Ethics in Medicine

The Triumph of New-Age Medicine

Kristen Sparrow • June 16, 2011

I must be the opposite of ADD. I’ve been deeply involved with some research issues, which I hope to blog about in the near future, and finally poked my head up to realize that I have sorely neglected my blog. I hope to post in the next few days on what I’ve been up to in the research arena, letters to The Economist, and other matters. But for now I’ll leave you with this link to a new article in the Atlantic (click below on the title.) I’ve included one particular paragraph that emphasizes some topics that are familiar to followers of my blog.

The Triumph of New-Age Medicine

Unfortunately, the drugs we’ve thrown at these complex illnesses are by and large inadequate or worse, as has been thoroughly documented in the medical literature. The list of much-hyped and in some cases heavily prescribed drugs that have failed to do much to combat complex diseases, while presenting a real risk of horrific side effects, is a long one, including Avastin for cancer (blood clots, heart failure, and bowel perforation), Avandia for diabetes (heart attacks), and torcetrapib for heart disease (death). In many cases, the drugs used to treat the most-serious cancers add mere months to patients’ lives, often at significant cost to quality of life. No drug has proved safe and effective against Alzheimer’s, nor in combating obesity, which significantly raises the risk of all complex diseases. Even cholesterol-lowering statins, which once seemed one of the few nearly unqualified successes against complex disease, are now regarded as of questionable benefit in lowering the risk of a first heart attack, the use for which they are most widely prescribed. Surgery, widely enlisted against heart disease, is proving nearly as disappointing. Recent studies have shown heart-bypass surgery and the emplacement of stents to prop open arteries to be of surprisingly little help in extending the lives of most patients.

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