WHEN GUIDELINES DON'T APPLY Doctors who follow clinical practice guidelines when treating elderly patients with several chronic conditions risk prescribing an overly complicated regimen fraught with potentially harmful drug interactions, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The reason: Most guidelines are devised without considering that patients may have multiple illnesses.

Cynthia Boyd, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, led a team that evaluated what would happen if they used current guidelines to treat a hypothetical 79-year-old woman who had arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension and lung disease. They found the patient would have to take 19 doses of 12 drugs at five times during the day, at a cost of more than $400 per month. Some of the drugs were contraindicated for use with each other.

About half of Americans over 65 have more than three chronic conditions.

ASTHMA IN HIGH SCHOOL One in six high school students has asthma, and schools need to do a better job helping them manage the disease, according to a report issued last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2003 the CDC found that 16.1 percent of high school students suffered from the condition, which can be fatal if not controlled. One of the leading causes of school absenteeism, asthma can be triggered by exposure to chalk dust, mold, cleaning products and smoke.

Schools can help "by providing health services, education and control of environmental triggers," the federal agency noted.

-- From News Services