Should you Stay Out of the Medical Businesses

Dr. McDougall, who I have written about before on this blog, see and, discussed in August, 2011, an article from Newsweek about the importance of avoiding some medical tests and treatments The Newsweek article is titled “The One Word that Can Save Your Life: No!,” by Sharon Begley, August 14, 2011.

Dr. McDougall in response to the article says

“You and your family cannot win by being familiar with doctors, drugs, and hospitals. Just like you do not want to be on a first name basis with morticians, lawyers, auto mechanics, and plumbers, you do not want a doctor as a best friend or your calendar littered with appointments to visit these professionals. An undeniable fact is that the more you see doctors, the more likely you are to be tested and treated; for better or worse.”

The Newsweek article highlights some issues with modern medicine.

  1. Stents which are devices designed to prop open blocked arteries in the brain, with the aim of preventing strokes, has been found to cause twice as many strokes as in control groups in a study.
  2. Neither the PSA blood test for prostate cancer and/or an annual electrocardiogram to screen for heart irregularities has been shown to be beneficial. Instead, both tests frequently find innocuous quirks that can lead to a dangerous assortment of procedures and tests.
  3. Invasive procedures including 1) angioplasty, in which a surgeon mechanically widens a blocked blood vessel by crushing the fatty deposits called plaques, 2) stenting, and 3) bypass surgery, grafting a new blood vessel onto a blocked one, in studies, didn’t improve survival rates or quality of life more than noninvasive treatments including drugs (cholesterol-lowering statins, beta blockersm and aspirin), a healthy diet, and exercise.
  4. Clinical trials have shown that back surgery, including 1) vertebroplasty (putting special cement on a tiny spinal fracture) and 2) spinal fusion, is no more effective at alleviating ordinary pain than simple rest and mild exercise.
  5. Antidepressants have been shown in randomized trials to help with severe depression but not with moderate or mild depression, yet are widely prescribed for moderate and mild depression.
  6. Statins have been shown to help people with both heart disease and high cholesterol, but not those with just high cholesterol. Even so, statins are often prescribed for those with high cholesterol only.
  7. Arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis has not been to shown to be any more effective than placebo.

The article says

“These physicians are not anti-medicine. They are not trying to save money on their copayments or deductibles. And they are not trying to rein in the nation’s soaring health-care costs, which at $2.7 trillion account for fully one sixth of every dollar spent in the U.S. They are applying to their personal lives a message they have become increasingly vocal about in their roles as biomedical researchers and doctors: more health care often means worse health.”

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