The Antidote

Counterspin for Health Care and Health News

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekly this and that - Oct. 22, 2006

Health care costs in the New York Times, reprise

David Leonhardt takes a broad look at the reasons for comparative health care costs and quality around the world - in particular why Americans pay so much more for less:
Something beside administrative costs is at work here, and it involves a basic cultural difference. Americans seem to be less willing to take no for an answer and more willing to try almost anything, no matter how expensive or how slim the odds, to prolong life.

I'd say that's a pretty kind way of putting it. So, what do we do about that? Thoughts?

Guidelines that smell funny

The folks at the Health Care Renewal blog have a hard-hitting post this week about the development of guidelines on epoetin use by entities with financial interests. Guidelines, like consensus statements, are presumed by their users to be evidence-based and impartial, so it's important to call attention to the provenance of that might be suspect, such as those that emerge from the pockets of pharmaceutical interests. For that matter, we should always look closely at the provenance of evidence-based documents.

Fish consumption - risks and benefits

Two reports emerged this week on the respective risks (from mercury) and benefits (against heart disease) of eating fish. One is from the Institute of Medicine, and the other from the Harvard School of Public Health. A number of news outlets, predictably, picked up on the two reports; the Knight Science Journalism Tracker did a great job of aggregating all the resulting stories, some of which drew attention to the qualifications of the message and inconsistencies between the reports.

Green tea: countering marketing hype and the blogosphere's rumor mill

In a wire-service article this week, Belinda Goldsmith brought in nutritionist Marion Nestle and Londa Sandon, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, to help provide a counterpoint against Coca Cola's weight loss claims for a new beverage containing green tea extracts. Meanwhile, over at, a group blog-style news site - sort of like RealSimple for the Web generation - breathless promotion of another blog's claims of weight loss and a host of other benefits from green tea garnered a range of chatty, personal anecdotes, as well as - if you scroll down far enough - a response from someone who actually went to the literature to investigate the claims and, not surprisingly, found they didn't hold up.

This week at AHRQ

The U.S. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality announced a new evidence report showing that genomic tests used in the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer are not useful in lowering mortality from the disease or improving quality of life. More AHRQ news is available via podcast, which features a new survey that captures the public’s views of medical errors and quality of care, a comparison of arthritis pain medications that finds they’re all very similar, and a look at a new study that used health information technology (HIT) to reduce the prevalence of pressure ulcers in long-term care facilities.

The AHRQ website indicates that it will be down from Oct. 27-30 - is a new look and simpler user interface in store? Stay tuned...

Note (10/25/06): the network outage that was planned for this weekend has been postponed until November 3, 2006 at 5:00PM. Thanks to a contact at AHRQ for the update.


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