While I was in general practice in Australia, I enjoyed working with people with arthritis.  One morning, I was particularly inspired following a radio interview to which I listened as a trapped audience on my way to work. The interviewer described the arthritis specialist in glowing terms, she was clearly impressed.  The specialist stressed that he had done seven years of medical training, then several more years of surgical training, then even more years of training in arthrology. Wow, impressive credentials! He outlined the different types of arthritis and described them in detail. He was incredibly hopeful for the new development that was going on and for the possibility that it might greatly benefit people suffering from the disease. I was certainly hoping to learn something useful.

After the interview, listeners were invited to call in with their queries.  And in they came, questions about different types of arthritis and all sorts of symptoms. I listened intently hoping to learn more of what could be done. Imagine my disappointment when I heard his answers. The arthritis specialist gave pretty much the same recommendations to each caller, pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs or surgery.  It seems that he had been learning more about it in descriptive terms, but that there had been little progress in the development of help for the patients.

I find myself comparing this to the medical approach to cancer, which is my current area of interest.  There has just been an announcement regarding new research in the understanding of cancer, this time based on the ways of blocking the evolution of cancer (there may have been more, but that is all I heard). More descriptions, but not much benefit to the patient, at least for a few years,  and perhaps not until more drugs have been developed. It seems that in both instances, and in many others, there is little emphasis, if any, on trying to correct the cause and avoid harm, and a lot of effort is going into developing more drugs, with their inevitable toxic effects.

It is unfortunate that much of medical research is aimed at developing more uses of medical drugs, rather than correcting the initial problem. If modern medicine would turn its attention to the cause and to prevention, it would be possible to help millions of people avoid the onset of diseases.


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