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Why Doctors Overprescribe

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Hey, give us a break! We get foot-tall stacks of journals every week. You can’t really expect us to do all that reading? What many people do is skim the titles and conclusions. It’s the Readers Digest way to get the information down.

Unfortunately, a little knowledge is dangerous and there’s a huge problem with practicing this kind of Readers Digest medicine. Why? Because the conclusions that get printed aren’t necessarily true!

A 2003 article in JAMA shows that most of their own articles, as well as articles in other well-respected journals, contain data that doesn’t support the statements made in the conclusion. This happens nearly 100 percent of the time in drug-company sponsored research articles, which were found to exaggerate benefits and minimize potential harms, sometimes to the extent that they make false claims of safety and efficacy.

I was never a big fan of bone density drugs because I understood that they worked by suppressing an important physiologic process called bone turnover. A recent NYT article now warns that they may indeed be harmful. I practice what I believe to be safe medicine by remembering the basic physiology I learned in medical school, and you can encourage your doctor to do the same by asking him to explain to you how any “preventative” drug you are taking works, and why he or she thinks a given pill is safe enough to take for (potentially) 10 or 20 or more years.

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About Author

Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

  • Actually, if it wasn’t for doctors like Dr. Cate, the victims (patients) who are taking these drugs would be uninformed about the side effects since drug company sponsored research articles and TV ads make dishonest claims.
    All drugs have side effects and I have had too many bad experiences with many of them. I would rather take my vitamin D3, magnesium and Vitamin K2 and get calcium through my food then trust a drug for my bones any day.
    I love my GP but I can see how she and others are constantly under severe pressure to prescribe drugs that might have some scary consequences. I oftentimes wonder if the drug companies have done more harm than good to the medical profession.

  • catey

    Dear Dr. B

    As a researcher, you are in a perfect position to articulate the corporate viewpoint for my readers who are not yet acquainted with it. And I thank you for making my point, that many doctors tend to skip to the end and can’t be bothered to read the whole content. If you read the entire post you’ve commented on, you will find that I’m arguing for the very thing that you have suggested: doctors should familiarize themselves with the literature.

    The fact that you missed that, tells me that, like so many other physicians in your position, you couldn’t take time to familiarize yourself with the full content.

    One last thought: visitors to this site are more than capable of judging which sites should be read with a humorous eye, and which should be taken seriously. Patients are more critical and more informed than ever. And drug companies and those on their payroll will no doubt find this a growing inconvenience.

    Dr. Cate

  • Before making uneducated comments read the literature. Bisphosphonates used at approved doses do not result in abnormal bone structure,Thats been shown in several bone biopsy studies. Denying patients adequate care for osteoporosis is frankly malpractice. While rare cases of osteonecrosis of the jaw can occur 95% of those cases were in cancer patients using high dose IV biphosphonates.
    Your other mistake is trusting the New York Times for ANY source of objective news.
    As a physician I do careful honest clinical research for drug companies monitored by the FDA. Its an absolutely ignorant statement to state that all the research conclusions are “made up”. To anyone out their reading this blog–my advice as a board certified MD of 25 years -read with a humorous eye and dont take this DR.Cate seriously. Get medical advice from WEB MD or your Doc but not here.

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