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PT and the Greater Good

More Harm Than Good?

Published May 14, 2013 10:12 AM by Dean Metz

An interesting article came out in the British popular press last week that states some chronic low-back pain can be cured by antibiotics. The writing is fairly clear that only certain cases would benefit from this approach and it includes links to the two scientific abstracts the article is based on: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00586-013-2674-z and http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00586-013-2675-y.

Articles like this can help patients become better-educated consumers of healthcare... but do they? In the United Kingdom, use of prescribed medications is regulated by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and doctors can't prescribe drugs not approved for a specific purpose. There is little chance of patients pestering their GPs for antibiotics. Here in the US, however, pharmaceutical companies bank on stories like this so that patients will pester their doctors for drugs. The potential for multi-resistant bacteria proliferation just got a bit bigger.

I have some issues with promotions for health-related products. Just yesterday, I saw a commercial for a particular knee replacement that replicates "normal" motion of joint as a pure hinge with no slide-glide components at all. Whether this works better or not, I object to the use of "normal" when the motion is absolutely not normal. You may have seen it -- the company uses oval-shaped wheels on cars and bikes to make its point about "abnormal" joint motions. How many patients will demand this type of joint just because of the advertising?

So the popular press and advertising may raise knowledge levels and create better consumer choices. It could also muddy the waters, resulting in poorer outcomes, unhappy patients and higher costs for everyone.

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About this Blog


    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
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