Around 40 per cent of medical procedures and drugs—such as COX-2 painkillers, stents for coronary artery disease and HRT—have never worked and should be stopped, a major review of current practices has concluded.

The practices “were instituted in error, never helped patients and have eroded trust in medicine,” says Dr Vinay Prasad, a chief fellow of America’s National Cancer Institute. They also take up valuable resources and money.

In reviewing 363 studies on established medical practices, Dr Prasad found that just 38 per cent were proven to be beneficial; 22 per cent were inconclusive and 40 per cent were not helping the patient.

Examples of useless practices included:

  • Stents for stable coronary disease
  • HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for post-menopausal women to help prevent heart disease
  • Pulmonary artery catheters for patients in shock
  • The drug, aprotinin, in cardiac surgery
  • The COX-2 painkillers

(Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2013; 88)
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