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The New World View Of Coronary Artery Disease

In 2007, when the results were published from the COURAGE trial, all the experts agreed that this study would fundamentally change the way cardiologists managed patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD).*

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*”Stable” CAD simply means that a patient with CAD is not suffering from one of the acute coronary syndromes – ACS, an acute heart attack or unstable angina. At any given time, the large majority of patients with CAD are in a stable condition.
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But a new study tells us that hasn’t happened. The COURAGE trial has barely budged the way cardiologists treat patients with stable CAD.

Lots of people want to know why. As usual, DrRich is here to help.

The COURAGE trial compared the use of stents vs. drug therapy in patients with stable CAD. Over twenty-two hundred patients were randomized to receive either optimal drug therapy, or optimal drug therapy plus the insertion of stents. Patients were then followed for up to 7 years. Much to the surprise (and consternation) of the world’s cardiologists, there was no significant difference in the incidence of subsequent heart attack or death between the two groups. The addition of stents to optimal drug therapy made no difference in outcomes.

This, decidedly, was a result which was at variance with the Standard Operating Procedure of your average American cardiologist, whose scholarly analysis of the proper treatment of CAD has always distilled down to: “Blockage? Stent!”

But after spending some time trying unsuccessfully to explain away these results, even cardiologists finally had to admit that the COURAGE trial was legitimate, and that it was a game changer. (And to drive the point home, the results of COURAGE have since been reproduced in the BARI-2D trial.) Like it or not, drug therapy ought to be the default treatment for patients with stable CAD, and stents should be used only when drug therapy fails to adequately control symptoms.

When the COURAGE results were initially published they made a huge splash among not only cardiologists, but also the public in general. So cardiologists did not have the luxury of hiding behind (as doctors so often do when a study comes out the “wrong” way) the usual, relative obscurity of most clinical trials. Given the widespread publicity the study generated, it seemed inconceivable that the cardiology community could ignore these results and get away with it.

But a new study, published just last month in JAMA, reveals that ignore COURAGE they have. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

The Right To Bear Salt: Is Sodium Restriction Warranted For The General Population?

Q. What is the difference between a public health expert and Il Duce?
A. Mussolini was not nearly as arrogant as a public health expert.

In prior posts, DrRich related how two major publc health efforts over the past few decades – the effort to put all of us on low-fat diets, and the effort to reduce everyone’s cholesterol levels – have amounted to massive experiments, based upon insufficiently-tested assumptions and surmises and hypotheses which the experts arrogantly (and incorrectly) determined to be fact, and which were conducted upon the entire American population without its knowledge or consent.

These public health experiments cost billions of dollars, needlessly transformed large swatches of American industry, and (at least in the case of low-fat diets) likely produced significant harm to the citizenry. Furthermore, despite such results, these misbegotten public health efforts have inured Americans to the notion that it is right and proper for government experts to determine for each of us what we must and must not eat.

DrRich now feels obligated to call his readers’ attention to yet another experiment which these same public health experts have launched, an experiment under which each of us – once again – is to become an unwitting research subject, an experiment whose results are unpredictable, but which has a realistic chance of producing harm to many of us. DrRich speaks, of course, of the new US dietary guidelines, published earlier this year, regarding sodium. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Conservative Viewpoint: The IPAB Is The Frightening Lynchpin Of Obamacare

In the speech President Obama gave responding to Congressman Ryan’s budget plan (the one in which he lured Ryan to sit in the front row in order to be publicly pilloried), the President did something DrRich did not think he would do before the next election. He openly invoked, and openly embraced, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as the chief mechanism by which Obamacare will control the cost of American healthcare.

“IPAB” might be a new term to many Americans, but DrRich pointed his readers to this entity, within a few weeks of the passage of Obamacare, as the lynchpin (and a very scary lynchpin at that) of the whole enterprise.

Until President Obama’s recent “outing” of IPAB, however, this new board has been almost entirely ignored by most commentators. Since the President’s speech, of course, many have written about it, either to celebrate it or to castigate it. (Of all these commentaries, DrRich most highly recommends the analysis provided by Doug Perednia at the Road to Hellth. In fact, DrRich recommends Perednia in general, as he is regularly producing some of the most insightful commentary, anywhere, on health policy.)

DrRich does not wish to simply repeat here all the observations that have lately been made by others regarding the IPAB. Rather, he will emphasize three particular features of the IPAB, features which are remarkable indeed, and which will tell us something very important about our Progressive leaders. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Is National Debt As Bad As Paul Ryan Says It Is? Lessons From The Past

The last two weeks have made clear that the debate over our national debt will play a major role in the next election cycle.

On one side, many Republicans, lead by Representative Ryan, insist that the rate of growth of our national debt – especially the massive projected growth of Medicare and Medicaid – promises to destroy our society within a generation or two; and that the only way to avert that catastrophe is to make substantial structural changes to our entitlement programs. The subtext of their message is: Federal debt is bad, and debt of this magnitude will be fatal.

On the other side, most Democrats, led by President Obama, stress that our entitlement programs are promises that simply can’t be changed in any substantial way, insist that such entitlements are “investments in our future,” and suggest that whatever shortfalls our current system might encounter can be remedied by taxing millionaires and billionaires. The subtext of their message is: Federal debt can be a force for good, and in this case will trigger a much-needed redistribution of wealth (which is a primary goal of Progressives).

The debate over the national debt is as old as the Republic. In the original version of this debate, the part of the modern Republicans (i.e., debt is bad) was played by Jefferson, and the part of modern Democrats (i.e., debt is an investment in the future) by Hamilton. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Are Paul Ryan’s Medicare Budget Cuts Going To Harm The Elderly?

For some time now, numerous loved ones and dear friends have been advising and occasionally urging DrRich that, perhaps, it has become a bit inappropriate, and even unseemly, for him to continue in his longtime position as President and sole member of Future Old Farts of America (FOFA). For a not unsubstantial interval DrRich ignored this advice, feigning incipient deafness. But finally, after some focused study of that which these days returns his gaze in the mirror, and reluctantly concluding that maybe his loved ones have a point (and not wishing to seem Cranky), DrRich has reluctantly decided to resign from (and therefore disband) FOFA.

DrRich is pleased to announce that he has accepted a new position as President and sole member of Glorious Old Farts of America (GOFA).

And it is in this new capacity that DrRich has become alarmed at some of the dire warnings now being sounded by respected leaders of the Democratic Party, to the effect that the Republicans’ proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2012, released last week by Congressman Paul Ryan (who serves, DrRich believes, as Deputy Whippersnapper of the House Republican caucus), proves that Republicans are trying to kill old people. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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