Medical Studies

Health ‘breakthrough’ anxieties

Nearly every day one reads about a revolutionary new pharmaceutical or medical procedure.  Years later, however, we often learn that this ‘breakthrough’ was only a marginal improvement, had serious side effects or simply did not work.  Ellen Goodman discusses in “Health ‘breakthrough’ anxieties” how a new breast cancer drug (raloxifene) seemed to offer a better choice to post-menopausal women at risk of breast cancer than the previous alternative (tamoxifen).  Although raloxifene did seem to outperform tamoxifen, Cynthia Pearson of the National Women’s Health Network figures that only 30 out of the 10,000 who too raloxifene for up to five years actually benefited.  The oncologist Jerome Groopman puts forth an appropriate newspaper headline:

There’s a Small Difference in a Larger Group of Women That Has Side Effects and It’s Not Clear What’s Best for Any Individual

The point is to be skeptical of what you read in the newspapers.  If you believe you need some sort of medication, it is your responsibility to yourself to the necessary research to find out which drugs (or medical procedures, etc.) are best for your particular situation.