Health headlines: Fasting for cholesterol test questioned

There's new evidence that fasting before a blood test to check cholesterol levels may not be necessary. Current practice calls for patients to fast at least eight hours before a test. But a Canadian study of lab results suggests fasting makes little difference in cholesterol numbers - though fasting may matter enough to make it important for some patients. According to researchers, levels of total and HDL (good) cholesterol varied less than 2 percent with different fasting times. Levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol varied less than 10 percent and levels of triglycerides, a marker linked with inflammation, varied less than 20 percent. One expert noted that non-fasting tests may be a more reliable predictor of heart trouble. Tamiflu's effectivness questioned A leading British medical journal is asking the drug maker Roche to release all its data on Tamiflu, claiming there is no evidence the drug can actually stop the flu. The drug has been stockpiled by dozens of governments worldwide in case of a global flu outbreak and was widely used during the 2009 swine flu pandemic. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Tamiflu as one of two medications for treating regular flu. The other is GlaxoSmithKline?s Relenza. The CDC says such antivirals can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications and hospitalization. But this week, one of the researchers linked to the journal called for European governments to sue Roche. Last year, Tamiflu was included in a list of ?essential medicines? by the World Health Organization, a list that often prompts governments or donor agencies to buy the drug. Tamiflu is used to treat both seasonal flu and new flu viruses like bird flu or swine flu. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said the agency had enough proof to warrant its use for unusual influenza viruses, like bird flu. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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