.
HONEY OF AN IDEA FOR HALLOWEEN
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, researchers suggest sweetening Halloween candy with honey rather than high-fructose corn syrup for a healthier treat. The investigators say honey has higher levels of antioxidants, compounds thought to fight cancer, heart disease and other diseases. Honey, which contains a number of antioxidant components that act as preservatives, may replace some synthetic antioxidants widely used as preservatives in salad dressings and other foods, says Nicki Engeseth, associate professor of food chemistry. She says dark-colored honey, such as from buckwheat, is thought to contain higher levels of antioxidants than the light-colored varieties. Studies also indicate honey may contain similar levels of antioxidants to those found in fruit. The results were presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
(Editors: For more information about ASTHMA, call (617) 534-1600. For BUCKS, Elizabeth Crown at (312) 503-8928 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For HYPERTENSION, Paul Francuch at (312) 996-3457 or email@example.com. For HONEY, Michael Bernstein at (202) 872-6042 or firstname.lastname@example.org)