We are not shielding our patients from harm

124 Shares

You’ve been swindled.

At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. It wasn’t the hucksters or the snake oil salesman. It wasn’t big business, big medicine, or some greedy hospital administrator. It was most likely pharma with a large dose of helping from your doctor. Plain and simple.

I’ve learned quite a bit being a hospice medical director. Covering dozens of new admissions a week has given me much insight into doctor prescribing habits. Often it is my job to decide with meds are necessary and covered by hospice, which are necessary but not covered by hospice, and which are useless.

Do you have any idea how many useless and often harmful meds our patients are on? I’m not just talking about end of life, but healthy patients to.

Can we talk multivitamins? Almost every patient I encounter is prescribed a multivitamin. Healthy, unhealthy, living, dying. When your in the grasps of stage five thousand and one lung cancer and your brain is riddled with mets, you have no business being on a multi. It’s not going to help you. It’s not going to provide that last bit of energy to overcome the calamitous collapse that is approaching rapidly. In fact, there is plenty of data to suggest multivitamins are harmful if not neutral at best. Even in healthy people.

How about vitamin D? I swear, every patient I encounter is on some sort of D supplement. Never mind that the vast majority of medical evidence implies that supplementation is unhelpful in most disease processes. Yes, there is osteoporosis, but otherwise, it is a nonstarter.

Aricept in patients who don’t walk, don’t talk, and barely interact with the world around them? Again, started often because there is no other treatment, profound dementia patients are submitted to a host of side effects including diarrhea and syncope without the faintest glimpse of medical benefit.

Vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium?

How about statins in patients without a history of coronary disease with end stage-opathies and malignant cancers. Do we really think we are going to cut down on cardiac events in the fleeting few months that these patients have to live? Is there any data to support this? You better believe that these patients get myalgia and other side effects.

Antibiotics for foul smelling urine, screening urine cultures without symptoms, or agitation in an already agitated patient. It seems that treating non-utis has become the national past time of our health care system.

I could go on and on. Don’t even get me started on antibacterials for nonbacterial infections.

The point is, we are not being careful with our prescribing habits. We are not taking into consideration the wealth of evidence and data regarding some of these treatments.

And we are not being good advocates.

We are not shielding our patients from harm.

Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion. Watch his talk at dotMED 2013, Caring 2.0: Social Media and the Rise Of The Empathic Physician. He is the author of Five Moments: Short Works of Fiction and I Am Your Doctor: and This Is My Humble Opinion.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

124 Shares

View 4 Comments >

Most Popular

Join 150,000+ subscribers

Get the best of KevinMD in your inbox

Sign me up! It's free. 
close-link
✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers 
✓ Get KevinMD's 5 most popular stories
Subscribe. It's free.