Shorts

* Age related macular degeneration is increasing in the developed countries. Yet, a recent review has shown that most available treatments confer, at best, only modest benefit and usually only for patients in the later stages of disease. Rehabilitation, say the researchers, can be beneficial, but is largely neglected by clinicians because they don't see it as their responsibility (Eye, 2001; 15: 369-70).

* Three counterfeit prescription drugs have reached the shelves of American pharmacies and, in some cases, have been given to patients. Some contained cheap generic versions of the drugs named on the package and others contained liquids with no active ingredients.

The drugs filgrastim (Neupogen), an anticancer drug, and two versions of the growth hormone serostim, used to treat AIDS related wasting are all injectable. They are also expensive, which may be why they were selected.

Fake prescription drugs are on the rise and consumers are warned to be on guard, particularly when purchasing drugs through the Internet (BMJ, 2001; 322: 1443).

* US officials are trumpeting the success of foods fortified with folic acid in lowering the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs) in newborns. But a recent study shows that the incidence of NTDs in live babies was down by only 19 per cent well short of the 50 per cent expected.

An editorial also suggests that live births don't give a true picture of NTD incidence as an increasing number of affected pregnancies are terminated (J Am Med Assoc, 2001; 285: 2981-6, 3022-3).