Join getAbstract to access the summary!

When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes

The Atlantic,

5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Some medicines and medical procedures are ineffective – or worse.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Eye Opening


Investigative reporter David Epstein, writing for ProPublica, reveals the troubling truth about many popular medications and procedures: They’re of no benefit to most of the people receiving them. He presents a good range of evidence against many therapies, including common blood pressure medications, knee surgeries and trendy cancer drugs. He’s not unsympathetic: They’re not just evil doctors trying to make a buck. Some of them simply struggle to believe counterintuitive science, while others fear lawsuits if they don’t do as the patient asks. While never giving medical advice, getAbstract recommends Epstein’s analysis to health care professionals and patients alike.


Physician David L. Brown works at RightCare Alliance, an initiative which aims to combat rising costs in medicine that don’t improve the quality of care. In 2012, he co-authored a report showing that stents failed to increase life expectancy or reduce heart attacks in stable patients. Yet surgeons implant stents in hundreds of thousands of patients every year, with one in fifty resulting in severe complication or death. This may be because the doctor’s knowledge is out of date, patients want the procedure, it makes more money, or it might protect the doctor from...

About the Authors

David Epstein is an author and investigative reporter at ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

Comment on this summary