Is cancer fundraising fuelling quackery ?

Are crowdfunding sites promoting quack treatments for cancer ?

Figures published by The BMJ show how crowdfunding for alternative therapies for patients with terminal cancer has soared in recent years. But there are fears that huge sums are being raised for treatments that are not backed by evidence and which, in some cases, may even do then harm, MedicalXpress reports.

JustGiving’s own figures show more than 2300 UK cancer related appeals were set up on its site in 2016, a sevenfold rise on the number for 2015.

The phenomenon has allowed less well-off patients to access expensive, experimental treatments that are not funded by the NHS but have some evidence of benefit. But many fear it has also opened up a new and lucrative revenue stream for cranks, charlatans, and conmen who prey on the vulnerable.

“We are concerned that so many UK patients are raising huge sums for treatments which are not evidence based and which in some cases may even do them harm.”

The society’s project director, Michael Marshall, said.

Melanie Newman, freelance journalist, London, UK, examines calls to help ensure patients and their donors are not being exploited.

Featured image credit @bmj_company.

Drop the C-word to reduce anxiety and overtreatment, say experts

Renaming low risk conditions labelled as cancer

Removing the cancer label in low risk conditions that are unlikely to cause harm if left untreated may help reduce overdiagnosis and overtreatment, argue The BMJ

Abstract

Evidence is mounting that disease labels affect people’s psychological responses and their decisions about management options. The use of more medicalised labels can increase both concern about illness and desire for more invasive treatment. For low risk lesions where there is evidence of overdiagnosis and previous calls to replace the term cancer, we consider the potential implications of removing the cancer label and how this may be achieved.

Our changing understanding of the prognosis of cancers

Some cancers are non-growing or so slow growing that they will never cause harm if left undetected. A prime example is low risk papillary thyroid cancer. Autopsy studies show a large reservoir of undetected papillary thyroid cancer that never causes harm, and the incidence of thyroid cancer has risen substantially in many developed countries. This rise has been predominantly driven by an increase in small papillary thyroid cancers, with mortality remaining largely unchanged. These small papillary thyroid cancers are increasingly being detected because of new technologies, increased access to health services, and thyroid cancer screening. Studies show that rates of metastases, progression to clinical disease, and tumour growth in patients with small papillary thyroid cancer who receive immediate surgery are comparable with those in patients who follow active surveillance.

Likewise, for both low risk ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and localised prostate cancer, detection strategies have become controversial as long term outcomes for both conditions have been shown to be excellent and there is evidence and concern about overdiagnosis and overtreament. Given the potential harms of overtreatment of DCIS, active surveillance is now being trialled internationally as an alternative approach. …

continue reading Renaming low risk conditions labelled as cancer on The BMJ, 12 August 2018. Image  credit @bmj_company.

Too Much Medicine Helsinki Symposium 2018

Paulo Foundation International Medical Symposium, Helsinki, 15 – 17 Aug 2018

Abstracts

  • Overestimation of depression prevalence in meta-analyses via the inclusion of primary studies that assessed depression using screening tools or rating scales rather than validated diagnostic interviews
  • Clinician, patient and general public beliefs about diagnostic imaging for low back pain: A qualitative evidence synthesis
  • Overdiagnosis of low back pain
  • Defining Overdiagnosis of Mental Health Disorders: Secondary Analysis of an Overdiagnosis Scoping Review
  • Evaluating the content of Choosing Wisely recommendations and prevalence of interdisciplinary finger pointing
  • Inadequate Prescription of medicines for Parkinson’s disease in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country. An observational study
  • Is it always necessary to treat nocturia? Natural history of nocturia among men and women during the 5-year period
  • The monocriterial source of over-testing and over-treatment: the case of bone scanning
  • Increasing prescription of opioid analgesics and neuropathic pain medicines for spinal pain in Australia
  • No benefit of additional care for ‘high-risk’ patients with acute low back pain: The PREVENT randomized, placebo-controlled trial
  • Overdiagnosis, overtreatment and low-value care in physiotherapy: a scoping review
  • Targeted information based on reimbursed drug registry
  • Journal Registration Policies and Prospective Registration in Randomized Trials of Non-Regulated Interventions: A Meta-Research Review
  • Pharmacotherapy and behavioural problems in Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Simultaneous under and over care of eye health care in Finland
  • Decision Support and Knowledge Translation Tools to Highlight the Benefits and Downstream Harms of Screening: Resources from the Canadian Task Force for Preventive Healthcare
  • A Free Access Literature Awareness Portal That Surveilles High Quality Research and Guidelines to Inform Benefits and Downstream Harms of Screening and Prevention Strategies in Healthcare
  • From “Non‐encounters” to autonomic agency. Conceptions of patients with low back pain about their encounters in Finnish health care system
  • Does the use of CAM reflect a patients´ response to “too much medicine”?
  • Preferred Reporting Items for Overview of Systematic Reviews for abstracts (PRIO-abstracts)

Reference.

Is early detection always the best medicine ?

The Recommended Dose, with Alexandra Barratt

Hosted by acclaimed journalist and health researcher Dr Ray Moynihan, The Recommended Dose tackles the big questions in health and explores the insights, evidence and ideas of extraordinary researchers, thinkers, writers and health professionals from around the globe. The series is produced by Cochrane Australia and co-published with the BMJ.

Press Play > to listen to the recording.

Dr Ray Moynihan’s guest has led something of a double life, using both medicine and the media to explore and promote the critical role of evidence in healthcare. Now based at the University of Sydney, Alexandra Barratt‘s journey from clinician to journalist to global advocate for evidence based medicine and shared decision-making is a fascinating one.

Here Alexandra talks with Ray about her varied career and the reasons she’s ended up challenging conventional wisdom. She also talks about her research into the pros and cons of breast cancer screening and questions the widely-accepted idea that early detection is always the best medicine.

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Overuse of medical care : a well-recognized problem

2017 Update on Medical Overuse : A Systematic Review

2017 Study Abstract

Objective
To identify and highlight original research articles published in 2016 that are most relevant to understanding medical overuse or strategies to reduce it.

Evidence Review
A structured review of English-language articles on PubMed published in 2016 coupled with examination of tables of contents of high-impact journals to identify articles related to medical overuse in adults. These articles were appraised for their importance to medicine.

Findings
This study considered 2252 articles, 1224 of which addressed medical overuse. Of these, 122 were deemed most relevant based on originality, methodologic quality, and number of patients potentially affected. The 10 most influential articles were selected by author consensus. Select findings from the studies include the lack of benefit of transesophageal echocardiography in the workup of cryptogenic stroke, increasing use of computed tomography in the emergency department from 2.2% to 9.4% from 2001 to 2010, and carotid ultrasonography and revascularization being performed for uncertain or inappropriate indications with 95% frequency. Likewise, services for which harms are likely to outweigh benefits include treatment for early-stage prostate cancer, which provides no mortality benefit but increases absolute risk of erectile dysfunction by 10% to 30%, oxygen for patients with moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, surgery for meniscal tear with mechanical symptoms, and nutritional interventions for inpatients with malnutrition. This review highlights 2 methods for reducing overuse: clinician audit and feedback with peer comparison for antibiotic use (reduction in inappropriate antibiotic use from 20% to 4%) and a practical and sensible shared decision-making tool for low-risk chest pain (reduction in emergency department workup from 52% to 37%).

Conclusions and Relevance
The body of empirical work continues to expand related to medical services that are provided for inappropriate or uncertain indications. Engaging patients in conversations aimed at shared decision making and giving practitioners feedback about their performance relative to peers appear to be useful in reducing overuse.

Overtreatment is harmful, wasteful and common

Overtreatment Is Common, Doctors Say

Researchers surveyed 2,106 physicians in various specialties, from the American Medical Association (AMA) masterfile, regarding their beliefs about unnecessary medical care. On average, the doctors believed that 20.6 % of all medical care was unnecessary, including 22.0 % of prescription medications, 24.9 % of tests and 11.1 % of procedures.

2017 Study Abstract

Background
Overtreatment is a cause of preventable harm and waste in health care. Little is known about clinician perspectives on the problem. In this study, physicians were surveyed on the prevalence, causes, and implications of overtreatment.

Methods
2,106 physicians from an online community composed of doctors from the American Medical Association (AMA) masterfile participated in a survey. The survey inquired about the extent of overutilization, as well as causes, solutions, and implications for health care. Main outcome measures included: percentage of unnecessary medical care, most commonly cited reasons of overtreatment, potential solutions, and responses regarding association of profit and overtreatment.

Findings
The response rate was 70.1%. Physicians reported that an interpolated median of 20.6% of overall medical care was unnecessary, including 22.0% of prescription medications, 24.9% of tests, and 11.1% of procedures. The most common cited reasons for overtreatment were fear of malpractice (84.7%), patient pressure/request (59.0%), and difficulty accessing medical records (38.2%). Potential solutions identified were training residents on appropriateness criteria (55.2%), easy access to outside health records (52.0%), and more practice guidelines (51.5%). Most respondents (70.8%) believed that physicians are more likely to perform unnecessary procedures when they profit from them. Most respondents believed that de-emphasizing fee-for-service physician compensation would reduce health care utilization and costs.

Conclusion
From the physician perspective, overtreatment is common. Efforts to address the problem should consider the causes and solutions offered by physicians.

More Information

The Reason we believe Vitamins are Good for Us (they’re Not)

Adam Ruins Everything – December 2015

Adam Conover tells us the real story behind the vitamin supplement overblown health craze.

The Real Reason Hospitals Are So Expensive

Adam Ruins The Hospital – Season 2 | Ep 203, 2017

American healthcare might not be the best in the world, but it is the most expensive. Adam Conover explains that inflated hospital costs have created a system that’s unaffordable and unfair.

The Little Known Truth About Mammograms

Adam Ruins The Hospital – Season 2 | Ep 203, 2017

Mammograms might be able to detect cancer but they can’t tell the difference between different types. Turns out, mammograms can harm and save much fewer lives than you think.

Diagnostic tests : how to minimise harm

We must develop new diagnostic tests to tackle real health problems, not to generate them

New diagnostic tests: more harm than good, BMJ 2017;358:j3314,
06 January 2016.

Defenders against overdiagnosis, BMJ 2017;358:j3487, 20 July 2017.

Although new diagnostics may advance the time of diagnoses in selected patients, they will increase the frequency of false alarms, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment in others.

Bjorn Hofmann, professor of medical ethics at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, explains how to minimise harm. Press Play > to listen to the recording.

Key messages

  • Innovative technologies and ample venture capital are combining to produce new disease biomarkers and mobile monitoring devices
  • These new diagnostics are technologically advanced but do not automatically provide improvements in clinical care and population health
  • They have the potential to help some but also to increase the frequency of false alarms, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment in others
  • Excessive testing and false alarms may increase healthcare workload and shift clinicians’ focus towards the healthy
  • Misleading feedback at both the population and individual levels tends to favour further market growth
  • Clinicians must provide a strong counterbalance: educating patients, respecting baseline risk, thinking downstream, and expecting misleading feedback

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