May 11, 2009

Evidence based medicine often delayed

A great deal of medical research is conducted but it takes an average of 17 years for research to get into practice, two U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Laura A. Petersen and Dr. Aanand D. Naik, both of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said with the federal government putting $1.1 billion into comparative-effectiveness research there should also be an investment in finding ways to put it into practice more quickly.

Comparative-effectiveness research scientifically evaluates drugs, medical devices, surgical procedures and other treatments to determine which provide the highest quality at a reasonable price.

We need to pay as much attention as to how the evidence is put into practice as to the evidence itself, Petersen said in a statement. How do you get evidence into practice?

Petersen and Naik write in a Perspective in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine on studies in the early 1990s that showed using a balloon technique to open clogged coronary arteries in the heart after a heart attack, worked better than treatment with clot-busting drugs. Yet, 10 years after the first publication of these studies, less than one-third of hospitals were providing the balloon technique.

We expect doctors and healthcare providers to know what is the right thing and then to put it into action. We know that is not happening, Petersen said.