More Treatment Doesn't Mean Better Outcomes, Studies Show

USA Today reports that "doctors have long been rewarded for providing more care, though more isn't always better. Three recent studies show that a doctor's instincts are no match for hard science." The studies include one of 800 high blood pressure patients that found opening clogged arteries with stents didn't lower blood pressure and actually raised side effects. Another, this one sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, found a diabetes drug called Tricor didn't lengthen the lives of people with the disease. And the third found that, while the drug valsartan, sold as Diovan, kept 14 percent of people who were diabetes-prone from developing the disease, the medication — and others like it — didn't prevent heart attack or strokes that make diabetes dangerous. "Doctors and patients often groan when a study yields negative results rather than new hope in an easy-to-swallow pill. Negative results often contradict conventional wisdom, the pet theories of academics and costly ad campaigns for billion-dollar drugs, argues Yale cardiologist Harlan Krumholz. But they reinforce a humbler message, he says, by showing that doctors can sometimes achieve more by doing less — and spending less — and by convincing patients that prevention always trumps medication" (Sternberg, 4/11).

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