Tag Archives: misconceptions

Ideology Getting in the Way of Evidence-Based Medicine

Giving beta blockers to a person in the early stages of a heart attack makes sense: the drugs reduce oxygen consumption by calming and slowing the heart; something that is ideal during a heart attack.

However despite evidence showing that beta blockers may actually increase heart failure, the practice of administering them continues. As Dr. David Newman states in The New York Times, medical ideology regularly triumphs over evidence-based research and non-working treatments are still given to patients because they should work.

Other revelations from Dr Newman:

  • No cough remedies have ever been proven better than a placebo, either for adults or children. Yet their use is common.
  • Patients with ear infections are more likely to be harmed by antibiotics than helped. While the pills may cause a small decrease in symptoms (for which ear drops work better), the infections typically recede within days regardless of treatment. The same is true for bronchitis, sinusitis, and sore throats.
  • Back surgeries to relieve pain are, in the majority of cases, no better than nonsurgical treatment.
  • Arthroscopic surgery to correct osteoarthritis of the knee [is] no better than sham knee surgery, in which surgeons “pretend” to do surgery while the patient is under light anesthesia. It is also no better than much cheaper, and much less invasive, physical therapy.

via Overcoming Bias

Vitamins: A Pointless Expense?

Medical research is beginning to suggest that vitamins have questionable health benefits.

One study found that vitamin C is ineffective for cold–prevention unless you’re exposed to extreme physical stress (read: ultramarathon runners and “soldiers during sub-Arctic winter exercises”).

The New York Times looks at this trend, noting that in some cases, vitamins may do more harm than good. However, there are always exceptions (B12 supplements for the elderly and folic acid for women of child-bearing age have proven health benefits) and caveats:

Despite a lack of evidence that vitamins actually work, consumers appear largely unwilling to give them up. Many readers of the Well blog say the problem is not the vitamin but poorly designed studies that use the wrong type of vitamin, setting the vitamin up to fail. Industry groups such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition also say the research isn’t well designed to detect benefits in healthy vitamin users.

List of Common Misconceptions

The list of common misconceptions includes this clarification:

The word “theory” in “the theory of evolution” does not imply doubt in mainstream science about the validity of this theory; the words “theory” and “hypothesis” are not the same in a scientific context (see Evolution as theory and fact). A scientific theory is a set of principles which, via logical deduction, explains the observations in nature. The same logical deductions can be made to predict observations before they are made. The theory describing how evolution occurs is a “theory” in the same sense as the theory of gravity or the theory of relativity.