Treatment guidelines boast little scientific support

Medical best practices have been masquerading as evidence-based clinical practices. Of the thousands of treatment guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which represents healthcare providers and researchers around the country, only one in seven were based on high-quality data from clinical trials, according to an article published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reports Reuters Health.

And the rest? More than half of the 4,200 recommendations were based simply on expert opinion or anecdotal evidence, pointing to an enduring problem that bedevils clinicians.

"Despite tremendous research, the best ways to care for patients are still unclear," said Dr. Ole Vielemeyer, infectious diseases expert at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and one of the study's authors. "People commonly associate guidelines with practicing evidence-based medicine."

Still, guidelines many times are not based on clinical studies. When no evidence exists, recommendations often depend solely on who sits on the guidelines-development panel and their biases.

Diana Olson, spokesperson for IDSA, told Reuters Health that all recommendations list how much evidence they are based on. "Clinicians understand when there is really rock-hard evidence behind our recommendations and when there isn't," she said.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract from the article in Archives of Internal Medicine
- read the Reuters Health article