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.
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.
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.