In 2002 the BMJ published a theme issue called “Too Much Medicine?” with articles on the medicalisation of birth, sex, and death, among other aspects of ordinary life. Its opening editorial wondered whether doctors could become pioneers of de-medicalisation, handing back power to patients, resisting disease mongering, and demanding fairer global distribution of effective treatments.
A decade later, as data on overuse and overdiagnosis mount the BMJ announces its Too Much Medicine campaign aiming to highlight the threat to human health posed by overdiagnosis and the waste of resources on unnecessary care.
There is growing evidence that many people are overdiagnosed and overtreated for a wide range of conditions, such as prostate and thyroid cancers, asthma, and chronic kidney disease.
Through the campaign, the journal plans to work with others to increase awareness of the benefits and harms of treatments and technologies and develop ways to wind back medical excess, safely and fairly. This editorial by Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ and overdiagnosis researcher Ray Moynihan, senior research fellow at Bond University, Australia, explains more about the campaign:
Dr Godlee said: “Like the evidence based medicine and quality and safety movements of previous decades, combatting excess is a contemporary manifestation of a much older desire to avoid doing harm when we try to help or heal.
Making such efforts even more necessary are the growing concerns about escalating healthcare spending and the threats to health from climate change. Winding back unnecessary tests and treatments, unhelpful labels and diagnoses won’t only benefit those who directly avoid harm, it can also help us create a more sustainable future.”
The BMJ was a partner in the international scientific conference, Preventing Overdiagnosis, held in September 2013 in Hanover, New Hampshire. The conference brought together the research and researchers, advanced the science of the problem and its solutions, and developed ways to better communicate about this modern epidemic.