Half of medical treatments of unknown effectiveness

The Incidental Economist: January 16, 2013

The British Medical Journal posted on their website, Clinical Evidence, the results of an analysis of randomized controlled trials focusing on harms and benefits of 3,000 medical treatments. The effectiveness of each treatment was rated based on six criteria: (a) beneficial, (b) likely to be beneficial, (c) trade-off between benefits and harms, (d) unlikely to be beneficial, (e) likely to be ineffective or harmful, and (f) unknown effectiveness. The results were striking. Only about a third of the treatments were shown to be beneficial (11%) or likely to be beneficial (23%). Another 7% were rated as trade-offs between benefits and harms, with 6% rated unlikely to be beneficial and another 3% rated likely to be ineffective or harmful. The authors at Clinical Evidence rated the remaining 50% of medical treatments as being of unknown effectiveness. The challenge that evidence ratings like these pose for clinicians is not new. Read more