Saturday, April 23, 2011

Does screening and treating high cholesterol save money?

by Richard Young, MD

A commenter (I believe a physician) on one of my posts wrote the following: “I can prevent heart attacks and strokes (caused by atherosclerosis – “blockage”) in people (minimal cost) who have no symptoms. If I wait for their heart attack or stroke – it costs a whole lot more.”

The implication is that screening and treating high cholesterol saves money in the long run. Unfortunately, the truth is the opposite. This is an extremely common misconception among most people in healthcare, physicians included. Therefore the American people believe the same thing.

If I give a person a pneumonia shot and that person lives the rest of her life never catching pneumonia, then there is a fair chance I prevented a case of pneumonia. On the other hand, she may not have ever gotten pneumonia any way, therefore the shot was useless. There’s no way to sort that out, but classifying  a vaccine as preventing a disease is certainly fair.

Click on the "via" link for the rest of the article.

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