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War on Disease, Magic Bullets, Friendly Fire, Collateral Damage

Ajanta Caves, India - detail
Pankaj Seth, 2009

How effective is Modern Medicine? (18 entries)

"It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine." "As reprehensible as many industry practices are, I believe the behavior of much of the medical profession is even more culpable."

Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption by Marcia Angell, MD
The New York Review of Books - Volume 56, Number 1 · January 15, 2009
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• The Medical Myth of "More Is Better"
It's estimated that 2.5 million unnecessary surgeries are performed each year, with hysterectomies, heart bypass grafts, lower back surgery, and angioplasty leading the list. Just two procedures alone, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) -- known in the trade as cabbage -- and balloon angioplasty cost $100 billion annually. With long waiting lists for CABG, you'd think it was vital for prolonging the lifespan of heart patients, but that's a mistake. Current statistics suggest that about 3% of bypass surgeries extend life expectancy, with angioplasty scoring even lower at zero percent.
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• Cancer death rate nearly unchanged over 30 years:
Canadians continue to die of cancer at about the same rate they did nearly 30 years ago, after decades of hearing that cancer can be beaten
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• New BMJ guide for patients admits that best treatment is often no treatment at all:
The biggest myths of modern medicine were challenged in a new guide for patients launched yesterday that sets out the best treatment for 60 of the commonest medical conditions. Instead of claiming miracles, the guide admits that often the best treatment is no treatment. Devised by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), it is based on evidence from thousands of research studies and is being made available through the NHS Direct website, the advice service for patients
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• Glaxo chief: Our drugs do not work on most patients
A senior executive with Britain's biggest drugs company has admitted that most prescription medicines do not work on most people who take them
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• Hormone replacement therapy hurts women more than it helps: study
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• GSK knew Seroxat wasn't 'effective' on children
Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline knew that the anti-depressant Seroxat could not be proved to work on children in 1998, according to a leaked internal document. The secret document, relating to two clinical trials held in the 1990s, reveals that drug trials had shown little or no effect on helping depression in minors. The company was also advised to avoid publishing the full data because it would be "commercially unacceptable" and would "undermine the profile" of the drug
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• Arthritis drug warnings 'ignored'
Dr Richard Horton, Lancet editor, accused both the US drug regulator and Merck of "ruthless, short-sighted and irresponsible self-interest".
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• Headache pills can cause more pain :
Some headaches may be caused by the same medicine used to stop them, say headache specialists. Dr. Fred Sheftell, an American expert on headaches, says some people may be suffering "rebound headaches."
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• Over-the-counter headache:
Regular use of pain medications counterproductive. Quick-fix drugs are not always the best choice.
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• Cholesterol pills carry risk, UBC group says
'Fine print' raised doubts: Finding applies only to preventive use
Drugs taken daily by millions of Canadians to lower their cholesterol at a cost of more than $1.3-billion a year may be doing as much harm as good for many users, according to a group of University of British Columbia drug specialists   >>> Full Text

• Antibiotics may raise asthma risk
Antibiotics may be partly to blame for increased rates of asthma, say scientists. A team from the University of Michigan believes the key could be the way the drugs interfere with the balance of microbes in the gut
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'Medical Errors' (6 entries)

• Canada needs to monitor, prevent medical errors: committee
Health experts estimate between 5,000 and 10,000 Canadians die every year because of medical mistakes in hospitals, but no one knows for sure because medical miscues are shrouded in secrecy.
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• "The number of reported reactions has quadrupled since 1997."
Health Canada uses the term “adverse drug reaction” (ADR) to describe the unexpected reactions, or extreme side effects, drugs can have. But for every bad drug you hear about, healthcare advocates say there are many more untold stories. We were curious about the big picture, so in cooperation with CBC Radio we set out to learn more about adverse drug reactions and landed on a goldmine of information.
   >>> CBC In-Depth Report

• Preventable medical errors contribute to up to 24,000 deaths a year
Preventable medical errors contribute to between 9,250 and 23,750 deaths in Canada a year, a landmark study of what the medical community calls "adverse events" suggests
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• Deadly hospital mistakes face study:
U.S. report in 1999 found mistakes are deadlier than AIDS
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• Medical Horror Shows:
urvey estimated that medical mistakes kill between 44,000 and 100,000 people a year
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• Death by Medicine:
Available as a word file, this in depth article summarizes the results of more than 150 scientific papers published in prestigious medical journals. Filled with references to landmark studies on the incidence of "adverse events", 'iatrogenic deaths" and "medical errors", this paper highlights the problems inherent in our dominant medical approach, as well as suggesting some remedies for this current state of affairs.
  >>> download word file (120 k)


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