Nearly 400 medical procedures found to be ineffective

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

The uncertainty of science: A new review of the science literature has found almost 400 studies showing the ineffectiveness of the medical procedure or device they were studying.

The findings are based on more than 15 years of randomised controlled trials, a type of research that aims to reduce bias when testing new treatments. Across 3,000 articles in three leading medical journals from the UK and the US, the authors found 396 reversals.

While these were found in every medical discipline, cardiovascular disease was by far the most commonly represented category, at 20 percent; it was followed by preventative medicine and critical care. Taken together, it appears that medication was the most common reversal at 33 percent; procedures came in second at 20 percent, and vitamins and supplements came in third at 13 percent.

A reversal means that the study found the procedure, device, or medicine to be ineffective.

If you have medical issues it is worth reviewing the research itself. You might find that some of the medical treatment you are getting is irrelevant, and could be discontinued.



  • fred

    I’m not terribly surprised.

    I do wonder if the premise that the “procedure” or “medicine” would be either a binary choice of “effective” or “ineffective”. There’s very likely a third category where a medical intervention is useful in some patients or in some circumstances.

  • Andi

    And probably a fourth category where the intervention is harmful to the patient or exacerbate the condition.

  • wayne

    Only had a chance to briefly skim the list of procedures/med-interventions, but this is highly interesting and highlights the factoid we expend a lot of scarce resources on stuff that may or may not be efficacious.
    What I’m seeing/feeling (on first glance)– we have a hard time (in general) measuring certain effects for certain procedures/medications, much less understanding the underlying substrates of the disease-process going on.
    –Never underestimate the “placebo effect,” because for the person who is responding, those are real honest-to-God effects. Similarly on a different scale, all ‘drug effects’ are main effects, however linguistically, we like to create a false (binary) choice between main-effects and side-effects.
    (i’d just opine tangentially– antibiotics for example, they either work or they don’t. Pyscho-active type medications, — it starts to be difficult to objectively measure complex effects and attribute what forces are really in play, and why.
    anyway— great find Mr. Z! (this is deeper than it appears on it’s face)

    Most excellent points!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *