Too much medicine

Too much medicine

The BMJ's Too Much Medicine campaign aims to highlight the threat to human health posed by overdiagnosis and the waste of resources on unnecessary care.

There is growing evidence that many people are overdiagnosed and overtreated for a wide range of conditions, such as prostate and thyroid cancers, asthma, and chronic kidney disease.

Through the campaign, the journal plans to work with others to increase awareness of the benefits and harms of treatments and technologies and develop ways to wind back medical excess, safely and fairly. This editorial by Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ and overdiagnosis researcher Ray Moynihan, senior research fellow at Bond University, Australia, explains more about the campaign:

Dr Godlee said: "Like the evidence based medicine and quality and safety movements of previous decades, combatting excess is a contemporary manifestation of a much older desire to avoid doing harm when we try to help or heal.

"Making such efforts even more necessary are the growing concerns about escalating healthcare spending and the threats to health from climate change. Winding back unnecessary tests and treatments, unhelpful labels and diagnoses won’t only benefit those who directly avoid harm, it can also help us create a more sustainable future."

The BMJ is a partner in the international scientific conference, Preventing Overdiagnosis. Following the success of previous conferences, the next Preventing Overdiagnosis conference is taking place on 20 – 22 September 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.

Find out more with our digital theme issue on overdiagnosis.

Your feedback

Share your thoughts on overdiagnosis by responding to this editorial.

Interactive timeline

Theme issue

A digital theme issue on overdiagnosis, published in March 2015, looks at what is too much medicine and who gets to decide? Although there is consensus that too much medicine is real and damaging, large uncertainties remain about where and how the lines between appropriate and inappropriate care should be drawn in any individual case. Find out more here.

Has modern medicine undermined the capacity of individuals and societies to cope with death, pain, and sickness? Has too much medicine become a threat to health? Yes, argued Ray Moynihan in a theme issue in April 2002. He accused the pharma industry of extending the boundaries of treatable disease to expand markets for new products. Barbara Mintzes blamed direct to consumer advertising of drugs in the US for portraying a dual message of "a pill for every ill," and "an ill for every pill." Elsewhere in the issue, doctors were accused of colluding in and encouraging medicalisation. Leonard Leibovici and Michel Lièvre wrote : "The bad things of life: old age, death, pain, and handicap are thrust on doctors to keep families and society from facing them."

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