Medical practices persist even when ineffective

Doctors continue to offer treatments long after proven ineffective by research.

Doctors continue to prescribe drugs and offer medical treatments long after scientific research shows they are ineffective.

Procedures can remain the standards of care for years after they have been disproven, according to a report published by The Atlantic and ProPublica. As an example, the author describes a case in which a patient resisted doctors’ recommendations that he needed a heart stent even though he had not suffered a heart attack.

“It is distressingly ordinary for patients to get treatments that research has shown are ineffective or even dangerous,” according to the article. “Sometimes doctors simply haven’t kept up with the science. Other times doctors know the state of play perfectly well but continue to deliver these treatments because it’s profitable—or even because they’re popular and patients demand them.”

In some cases studies did not show procedures worked in the first place. In others, initial evidence was contradicted by further studies.

The $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act, recently passed by Congress, will hopefully lead to the development of cures that are effective, the article says. However, its critics says the new law will take money away from programs known to prevent disease in order to fund research that may eventually work.

In fact, it can take the healthcare industry close to two decades to implement evidence-based care protocols, according to one doctor, who said clinicians embrace new data at a “snail’s pace.” Though overall adoption may be slow, evidence-based practice centers are providing solutions and innovations to providers.