Views And Reviews Minerva


BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 13 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1840

Elderly people with chronic illnessses may be missing out on treatment for unrelated conditions (New England Journal of Medicine 1998;338:1516-20). Canadian investigators looked at people over 65 with diabetes, emphysema, and psychosis and found that they were less likely to be taking hormone replacement therapy, lipid lowering drugs, or treatments for arthritis. They suggest two possible explanations: that one chronic disease protects the sufferer against others, or that doctors get distracted by the main complaint and neglect the rest.

Having a brother or sister over 100 years old increases your chances of surviving to that age too (Lancet 1998;351:1560). One hundred and two centenarians and their families were compared with a similar cohort of individuals who had died at 73 and their families. The centenarians' siblings were four times more likely to live beyond 90 years than the others' siblings. The researchers also found, unexpectedly, that centenarians had more siblings—a mean of 4.5 each compared with a mean of 3.2 for individuals dying at 73.

The potential for bias in review articles is well known to most editors and drove the BMJ to introduce a methods section into fortnightly reviews. A study of review articles on passive smoking confirms that conclusions are strongly influenced by the authors' connections (JAMA …

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