You Just Knew This Was Coming

You Just Knew This Was Coming

Last week Diabetic Investor wrote about the study published in the Lancet, which showed a link between statin usage and developing diabetes, Diabetic Investor half jokingly stated that it was just a matter of time before someone published a study that showed a link between breathing and diabetes. While this hasn’t happened just yet, today there are several reports on whether or not people should continue taking low-dose aspirin as means to lower the risk of a heart attack.

According to a story published in today’s Wall Street Journal; “Now, medical experts say some people who are taking aspirin on a regular basis should think about stopping. Public-health officials are scaling back official recommendations for the painkiller to target a narrower group of patients who are at risk of a heart attack or stroke. The concern is that aspirin’s side effects, which can include bleeding ulcers, might outweigh the potential benefits when taken by many healthy or older people.”

The article goes onto to state that there is a disagreement between US and international experts over the use of aspirin. The article states; “The two groups examined evidence largely from the same studies of the drug, although the international team analyzed the data differently. In the end, the international team of scientists, unlike the U.S. officials, concluded that aspirin’s effects on men and women were mostly the same.

Another disagreement between the two groups also emerged: The U.S. task force said that age is the biggest factor determining a person’s risk of internal bleeding from aspirin. But the international team said other factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, also play a significant role. Unfortunately, the scientists noted, the same factors that increase patients’ risk of bleeding also increase their risk of developing heart disease. This, in turn, can make it more difficult to calculate whether the benefits of aspirin would outweigh the risks of side effects.”

So here we go again, not only two we have two sets of experts looking at the same data set and coming up with different conclusions, neither group of experts can state with any degree of certainty that daily aspirin usage actually leads to bleeding.” Keep in mind that the experts are talking about low-dose aspirin a product used by millions of people, an over the counter non-prescription product that has been around for over 100 years.

So just we are to conclude from these differences of opinion? Should people continue to take their low-dose aspirin and risk possible bleeding or should they stop taking it and risk a heart attack? Just what are physicians or pharmacists supposed to say when someone asks whether or not it’s safe to take their daily aspirin?  

The situation has become so bad that it’s no wonder most people tune out of these debates and do what they believe is best. The sad part here is that unlike aspirin, patients with diabetes who are non-compliant with their therapy regimen risk a host of complications if they do not properly control their diabetes. Each time a report comes questioning a diabetes drug patients are given another reason to be non-compliant. Things wouldn’t be so bad if these studies reached clearer conclusions, outlining the possible risks and rewards of using a particular drug. Sadly this is not the case patients and the physicians who treat them are too often left to make decisions on conflicting conclusions based on the same data set.

Perhaps the worst problem created by all this disagreement between the so-called experts is patients don’t know where to turn for answers. The message being sent basically is proceed at your own risk. To patients who don’t spend their time reviewing study data and talking with experts this is unacceptable. Patients, contrary to what some of these so-called experts believe, aren’t stupid and understand that all medications carry with them some degree of risk. They just want a realistic assessment of what these risks are so they can make an informed decision. It doesn’t help matters any when the so-called experts can’t reach similar conclusions on the same data set.

As Peter Drucker wrote; “Information is, above all, a principle of economy. The fewer data needed, the better the information. And an overload of information leads to information blackout. It does not enrich, but impoverishes.”