* Spiritual wellbeing soothes despair among the terminally ill
Spiritual wellbeing is a crucial factor in helping patients with terminal illness.
A US study of 160 cancer patients in a care hospital found that those with spiritual beliefs had a purpose for living and were less depressed (Lancet, 2003; 361: 1603-7).
* Asthma or COPD? Not even doctors can tell the difference UK doctors can't tell the difference between asthma and lung disease, a new study has revealed. Junior physicians were confused about the term COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, like bronchitis and emphysema). Doctors in Nepal had similar results, with more than 60 per cent incorrectly putting asthma in with COPD (Lancet, 2003; 361: 1914).
* Treatment for slowing myopia in childhood is risky A new drug for shortsightedness is being tried out on children. Atropine was tested on 400 children in Singapore for two years. Although the findings showed a slight improvement in myopia, some doctors are concerned about the drug's long-term side effects (Lancet, 2003; 361: 1622-3).
* No more free lunches The pharmaceutical company's 'free lunch' - entertaining doctors in the hopes they prescribe their new drug - may soon be a thing of the past. International medical bodies are pushing for new guidelines to put an end to drug company largesse. American students are being asked to sign a pledge to 'make medical decisions . .. . free from the influence of advertising or promotion' (Lancet, 2003; 326: 1193-4).
* Study successfully steps down asthma treatment The results of a study to reduce inhaled steroids in asthma sufferers has received 10 out of 10 for good control. In all, 212 asthmatics were followed for 12 months. In those taking reduced doses of inhaled corticosteroids, there were no aggravated cases of asthma by the end of the trial (BMJ, 2003; 326: 1115-7).