An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: A recent study has unearthed nearly 400 established treatments, devices and procedures that are no better than previous or lesser alternatives. [This is referred to as a “medical reversal” in the medical industry.] The findings are based on more than 15 years of randomized controlled trials, a type of research that aims to reduce bias when testing new treatments. Across 3,000 articles in three leading medical journals from the UK and the US, the authors found 396 reversals. While these were found in every medical discipline, cardiovascular disease was by far the most commonly represented category, at 20 percent; it was followed by preventative medicine and critical care.
Taken together, it appears that medication was the most common reversal at 33 percent; procedures came in second at 20 percent, and vitamins and supplements came in third at 13 percent. This line-up is unsurprising given the history of medical reversals that we do know about. In the late 20th century, for instance, sudden cardiac death was deemed a “world wide public health problem.” Most cases were thought to arise from an irregular heart rhythm, and so a new generation of antiarrhythmic drugs were developed. “In the late 1980s, the Cardiac Antiarrhythmic Suppression Trial (CAST) was conducted to assess the safety of what was then commonplace. Interestingly, recruitment for the trial was hindered by physicians who refused to let patients undergo randomization with a 50 percent chance of not receiving these medications.” In the end, however, the randomized trial found that the medication was even more deadly than a placebo. While not all of these medical reversals are deadly, they are all, by definition, useless expenses. The research has been published in the journal eLife.