Monday, October 25, 2010

Our medical system is a house of cards

I just came across this great article about meta-researcher Dr. John Ioannidis. Here's the summary:

Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science.

The gist is that modern medical research is deeply flawed and biased such that the "conclusions" that you and I eventually read in the news headlines are often false. I especially love his advice for us all:

Ioannidis suggests a simple approach: ignore them all

This is in fact my approach! I have a simple rule: if it tastes good it's good for you. So I eat plenty of fat, salt, sugar, cholesterol, carbs, etc. I love eggs and cheese and I always avoid low-fat or low-cholesterol foods. I get lots of sun and never use sun screen. I drink coffee and beer, daily. I drink lots of water. I get daily exercise, running and walking. And I avoid hand sanitizers like Purell (I believe commonplace dirt/germs are in fact natural and good for you). I strongly believe humans do not need pills to stay healthy. I don't take a daily vitamin. And I'm very healthy!

This short interview between Discover Magazine and Harvard clinician John Abramson echoes the same core problem. Here's a choice quote:

When you look at the highest quality medical studies, the odds that a study will favor the use of a new drug are 5.3 times higher for commercially funded studies than for noncommercially funded studies.

Unfortunately, the medical world has a deep, deep conflict of interest: healthy people do not generate profits. Capitalism is a horrible match to health care.

So, next time your doctor prescribes a fancy new cool-sounding powerful drug like Alevia or Omosia or Nanotomopia or whatever, try to remember that our medical system is really built on a house of cards. Your doctor, let alone you, cannot possibly differentiate what's true from what's false. Don't trust that large triple-blind random controlled trial that supposedly validated this cool new drug. You are the guinea pig! And it's only when these drugs cause all sorts of problems once they are really tested on the population at large that their true colors are revealed.


  1. We can say that, "there" maybe misinformation but let's also accept the fact that they are also discover factual methodology and ideas upon their studies. Perhaps the reason why there's a continuous study is taking place is to make amendments on what they've done wrong. The best way to not tolerate this kind of capitalism you say is to stop any one who tolerates it, right?

  2. I don't know what the "best way to not tolerate this kind of capitalism" is, but clearly healthy people don't bring profits and that's a deep conflict of interest in health care.

    I think a good start would be to bring clinical trials back into universities, funded by a neutral party somehow, and not allow commercial "sponsoring" of these trials, and to have strong regulation that all data from a trial be made public.

    Something must also be done about the drug companies "sponsoring" / bribing doctors at "conferences". Perhaps just shining a light on this common practice, singling out the most "corrupt" doctors, would be a good first step.

  3. Not only doctors have this kind of trend in their system. Some dieticians do offer "branded diets" aggressively. As such, it is always advisable to get a registered dietitian that will provide a diet regiment according to one's body needs.

  4. This is the reason why some people don't drink meds. I don't. To be honest, I don't even let my kids drink meds anymore. I believe they're healthy even if they're fussy eaters. At least I feed them only healthy food, so they'll choose between healthy and healthy food! I also believe we get enough of what our body needs.

    Finally, someone has blogged about this! Thank you!