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Weekend Checkup: Surprise Endings, Drug Mix-Ups, Neurologists and Parkinson's

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Go Ahead. Read The Last Page First.  Spoiler alert! Oh wait, there's really no need for spoiler alerts. That's because psychologists have found that it doesn't ruin a good story to know how it ends.

In a recent study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, had people read multiple versions of 12 classic short stories.  Some versions had a separate summary of the ending at the beginning, others had the spoiler worked into the opening paragraphs, and a third version gave away no hint of the ending.

Participants said they enjoyed the stories with the spoiler at the very beginning the most, even when the story had a surprise ending or was a murder mystery.

Why didn't knowing the ending ruin things? Nicholas Christenfeld, a UCSD social psychologist, says it's because it allows readers to enjoy the actual story, rather than waiting impatiently to find out the plot twist at the end.

"The pleasure is in the writing," he says.

When Drug Names Sound Alike, It Sounds Like Trouble: The drug names Clindesse and Clindets may sound the same over the phone for a pharmacist filling a prescription, but one is a vaginal antibiotic cream and the other is an antibiotic for acne - definitely not a mix-up any patient would want.

That's just one of 800 pairs of sound-alike drug names described in a story on Shots, NPR's health blog. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a patient safety group, says name mix-ups are responsible for 25 percent of all medication errors.

The FDA has a system in place to keep drugs that look or sound alike from ending up together on the market, but the pharmaceutical industry has been pushing to kill the system, calling it "burdensome and disruptive."

A mix-up just this summer shows why a naming review system is necessary.

In July, the FDA announced it had received 226 reports of prescription errors involving Risperdal, a drug for schizophrenia, and Requip, used to treat Parkinson's. The drugs had similar labels with matching colors and are prescribed at the same dose and frequency. The FDA asked the companies to change labeling to avoid future problems.


Neurologist Best for Parkinson's Patients: Medicare patients diagnosed with Parkinson's lived longer and were less likely to break a hip or be placed in a nursing home if they were treated by a neurologist instead of a primary care doctor, according to a new study.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis' medical school examined the records of 138,000 Medicare patients diagnosed in 2002 with Parkinson's.

Those seen by a neurologist were 20 percent less likely to die over a six-year period than those seen by primary care physicians. They also were 20 percent less likely to be placed in a nursing home and 14 percent less likely to have a broken hip.

Based on previous research, preventing a broken hip can mean avoiding a one-year per-person cost of as much as $26,000, to say nothing of the emotional and physical trauma of such an injury.

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