In a New York Times Op-Ed published on September 17, 2015, STSI’s Director Dr. Eric Topol and Yale cardiologist and health care researcher Dr. Harlan Krumholz call for the medical community to change how news of medical breakthroughs is communicated to the public.
“Don’t Delay News of Medical Breakthroughs” discusses the recent decision by the National Institutes of Health to end a large nationwide study two years earlier than originally planned. The trial focused on a new treatment method for people with high blood pressure by comparing the effects of an aggressive treatment strategy of lowering systolic blood pressure to below 120 mm Hg with the conventional approach of keeping it below 140 mm Hg. In a public announcement, the N.I.H. declared that initial results indicated that the aggressive treatment method yielded better health results overall and described findings as potentially lifesaving.
Expressing concern over the lack of details that have been released regarding the decision to halt the trial, Drs. Topol and Krumholz argue there should be greater transparency and faster dissemination of data in situations where findings could have an immediate impact on treatment.
“The new information may justify a more vigorous strategy for treating blood pressure, but for now doctors and patients have been left with incomplete results, some headlines and considerable uncertainty about whether to modify current treatments,” Drs. Topol and Krumholz contend. “We believe that when there is such strong evidence for a major public health condition, there should be rapid release of the information that led to the decision to stop the trial.”