Saturday, August 20, 2005

Would you want your doctor to put “breaking news” into practice?

Almost every day I read at least one article at MedPage Today. Their tag-line is: putting breaking news into practice.

I was going to post about the recent MedPage Today “Teaching Brief” that lauds the great accomplishments of the chicken pox vaccine, but as I typed that tag-line, “putting breaking news into practice,” I realized that the real story is there. Not in the Teaching Briefs or News Briefs, but in the very philosophy and raison d’etre of this website. Here's what they say:

MedPage Today is the only medical news service for physicians that links consumer medical news and the professional medical analysis needed by clinicians. Through our daily coverage of breaking medical stories and topics widely reported in the consumer media, we provide clinicians with the real-time information they need to address their patients' questions and to find out how new developments might impact their clinical practice.
The problem is obvious when one simply looks at MedPage Today's top News Brief:

Jury Awards $253 Million to Plaintiff in First Vioxx Case

ANGLETON, Tex.-The jury in the first Vioxx (rofecoxib) personal-injury case ruled today that the once popular arthritis agent caused the death of a 59-year-old man. It ordered Merck, the maker of the drug, to pay his widow $253.4 million in compensation.
Breaking news (consumer medical news) about drugs is almost exclusively generated by pharmaceutical companies.

Breaking news (consumer medical news) is typically not analysis of peer-reviewed studies.

Breaking news is always full of hype and hyperbole, dramatic statistics and first-ever findings.

The role of breaking news is not to educate, but to attract readers/viewers which in turn sells advertising.

And why in god’s name would any responsible doctor be interested in “consumer medical news” as a tool to inform them about anything to do with the care and treatment of their patients?

Consumer medical news is by definition dumbed-down so the average idiot can understand it. What value to a doctor in that kind of story?

Having doctors put into practice what they learn from pharma-created consumer medical news is what leads to situations like the Vioxx lawsuit, where millions of Americans, doctors included, bought the PR-line that the drug was a safe and effective way to beat arthritis pain. Maybe it was a great way to deal with arthritis, but it wasn’t so good for the users' hearts. It only took 18 months and some 4,000 deaths to figure that out.

I want to see a list of all the doctors who subscribe to MedPage Today. If mine is on that list, I’m finding a new GP.


Blogger Gina said...

I do think that doctors should be up to date on "breaking news". Their patients are going to come in with all kinds of wacky things they have heard and it can be bad if the doctor doesn't have any idea as to what the patient is talking about, especially if it is "hype".

I think the doctor needs to know the reason behind their patients asking for stuff, is it drug companies or is it real studies that are not "drug co." sponsored.

August 20, 2005  
Blogger Donna said...

I agree that doctors need to know what wacky things patients have heard about. But this wbesite doesn't expose the wacky - it makes it all seem normal and worse, it gives the impression that the news is reliable medical information.

They take the news and create "Teaching Briefs" for the doctors. These briefs, as far as I can tell, are just industry spew. Nobody benefits from that except the shareholders of the companies creating the spew.

August 20, 2005  
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