Solutions emerge for problem of Too Much Medicine

August 17, 2017

Researchers at Bond University have today published a landmark article in one of the world's leading medical journals, The BMJ, canvassing solutions to the vexing problem of overtreatment and overdiagnosis.

The article is published at the same time as leading health organisations are launching a call to action to address the problem of too many Australians being diagnosed and treated unnecessarily.

The call to action has been endorsed by influential doctors and consumer groups including the Royal College of Physicians, the Consumers Health Forum and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.

Overdiagnosis happens when people are labelled and diagnosed with a condition that will not ultimately harm them, leading to overtreatment and taking resources from treating or preventing genuine illness. An example is thyroid cancer, where researchers recently estimated more than 500,000 people may have been diagnosed and treated unnecessarily, over two decades, across 12 nations - including 10,000 Australians.

Today’s BMJ research was led by Dr Thanya Pathirana, with colleagues Justin Clark and Dr Ray Moynihan, at the Centre for Research in Evidence Based Practice (CREBP) at Bond University on the Gold Coast, a leading global centre for research into the problem of overdiagnosis.

The BMJ paper is based on an analysis of medical literature investigating the causes of too much medicine, and potential solutions. Key drivers identified include cultural beliefs that in medicine “more is better” and financial incentives for doctors to perform tests and treatments.

Potential solutions include public awareness campaigns, changes to educational curricula for health professionals, and a move towards “shared-decision making” – an approach to healthcare where people are much better informed of the risks and benefits of diagnoses or interventions.

Click here to view the BMJ article. PDF available upon request.