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Monday 17 June 2019

How effective is conventional medicine?

This blog's primary purpose is to encourage patients, 
sick people, to examine closely how safe and effective their medical treatment is, and to consider safer alternatives.

When conventional medicine is investigated in this way, the most disturbing finding is that it is an inherently dangerous form of medical treatment. So it is perhaps not surprising that it is the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines that is the focus, and not their effectiveness.

Doctors always admit that their treatment always comes with risks (although these are usually heavily discounted). But these risks, we are told, are far outweighed by their benefits (although these benefits are usually heavily exaggerated). And (we are told) all conventional medical treatments are based on evidence, on science. In other words, they are assumed to be, and have been proven to be effective. So how true is this claim?

In 2012 the British Medical Journal's 'Clinical Evidence' website attempted to give us an answer to this question.

               "We want to identify treatments that work and for which the benefits outweigh the harms, especially treatments that may be underused. We also wish to highlight treatments that do not work or for which harms outweigh benefits. For the research community, our intention is to highlight gaps in the evidence – where there are no good RCTs or no RCTs that look at groups of people or at important patient outcomes."

A laudable objective indeed, and Clinical Evidence went to considerable lengths to find the evidence. About 3000 treatments were selected that had been evaluated in research for analysis, and divided them into categories for their effectiveness. This is the resulting graph.

  • So just 11% of conventional medical treatments were considered to be 'beneficial'.
  • Another 24% were 'likely to be beneficial'.
  • Another 7% traded off benefits and harms'.
(And I suspect that these figures may be based on an optimism that conventional medicine is invariably guilty of)

However, the rest of the treatments, 58%, were "unlikely to be beneficial" - or worse.

When the study was first published it came as a shock to the conventional medical establishment. They did nothing about it, of course, and have done nothing about it during the years since it was published. The problem is that if conventional medicine did not have these 'ineffective' treatments to offer patients their cupboard would be almost completely bare.

So conventional medicine did what it always does. They ignored the evidence. They carried on regardless, as if nothing had happened. Perhaps no-one would realise.

So when patients go to see their doctor, or visit their local hospital, they should realise that the treatment they are offered is more likely to be ineffective than effective.

Indeed, the only thing that can be certain is that the treatment given, ineffective as most of it might be, will still have the dangerous side effects and adverse reactions likely to harm rather than improve our health!

So next time you see your doctor, ask him how effective his/her treatment is, which of the above categories it falls into. (S)he will not know because the 3000 treatments, and the categories into which they were placed, remains unknown.

Will it be effective?
Will it be harmful?
Will it kill you?
No-one really knows, and certainly no-one will tell you!