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Health Tips ​Here’s why so many medical treatments don’t bring the benefits you think

We trust doctors to offer us the most effective treatments possible, but in some cases, what they offer may not be the best options for us.

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Ineffective medical treatments play

Ineffective medical treatments

(Getty)

​The procedures and drugs you think are helping may actually be doing squat

We trust doctors to offer us the most effective treatments possible, but in some cases, what they offer may not be the best options for us.

In fact, many of the medications and procedures they recommend actually have little evidence behind them, according to a new report in ProPublica.

This might explain why people are paying more and more for medical care without seeing more benefits, said David L. Brown, M.D., of Washington University School of Medicine, in the report.

Stent procedures, for example—the implantation of a metal tube into an artery—are performed on hundreds of thousands of patients a year to prevent heart attacks, even though a study in JAMA Internal Medicine found they haven’t been shown to prevent any heart attacks or lengthen lives.

This is especially troubling since one in 50 stent patients experiences a complication or dies. In fact, one man who got one that he didn’t need was unable to receive life-saving surgery for a different condition as a result of his stent. He later died, according to the report.

What’s more, a review in the New England Journal of Medicine found that only 138 of 363 studies on common medical practices support their continued use.

Even some of the most common treatments aren’t really backed up by evidence. CPR with rescue breaths, for example, is no more effective than chest compressions alone.

Another meta-analysis found that sleep aid sedatives like Ambien only help one in 13 people sleep—but cause negative side effects for one in six. (Here’s what you need to know about taking over-the-counter sleep medicine.)

The problem is multifold. Doctors don’t always have the chance to stay on top of new research, and studies supporting the practices they test get more attention.

A Journal of the American Medical Association analysis found that it takes 10 years after a common protocol is debunked for doctors to stop recommending it, according to the report.

This investigation highlights the importance of taking doctors’ advice with a healthy dose of skepticism.

One man in the report, for example, was recommended a stent by two physicians, but didn’t get enough information, so he went to Dr. Brown.

After taking meds and changing his diet instead, his chest pain went away in three months.

So, don’t be afraid to ask about your options, get second opinions, and do your own research.

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