I read (and commented on) an earlier draft of this article, and was struck by its use of the term pseudoevidence-based medicine to describe some of the less healthy trends we have discussed on Health Care Renewal. Some key quotes:
Another, perhaps not new threat to the practice of EBM [evidence-based medicine] has been discovered -- pseudoevidence-based medicine (PBM). PBM can be defined as the practice of medicine based on falsehoods that are disseminated as truth. Falsehoods may result from corrupted evidence--evidence that has been suppressed, contrived from purposely biased science, or that has been manipulated and/or falsified, then published. Or falsehoods may result from corrupted dissemination of otherwise valid evidence. These falsehoods, when consumed as truth by unwitting and well-intentioned practitioners of EBM, then disseminated and adopted as routine practice, may well result not only in inappropriate quality standards and processes of care, but also in harms to patients.
EBM rests on the premises of professionalism in science and medicine. EBM presumes that evidence is produced by scientists who strive to be objective. EBM presumes that those producing evidence have no pre-conceived hopes or goals for what the evidence will show. EBM presumes that producers of evidence have no stakes in what the evidence will show. EBM presumes, or at least strives to assure, that the scientific evidence-production process is free manipulation by people with vested interests with goals other than improvement in patients’ mortality, morbidity, or quality of life.
There are reasons to believe EBM’s presumptions are in question, and that PBM is a “new” threat to EBM. Only two conditions are necessary for PBM to flourish. First, one link in the chain of evidence production, assembly, or dissemination must be purposely corrupted, resulting from a compromise of professionalism in science and medicine. Second, the belief must be promulgated that a given piece of evidence is true and of the highest quality possible, when in fact it is tainted.
Smith attributed the rise of pseudoevidence-based medicine to the conflict between the profit motive and physicians' traditional values.
By definition, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, some health care providers, many insurance providers, and various middlemen and brokers in health care are in business for a profit. And while the profit motive is not itself wrong or dangerous, the profit motive is dangerous when placed in direct competition with protecting and prolonging human life, the precise business in which health care stakeholders should be engaged.
As they say, "read the whole thing."
And I think that we will find the term pseudoevidence-based medicine very useful on Health Care Renewal.