|The Crumbling Walls of Medical Ignorance|
To encourage more physician vigilance, Dr. Lenfant cites a study showing that very careful monitoring and appropriate adjustment of the treatment regimen resulted in an increase in the rate of blood-pressure control from 27% to 66% in a study group of more than 42,000 patients.30 While doctors may be impressed by this study, it confirms Life Extension’s long-standing position that conventional medicine is largely failing hypertensive patients. Life Extension has previously advocated the need for multi-modality approaches if blood pressure is to be brought down to optimal levels.
What About Complicated Therapies?
In concluding his New England Journal of Medicine article, Dr. Lenfant emphasizes the need for research whose results are likely to be applied to the clinical setting and not remain confined to scientific journals:
“Enormous amounts of new knowledge are barreling down the information highway, but they are not arriving at the doorsteps of our patients…This issue of who will really benefit from research results is especially critical as we look toward applications of genomic research…Let’s be realistic: If we didn’t do it with aspirin, how can we expect to do it with DNA?”
Dr. Lenfant’s apprehension that apathetic doctors will fail to implement lifesaving research discoveries is an issue that has long been raised in the pages of this magazine. What Dr. Lenfant did in his seven-page article was identify specific published studies proving that doctors have not applied research findings to save patient lives. This New England Journal of Medicine article was published on August 28, 2003.
An article published in the July 2003 edition of Life Extension magazine titled “Bridging the Gap Between Science and Medicine” described many of these same overlooked medical discoveries.32 Dr. Lenfant’s New England Journal of Medicine article corroborates Life Extension Foundation’s long-standing position that Americans have been subjected to senseless morbidity and needless deaths.
Too Much Knowledge, Not Enough Practical Application
The rapid advances in the biomedical sciences are both frightening and encouraging. The alarming fact is that people are dying because their doctors are not keeping up with the latest treatment breakthroughs. The reassuring aspect is that patients can educate themselves to better work with their physicians to mitigate or cure lethal diseases. When a patient and physician work together as an enlightened team, lifesaving miracles can occur as opposed to needless suffering and fatality.
What surprised us about Dr. Lenfant’s New England Journal of Medicine article is that it uses similar verbiage and contains criticisms of the medical establishment long espoused by the Life Extension Foundation. We were especially gratified to see that Dr. Lenfant independently came to the same conclusions we did about the failure of doctors to use documented scientific findings to improve patient care.
Physicians learn about new discoveries at scientific conferences, from medical journals, and on the Internet. However, only a tiny fraction of these doctors translates this knowledge into enhanced treatments for their patients. In fact, physicians treating seriously ill patients often fail to use many established medical advances.
For instance, the scientific literature documents that, if a cancer or congestive heart disease patient is anemic, his or her chance of survival is greatly reduced. In their everyday practice, however, few physicians are aggressive in their evaluation and treatment of anemia, even though anemia correlates directly with increased mortality.
A conflict of interests has arisen in the context of modern-day medicine that prohibits translational medicine, as described herein, in the name of cost-effectiveness for the HMO. However, what managed care in its immediate greed has failed to see is that using measures to prevent illness and diagnosis disease earlier will translate into savings of lives and of health care dollars. It even keeps their clients alive longer so that they can keep on paying insurance premiums. In these times of increasing numbers of patients constrained by managed care, major advances in health care could be realized if someone were
to show the accountants and CEOs of HMOs how pro-active translational approaches save lives and money at the same time. Life Extension has long emphasized the need for physicians to practice translational medicine for the benefit of their patients. The director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Claude Lenfant, M.D., has reached the same conclusions.
Cancer patients are often shocked to learn that most conventional oncologists are not utilizing novel information contained in their own journals. The failure of oncologists to practice translational medicine helps explain why more Americans are dying of cancer than ever before, despite major advances made in the research laboratory.
A review of past medical discoveries reveals how excruciatingly slow the medical establishment is to adopt novel concepts. Even simple methods to improve medical quality often meet with fierce resistance.
Over the past three decades, Life Extension has been privileged to interact with scientific pioneers who have developed novel solutions for preventing and treating degenerative disease. Medical history documents that bureaucratic committees do not make discoveries. Instead, it is the individual with an insatiable desire for knowledge who innovates by thinking beyond prevailing dogmatic principle.
The Life Extension Foundation is a network of individuals who are passionate about ending today’s epidemic of unnecessary disease and death.