Health Highlights: Feb. 9, 2008

"What we think is going on is that sad and self-focused people are feeling pretty bad about themselves and have a decreased valuation of themselves. They want to enhance this valuation, and one way to do this is be acquiring material goods," said study co-author Cynthia Cryder, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University, Agence France-Presse reported.

These people may be seeking to boost their self-esteem by transferring the value of items to themselves. But this kind of purchase often results in later regret.

"A huge key to avoiding decision-effects like this is being aware that you're sad in the first place. But that's rather hard to do," Cryder said. "Participants in studies such as ours usually have no idea that their feelings influence their decisions, so it's impossible to correct."

She suggested people "always re-evaluate major purchases one day or one week after you make them so that you can make sure that whatever you bought is still attractive to you," AFP reported. "That lowers the probability that you'll have an over-priced mistake due to some fleeting influence that you didn't know about and still don't know about. You just know, 'Wow... why did I pay so much for that?'"

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Trek Recalls Girls' Bicycles

U.S. bicycle maker Trek has recalled about 49,000 MT220 girls' bicycles due to a risk of frame failure during use, which can cause riders to lose control and suffer injuries, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The company has received 13 reports of frames breaking, including four incidents that resulted in minor injuries. The recall covers MT220 bicycles from model years 2005 (light metallic blue), 2006 (metallic silver and metallic purple or pink and pearl white), and 2007 (pink and white pearl or metallic purple). The model name is printed on the frame of the bicycle. MT220 bicycles from model year 2008 are not included in the recall.

The recalled bikes were sold from April 2004 through June 2007 for about $300. Consumers should take these bicycles away from children immediately and return them to a Trek dealer for a free replacement bicycle or a $100 discount on a different size Trek bicycle.

For more information, contact Trek Bicycle Corp., of Waterloo, Wis., at (800) 373-4594.

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Merck to Pay More Than $650 Million to Settle Drug Pricing Fraud Charges

In one of the largest-ever healthcare fraud settlements, New Jersey-based Merck & Co. agreed Thursday to pay more than $650 million to resolve charges that it cheated Medicaid out of millions of dollars in discounts over eight years through routine overbilling for the arthritis drug Vioxx and the cholesterol drug Zocor, the Washington Post reported.

According to U.S. prosecutors, Merck gave the drug to hospitals at low cost in order to get poor patients used to the expensive pills. When these patients were discharged from hospital, many kept taking the drugs and the government had to pay the higher costs.

The investigation began in 2000 after a Merck district sales manager alerted federal authorities about what he believed were questionable sales tactics by the company, the Post reported.

Merck did not admit wrongdoing. It stood by its pricing strategies, but wanted to resolve the matter, according to a statement released by executives of the United States' third-largest drug maker.

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