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What can be done to improve tests of treatments?

We can all play a part in ensuring that treatment decisions are based on fair tests of treatments.  This will improve healthcare, reduce harm from untested treatments and eliminate wasted effort in research.

Improve how we regulate research

What should a doctor do?

What should a doctor do? (Click to enlarge)

Routine treatment is just as risky as research.  In fact, more so.  Research regulation imposes an onerous burden on anyone wanting to rigorously evaluate a poorly understood treatment.  However, the same unproven treatment can be used in clinical practice as long as the patient consents.

This means that uncertainties about the effects of treatments do not get resolved as efficiently as they should be.

Sometimes research regulation delays important research that would make healthcare safer for everyone.

Greater flexibility is needed in providing information to and discussing uncertainty with patients.

Read more in “Regulating tests of treatments:  help or hindrance”.

Do research about the things that matter to patients

A crowd with a megaphoneGetting the right research done is everybody’s business.  Patients and members of the public can help by identifying the research questions that matter to them, advising researchers on how to study these questions and even by doing the research itself.

There is a worldwide movement towards more public involvement in healthcare and health research.  Although it’s early days, we are already seeing benefits of better patient input into tests of treatments.  For example, stroke studies benefitted from patients’ help in designing information leaflets.

You can explore many different examples of good, bad and unnecessary research.

Read more

Don’t be derailed by interest groups

Patient involvement doesn’t always improve tests of treatments.  Sometimes a patient group – encouraged by the manufacturer –  campaigns for a new treatment before we have the evidence for it.  Patient organizations may not be the independent voice they claim to be.

For instance, there were vociferous demands for Herceptin for breast cancer before it had been properly evaluated.

Apply the findings of fair tests in treatment decisions

Portrayal of dialogue between doctor and patient and some questions to ask.

Dialogue between doctor and patient and some questions to ask (click to enlarge).

All of us will at some point in our lives face a decision about treatment of a clinical condition.  How can you apply what you’ve learned from this website to your own health?

We look at how you can use evidence from tests of treatments in a clinical consultation and provide some practical questions you can ask about translating research into practice.

Blueprint for a better future

The final section of the website sets out an overview of how we can use fair tests of treatment to improve healthcare, reduce avoidable harm to patients and wasted resources in health research: