Five-Star Friday: statins, funeral home death, devices, overtreatment, scorecards

5 stars 410 x 273This is our continuing look at excellence in writing about health care. The Five-Star Friday feature won’t appear every Friday, but whenever we can, and whenever we’ve collected enough gems to shine a light on. .


Fresh today, we published a criteria-driven 5-star review of a New York Times story, “2 Studies Back Guidelines for Wider Use of Statins.”  It’s noteworthy that last Friday, we published another 5-star review of a New York Times story by the same reporter, Andrew Pollack.


We tip our hat to the following efforts that we have not previously written about.

Kristina Fiore wrote a MedPage Today column, “HypeWatch: ALS Death at the Funeral Home? Small numbers behind reported risk.”  She wrote that a news release from BMJ may have raised undue alarm in funeral home directors about ALS. She pointed out limitation after limitation of the research pointing to this association.

Compare MedPage Today’s story with this one from NBC – “Study Strengthens Formaldehyde Link to Crippling Disease ALS”  There was no independent expert perspective in the story.  It just reported what the researchers said.


Cardiologists Rita Redberg (UC San Francisco) and Sanket S. Dhruva (Yale) co-authored a New York Times op-ed piece, “The F.D.A.’s Medical Device Problem.”  Excerpt: “Legislation, disingenuously titled the 21st Century Cures Act….would subject millions of Americans to unsafe or untested medical devices.”


Overtreatment was the topic of overview treatment by Robert Pearl, MD, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, in a Forbes blog post entitled, “Why So Much Of The Health Care We Deliver Is Unnecessary – And What We Can Do About It.”


If you publish a physician scorecard, you better wear steel underwear.

Pro Publica reported, “Making The Cut: why choosing right surgeon matters more than you know.” It was the output of a long-running investigation into complication rates by thousands of US surgeons, allowing the public to look up individual surgeons in an interactive scorecard.

The surgeon who blogs as the Skeptical Scalpel questioned the methodology. But he is not alone.

ProPublica’s Marshall Allen and Olga Pierce – who did the work –  dealt with a volley of criticism – much of it on Twitter.  It’s interesting to see the mix of praise and criticism on their Twitter accounts – @marshall_allen and @olgapierce.

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