Says Dr. Prasad, "To our knowledge, this is the largest and most comprehensive study of medical reversal. The reversals we have identified by no means represent the final word for any of these practices. But, the reversals we have identified, at the very least, call these practices into question."
In an accompanying editorial, John P. A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc, of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, Department of Medicine and the Department of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine, comments on the work of Prasad and his team and evaluates it within a broader context.
"The 146 medical reversals that they have assembled are, in a sense, examples of success stories that can inspire the astute clinician and clinical investigator to challenge the status quo and realize that doing less is more," notes Dr. Ioannidis. "If we learn from them, these seemingly disappointing results may be extremely helpful in curtailing harms to patients and cost to the health care system."
According to Dr. Ioannidis, it is just as important to promote and disseminate knowledge about ineffective practices that should be reversed and abandoned. Given the widespread attention that practice guidelines typically receive, particularly when published by authoritative individuals or groups, he questions whether a generally higher level of evidence should be required before these guidelines are recommended and can impact clinical practice.
"Finally, are there incentives and anything else we can do to promote testing of seemingly established practices and identification of more practices that need to be abandoned? Obviously, such an undertaking will require commitment to a rigorous clinical research agenda in a time of restricted budgets," concludes Dr. Ioannidis. "However, it is clear that carefully designed trials on expensive practices may have a very favorable value of information, and they would be
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