BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7422.1058 (Published 30 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1058

Despite a decade of intensive research focusing on the search for autism genes, none have been found, and the aetiology of the condition remains a mystery. In the United States and elsewhere, autism is emerging as a public health problem. Much of the cost of autism (such as the emotional strain and altered lifestyle of affected families) is impossible to quantify, although a recent economic study conducted in Britain estimated the lifetime costs to society for a person with autism to be in the range of $4m (Public Health Reports 2003;118: 393-9).

A BMJ reader wonders if Minerva is unaware of the biggest hospital specialty and its practice. Quite rightly, he points out that her assertion that cholinesterase inhibitors were, until recently, only used in Alzheimer's disease is somewhat wide of the mark. He says, “I can assure her and her readers that they have formed a significant part of the anaesthetic formulary for quite some time, and will hopefully continue to do so while muscle relaxants remain in use.”

Young women are the UK's biggest boozers and it's going to get worse. A report from an independent market analyst (www.datamonitor.com) predicts that alcohol consumption among the nation's women will rise by 20% by 2007. Those most likely to drink excessively fall in the group aged 18-24. The outlook …

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