Grow Some Backbone
Spinal fusions are among the most physician-abused medical procedures in healthcare USA – vying for top spot with needless open heart surgeries and cardiac stent implants.
Studies by the Dartmouth Atlas Project reveal that spinal fusion surgeries are performed in some parts of America at 20 times the rate in other parts of the country – much of it justified by bogus research and personal greed. THIS is what drives much of healthcare USA today.
It’s gotten so bad that even their fellow spine specialists have had enough.
After reviewing 13 corporate-sponsored research trials, an unprecedented critical report was published in The Spine Journal.
It charged that researchers with financial ties to Medtronic – the manufacturer of a bone growth product used in spinal fusions called Infuse – had overstated the product’s benefits and grossly understated its risks by ignoring them.
It found that the company failed to disclose long-known complications like unwanted spinal bone growth after the surgery in 7 out of 10 people treated with its product.
One researcher commented in coverage of the study by medpagetoday.com as follows:
“This is very troubling. If we can’t trust the scientific medical literature to be accurate, we can’t provide the best patient care.”
Since then, Medtronic settled another claim of paying kickbacks to yet more doctors for implanting their pacemakers and defibrillators by paying $23.5 million in fines and penalties.
Kickbacks are a Two-Way Street
Kickbacks are a two-way street, however. They only work because there’s a plentiful supply of doctors in America willing to accept these financial bribes to favor one product or service over another.
Which is why you shouldn’t expect much to change as a result of any of this.
Case-in-point: The national Orthopedic Society dismissed arthroscopic surgery of arthritic knees as worthless years ago, yet American orthopedists continue to perform over a million of them every year.
Yup, more evidence of the actual state of affairs in healthcare USA.
Why we continue to allow it – and pay for it – is the obvious question.
Our Healthcare Sucks exposes other examples of not just illegal fraud and corruption, but the more prevalent “soft fraud” that has become routine in much of medical practice in America.
This is the true status of healthcare USA – and it’s beyond disturbing.
“We Told You So”
Medtronic’s response to the spine growth controversy over the validity and reliability of the research they fund was reported in the MedNewsToday article. Essentially, it’s that they told us so…
The researchers’ financial ties with Medtronic were disclosed, and
The risk of ectopic bone growth was disclosed to patients signing consent forms to participate in the relevant clinical trials.
Is no one paying attention?
Or have we just gotten so desensitized to the pervasive corruption of our medical “science” that we simply choose to ignore it?
The Disclosure Cop-Out
Disclosure was the industry’s half-hearted and self-serving response to the corruption of medical science that emerged decades ago. If people know of the financial conflicts of interest among those conducting the research, that somehow cleanses the research itself of the bias these conflicts create.
That’s the basic theory, at least. And it’s untrue, of course. All it does is put us on notice; the rest is up to us.
Public disclosure of financial conflicts of interest is like informed consent that’s required of patients before a medical procedure can be performed on them. Both are legalistic protections for doctors and hospitals more than substantive attempts to correct the problems they purport to address.
This, too, is the state of healthcare USA…legal maneuvering instead of actual problem-solving.
Sadly, naïve – and desperate – patients still pursue a role in clinical trials hoping for a research cure for their condition in the face of such blatant bias and outright corrupted science…usually because they don’t know any better.
And because they’re desperate…not exactly the best state-of-mind to be making such crucial, life-and-death decisions.
A Systemic Failure
It’s a measure of how jaded we’ve become when the only rebuttal to such serious accusations by medical specialists in the field is a cover-your-ass reliance on legal disclosures – the knee-jerk reaction in healthcare USA today.
They’re not liable because they disclosed everything. Well, maybe not everything, since they refused to address the most important concern: the failure to disclose the experience with unwanted bone growth in 70% of the patients treated with their product.
But the basic idea put forth is that they met the letter of the law, thank you very much.
So where does that leave you – the increasingly isolated medical consumer?
It’s “Your Bad”
What the industry is telling you with such a posture is that it’s “Buyer Beware” when it comes to believing their research.
They’re disclosing the financial conflicts of interest and the risks in using their drugs or devices. If you choose to ignore it, well, in today’s jargon – that’s “your bad”.
Yet 13 studies is a lot of disclosing of financial conflicts and treatment risks – and a lot of failing to report the complications of treatments they chose to keep buried.
This includes possible complications that one hospital participating in one of these spinal fusion trials called “exuberant bone growth” after using the product – not a good thing.
It’s the consistency and the duration of these failures to disclose complications, however, that reveals a systematic failure that violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. This is the true status of healthcare USA.
As the Stanford University spine surgeon who lead the critical review in The Spine Journal nicely put it in the MedPageToday article:
“The ‘first do not harm’ principle of medical ethics would say the first priority should be that one must be very cautious to guard against saying the drug is safe when it’s not…Is the corporate interest the priority or is patient safety the priority?”
Well, what do you think the answer is? And…
What Are You Going To Do About It?
Or will you remain intimidated and confused by a medical establishment that’s ripping off you and your family with increasing abandon?
That’s been our collective default position so far.
We don’t think there’s anything we can do about it, so we continue to tolerate it.
Even worse, we continue to behave as if it isn’t even happening, when the evidence tells us it’s only getting worse in the deceptive world of American medicine that’s rapidly becoming the new definition of healthcare USA.
Biased Research, Bogus Medicine
Industry-funded research is consistently untrustworthy, whether it’s spine products, defibrillators, cardiac stents, or blockbuster drugs.
The pattern is consistent – industry-funded studies find more benefits and fewer complications than independent research and generally perform research of inferior (“less rigorous”) quality.
Yet it has so infiltrated academic medicine – with joint venture partnerships, research grants, fellowship funding, even royalties from product sales – that the two are now indistinguishable.
And this is the “evidence” on which we’re expected to rely – we and our doctors.
Keep this in mind the next time you hear an industry apologist demanding faster regulatory approvals in the name of “saving lives” and “medical progress”.
These are terms that are market-tested for consumer reactions. They’ve proven they know how to push our buttons.
And like much of their research, it’s completely bogus.
It’s time we got wise to it.
This article is provided for informational and educational purposes only.
It does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon as such.