PLACEBEOPATHY The benefits attributed to homeopathy, a popular form of alternative medicine, are merely placebo effects, says a report in the journal Lancet.

Homeopathy involves giving a patient infinitesimal amounts of drugs that, in larger quantities, cause symptoms like those the patient suffers. It involves much patient-practitioner interaction.

Researchers from the University of Berne in Switzerland identified 110 recent trials, each of homeopathy and conventional medicine aimed at treating the same condition. They used statistical analysis to score the results of the studies, with those below 1.0 indicating a beneficial effect of treatment compared with an inactive placebo. The overall scores were 0.96 for homeopathy and 0.67 for conventional medicine.

Wrote Lancet editors: "Surely the time has passed for selective analyses, biased reports, or further investment in research to perpetuate the homeopathy versus [conventional medicine] debate." Doctors must be honest with patients about homeopathy, "and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients' needs for personalized care."

THE WHOLE TOOTH Tooth decay fell sharply in the United States among children and teenagers and dipped among adults during the past decade, the government said last week, citing fluoridation and toothpaste as major causes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 42 percent of kids had a cavity treated or a filling done between 1999 and 2002, a 15 percent drop from 1988-1994 period. Tooth decay among adults fell between 4 and 6 percent, with 20 percent fewer people over age 60 reporting they had lost all their teeth.

-- From News Services