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Health Care Waste: Useless Medical Procedures

A really good article from the New York Times. What’s scary is that useless procedures have no more validity than witchcraft or alternative medicine, yet they’re accepted and reimbursed by insurance companies. Doctors don’t like questions like, “If I have this test and the results are positive, what will you do? And what is the effectiveness of that treatment?”
 Medical Procedures May Be Useless, or Worse

Highlights summarized here:

From a report that appears in the August issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Out of 363 studies reported in the NEJM from 2001-2010, 146 found that the current drugs or procedures were no better – or even worse – than those previously used.

Over 40% of “established practices studied” were ineffective or harmful
Just 38% were beneficial.
Remaining 22% were unknown.  

Examples of harm:

— routine use of hormone therapy in postmenopausal women;

— high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant for breast cancer

— intensive  lowering of glucose levels of intensive care patients (which increased mortality and conferred no benefit)

The article quotes a doctor who says that procedures often seem to “make sense” despite evidence of benefit. For instance, if you have cholesterol-clogged arteries, it seems reasonable to open them up – but this procedures doesn’t increase survival.

The advice to patients: “You shouldn’t ask how does it work, but whether it works at all.”

Okay, guys, we get it. Now just how many of us are going to get booted from a doctor’s practice when  we attempt to put this in practice?