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Believing In Medical Treatments That Don't Work 467

Hugh Pickens writes "David H. Newman, M.D. has an interesting article in the NY Times where he discusses common medical treatments that aren't supported by the best available evidence. For example, doctors have administered 'beta-blockers' for decades to heart attack victims, although studies show that the early administration of beta-blockers does not save lives; patients with ear infections are more likely to be harmed by antibiotics than helped — the infections typically recede within days regardless of treatment and the same is true for bronchitis, sinusitis, and sore throats; no cough remedies have ever been proven better than a placebo. Back surgeries to relieve pain are, in the majority of cases, no better than nonsurgical treatment, and knee surgery is no better than sham knee surgery where surgeons 'pretend' to do surgery while the patient is under light anesthesia. Newman says that treatment based on ideology is alluring, 'but the uncomfortable truth is that many expensive, invasive interventions are of little or no benefit and cause potentially uncomfortable, costly, and dangerous side effects and complications.' The Obama administration's plan for reform includes identifying health care measures that work and those that don't, and there are signs of hope for evidence-based medicine: earlier this year hospital administrators were informed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that beta-blocker treatment will be retired as a government indicator of quality care, beginning April 1, 2009. 'After years of advocacy that cemented immediate beta-blockers in the treatment protocols of virtually every hospital in the country,' writes Newman, 'the agency has demonstrated that minds can be changed.'"

Neutrinos have bad breadth.