Podcast: Don’t treat that fever—Dr. Paul Offit on why many of medicine’s most popular practices are ‘overkill’

screenshot breaking a fever treatment and causes

Vaccine skeptics, alternative health advocates and anti-GMO activists are regularly lambasted for ignoring evidence that challenges their ideology. As it turns out, they’re not the only ones who refuse to change their minds when confronted with new data: modern medicine is often guilty of the same intellectual sin, pediatrician and vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit writes in his new book Overkill: When Modern Medicines Goes too Far.

Never afraid of controversy, Offit argues that many standard practices in modern medicine, for example treating a fever when you’re sick, are at best unhelpful and at worst actually dangerous. Enduring a fever is of course a miserable experience, but it helps our immune system fight off deadly bacterial and viral infections. Blocking this important immune response with antipyretics (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen) may lead to 40,000 additional flu-related deaths every year.

Credit: HarperCollins

A similarly contrarian case can be made for antibiotics. While clearly necessary to kill harmful bacteria, the research shows that patients often don’t need to finish an antibiotic course, and doing so encourages the spread of drug-resistant bugs and brings us closer to losing antibiotics for good. Many doctors nonetheless continue prescribing them for far longer than necessary to treat their patients.

Related article:  Growing GMO crops in national wildlife refuges a boon for the environment, biologists say

But that’s just the beginning, Offit claims. From heart stents and surgery for knee arthritis to prostate cancer exams, research has shown that these practices are pointless or more harmful than helpful—yet physicians and patients refuse to adjust to the evidence.

On this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies, Offit joins GLP editor Cameron English to explain why and how modern medicine continues to promote fifteen common medical interventions that “have long been considered gospel despite mounting evidence of their adverse effects.” Offit also gives his take on the coronavirus pandemic, the possibility of developing an effective immunization and how the anti-vaccine movement might react to the COVID-19 crisis.

Paul Offit is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @DrPaulOffit

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s senior agricultural genetics and special projects editor. He is a science writer and podcast host. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend