Rochester, MN -- While there is an expectation that newer medical practices improve the standard of care, the history of medicine reveals many instances in which this has not been the case. Reversal of established medical practice occurs when new studies contradict current practice. Reporters may remember hormone replacement therapy as an example of medical reversal. A new analysis published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings documents 146 contemporary medical practices that have subsequently been reversed.
A team of researchers led by Vinay Prasad, MD, Medical Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, reviewed ten years of original articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine testing standard of care.
"The purpose of our investigation was to outline broad trends in medical practice and identify a large number of practices that don't work," says Dr. Prasad. "Identifying medical practices that don't work is necessary because the continued use of such practices wastes resources, jeopardizes patient health, and undermines trust in medicine."
Dr. Prasad and his investigative team evaluated 1,344 original articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine between 2001 and 2010 that examined a new medical practice or tested an established one. This included assessment of a screening, stratifying, or diagnostic test, a medication, a procedure or surgery, or any change in health care provision systems.
Dr. Prasad and colleagues made several interesting findings. First, only a minority of studies over the last 10 years even tested current medical practices. Dr. Prasad found that only 27% (363/1344) of articles that tested a practice tested an established one. Instead, the vast majority of such studies, 73% (981/1344), tested a new medical practice. Dr. Prasad says, "While the next breakthrough is surely worth pursuing, knowing whether what we
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Elsevier Health Sciences