The evidence basis of all practice(s) needs to be challenged – continuously. There are perverse Incentives in private systems, but why do the UK health services still overtreat?

David Epstein in propublica (Atlantic) on 22nd Feb 2017 writes/asks: When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes = Long after research contradicts common medical practices, patients continue to demand them and physicians continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatments. (Such as Bisphosphonates)

Image result for bad pharma cartoon

You can listen to the article  HERE, and the importance of evidence based medicine, study replication and critique becomes vital. In the UK we see the over prescribing of anti-depressants to elderly people (BMJ 2011;343:d4551 ) when over 90% don’t work and 7% cause side effects (At present unpublished data). In orthopaedics we were given the solution to cross infections and waiting lists in 1983, but have moved in the opposite direction, closing cold orthopaedic hospitals or denying them as choice options to patients. In addition, clips closing skin wounds have been shown to increase infections by 300% but are still used because they are faster! The article covers heart disease, hypertension, knee injuries and other conditions that need systematic evidence review. What has never been measured is morbidity and mortality for patients who wait longer for operations (Hips and Knees especially) as there is no public database, and big pharma are not concerned. Indeed, waiting lists mean more drugs, prescriptions and side effects. Proposed legislation to reduce efficacy thresholds (USA) could increase the influence of “pharma” when the opposite is needed…

For a summary read from this link. When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes

Summarising:

Stents for stable patients prevent zero heart attacks and extend the lives of patients a grand total of not at all.

Atenolol did not reduce heart attacks or deaths—patients on atenolol just had better blood-pressure numbers when they died.

The consultants approach: “Just do the surgery. None of us are going to be upset with you for doing the surgery. Your bank account’s not going to be upset with you for doing the surgery.”

When looking at cross-over trials for cancer: “If the treatment were Pixy Stix, you’d have a similar effect. One group gets Pixy Stix, and when their cancer progresses, they get a real treatment.”

When distinguishing between relative and absolute risk: “Relative risk is just another way of lying.”

The article ends:

In 2014, two researchers at Brigham Young University surveyed Americans and found that typical adults attributed about 80 percent of the increase in life expectancy since the mid-1800s to modern medicine. “The public grossly overestimates how much of our increased life expectancy should be attributed to medical care,” they wrote, “and is largely unaware of the critical role played by public health and improved social conditions determinants.” This perception, they continued, might hinder funding for public health, and it “may also contribute to overfunding the medical sector of the economy and impede efforts to contain health care costs.”

It is a loaded claim. But consider the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act, which recently passed Congress to widespread acclaim. Who can argue with a law created in part to bolster cancer research? Among others, the heads of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association. They argue against the new law because it will take $3.5 billion away from public-health efforts in order to fund research on new medical technology and drugs, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s “cancer moonshot.” The new law takes money from programs—like vaccination and smoking-cessation efforts—that are known to prevent disease and moves it to work that might, eventually, treat disease. The bill will also allow the FDA to approve new uses for drugs based on observational studies or even “summary-level reviews” of data submitted by pharmaceutical companies. Prasad has been a particularly trenchant and public critic, tweeting that “the only people who don’t like the bill are people who study drug approval, safety, and who aren’t paid by Pharma.”

Perhaps that’s social-media hyperbole. Medical research is, by nature, an incremental quest for knowledge; initially exploring avenues that quickly become dead ends are a feature, not a bug, in the process. Hopefully the new law will in fact help speed into existence cures that are effective and long-lived. But one lesson of modern medicine should by now be clear: Ineffective cures can be long-lived, too.

NHS rationing: hip-replacement patients needlessly suffering in pain on operation waiting lists

The physiotherapists research: Toby Smith & Debbie Sexton, and two consultants (Donell and Mann) in 2010:  Sutures versus staples for skin closure in orthopaedic surgery: meta-analysis (BMJ 2010;340:c1199 ) – found a 3 fold or 300% increase in infections

Blunders. Iatrogenesis continues to be very important – for us all. It may become more so…

The nation hooked on prescription medicines – no more than many others actually..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted in A Personal View, Consultants, General Practitioners, Paramedics, Perverse Incentives, pharmacists, Post Code Lottery, Professionals, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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