In a post from December 2015 (“I’m skeptical about … PSA screening”), I borrowed an analogy from Dr. Gilbert Welch, a Dartmouth epidemiologist, who noted that cancers are like animals in a barnyard enclosed by a fence. The goal is to keep them contained. Continue reading
The Skeptical EP
The Blog Page of Robert Clare MDCredit: Non-Sequitur by Wiley Miller
“Questioning medical dogma to improve the lives of patients.”
Skepticism, from the Greek word skepticos (to inquire), is not simply a noun but a process. Skeptics demand evidence before accepting claims of truth; they enjoy the process of inquiry and analysis. Unlike cynics who take a negative view of both the claims of others and the people making them, skeptics are perfectly happy to change their minds when better evidence comes along. For physicians, a questioning attitude is an essential component to decision-making. When faced with increasing pressure from administrators and pharmaceutical companies to “Show me the money!” the best counter from the physician is “Show me the evidence!” The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness through an inquiry of the best available medical knowledge, to foster discussion, and to challenge prevailing truths in order to improve the lives of patients everywhere.
Disclaimer: The opinions put forth in this blog are just that: opinions. They should not be used as a substitute for your own good sense or that of your doctor. Readers of this column do so at their own risk—this blog is not intended to treat or diagnose disease. Information contained here should be considered a “dietary supplement.” None of it is FDA approved. Mistakes in data interpretation are mine alone (I don’t claim to be a statistician), and you should assume that mistakes will occasionally be made. All personal patient information has been altered.
The heart never takes a holiday. Over the course of a lifetime, this amazing pump can expect to beat more than 3 billion times. No disruptions, no breaks, no rest days. And anything that stands in the way of a beating heart represents a potentially fatal hurdle. Continue reading
People don’t like to wait; not for hamburgers, haircuts, or medical care. And more and more, the same assembly line practices applied to the sale of consumer goods are now being brought to bear in the delivery of healthcare—everything from the incorporation of Lean Toyota process improvement practices, to electronic medical records, to hospital billboards with LED displays of ER wait times. Continue reading
In my last post I discussed reasons why the FDA hasn’t kept us safe from dangerous drugs, either by approving those with questionable safety profiles (t-PA for stroke), or by failing to act when a drug’s widespread use reveals hazardous side-effects (Vioxx for inflammation). Continue reading
The Food and Drug Administration is a huge federal bureaucracy overseeing the safety and efficacy of more than a trillion dollars’ worth of consumer goods annually, ranging from medicines to cosmetics to foods, vaccines, and veterinary products. Continue reading
In March of this year, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) introduced by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). The bill includes amendments for mandatory prescriber education, expanded consumer education, increased funding for substance abuse treatment, increased accountability on the part of the FDA prior to the approval of new opioid medications, and changes to the wording of the FDA’s mission statement: “The FDA is also responsible for protecting the public health by strongly considering the danger of addiction and overdose death associated with prescription opioid medications when approving these medications and when regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of opioid medications.” Continue reading
In May of this year the CDC announced the first US isolation of a so-called “super bug,” meaning a bacteria resistant to all available antibiotics. The E. coli bacterium was cultured from the urinary tract of a Pennsylvania woman with no history of foreign travel. Continue reading
I read an interesting update on cancer screening today published in the January 2016 issue of the BMJ noting that: “A systematic review of cancer screening trials found that three (33%) showed reductions in disease specific mortality and that none showed reductions in overall mortality.” Continue reading
I first started drinking coffee in graduate school. Long before Starbucks, there was a small coffee bar on the UCLA campus, a wood-paneled enclave for hipsters with the requisite chalkboard displaying the day’s brews, a steady stream of foo-foo music wafting in the background mixing nicely with the deep intoxicating aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Continue reading
So I was at a wedding over the weekend when I kept noticing brief flashes of light from the corner of my left eye, like a shooting star that I couldn’t quite focus on. At first I thought this was just the overhead lights flashing as the band was playing, but then a ball of “fuzz” started blurring my vision–an annoying floater that failed to go away when I blinked. Continue reading