Conventional medical doctors are lagging behind on the science, and it’s costing lives.
A new report from ProPublica details how conventional doctors continue to use certain drugs and medical procedures long after their appropriateness has been contradicted by research. This means that patients are receiving treatments that are proven to be ineffective or even dangerous.
Consider heart stents, for example. Stents are small metal mesh tubes that are used to prop open an artery. Every year, more than 500,000 Americans undergo this procedure, called an angioplasty, but many patients—especially those with stable coronary artery disease—see little or no benefit.
Even the American Medical Association admits that one in ten elective angioplasties are completely inappropriate, and another third are questionable. Angioplasties can also be dangerous: the procedure can cause tears in blood vessel walls, major bleeding, and more.
Why, after good evidence says that a large portion of patients will not experience a benefit, do doctors and hospitals continue to administer this procedure? As is all too often the case in our crony medical system, it all comes down to money. Angioplasties are big business for hospitals, with each procedure costing around $30,000.
Angioplasty is just one example among many. A knee surgery called arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, or APM, is a widely used procedure: about 500,000 are performed per year, at a price tag of about $4 billion. APM is meant to relieve knee pain caused by tears to the meniscus, a crescent-shaped piece of cartilage that stabilizes and cushions the knee joint. It is one of the most popular surgical procedures in the hemisphere—but research shows that it does not work for most patients.
One study, for instance, showed that APM followed by physical therapy produced the same results as physical therapy alone. Another study showed that “sham surgery”—in which patients were taken to operating rooms where a fake surgery was performed on them—produced the same results as the real surgery.
Again, APM is a cash cow for hospitals. In about one-third of adults over 50, tears to the meniscus are visible in an MRI. Two-thirds will have no symptoms, and in fact would never know there was damage if it hadn’t been for an MRI. But once doctors and patients see the medical imaging, patients may end up having the unnecessary surgery.
We’ve already reported that the top-selling drugs don’t work for most people, and in fact expose them to often horrible side effects.
As we’ve been saying for many years, conventional medicine is simply not on the cutting edge. A paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that it took ten years for a large portion of the medical community to stop referencing popular procedures after their efficacy was completely debunked.
These are the consequences of a medical system mired in government over-control (with its resulting cronyism), and a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine. Medicine does not have to cost so many billions or create so many unintended side effects.
The ProPublica article points out that poor lifestyle habits—a diet full of processed foods, lack of exercise, smoking, etc.—are at the root of America’s most debilitating disease epidemics. An analysis of four studies that included tens of thousands of people found that patients who were at high risk for heart disease were able to cut that risk in half if they ate right, didn’t smoke, weren’t obese, and exercised once a week. These are stunning statistics, yet we aren’t likely to see these recommendations replace the overwhelming number of statin prescriptions doctors write each year. Why? Because there isn’t any money to be made from telling people to exercise and eat right.
This is true even though statins, like many other drugs, may cause more harm than good for most patients. Statins are notoriously hard on our muscles, often cause terrible muscle pain (by depleting CoQ10 and through other means)—and let’s not forget that the heart is a muscle. Is it any coincidence that heart failure is on the rise? And of course statins are also linked to diabetes.
Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health: