On ignorance about treatment options

Do you mean we should know what we’re doing? We thought all we have to do is follow orders? This is a very nice concise overview of the lack of information about the different treatments options currently available.

from the L.A. Times http://tinyurl.com/ygd5g7p

Some doctors treat patients with early-stage prostate cancer with radiation. Others favor surgery, while some advocate only close monitoring. Which approach is most successful? No one knows.

When it comes to diabetes management, doctors don’t have answers to key questions: At what point should insulin be started? Is it safe to lower the blood sugar to normal levels? What is the best way to monitor blood sugar control?

Similarly, endocrinologists don’t know what is the best way to treat patients with hyperactive thyroids. Doctors in Europe typically use medications, while those in the U.S. more frequently give radioactive iodine. Only limited evidence is available to guide the decision.

It may seem perplexing that there is so much uncertainty about these relatively simple questions. All of the above treatments have been around for decades. Shouldn’t we have definitive answers by now?

In this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., we report the results of a study that may help explain why we don’t. In the study, we analyzed 328 medication studies recently published in six top medical journals and found that just 32% were aimed at determining which available treatment is best. The rest were either aimed at bringing a new therapy to market or simply compared a medication with a placebo. Whether the therapy was better or worse than other treatments was simply not addressed.

Research involving new therapies is of course crucial for medical progress, but there is also a need for research that compares the effectiveness of the rapidly growing array of existing therapies and approaches.

more: http://tinyurl.com/ygd5g7p

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