If you read this blog on a regular basis, you’ve heard me say before that one driver of the skyrocketing healthcare costs in the United States is our penchant for more of everything—more tests, more medications, and more treatments. Another contributor is the misperception that if a technology is new, high tech, and costs more, it must be better than an existing, cheaper one.
Nothing illustrates this better than the current rush to build expensive proton beam treatment facilities. An online commentary to the New York Times published on January 2, 2012, detailed the cost of these facilities and did a nice job of outlining the evidence surrounding this technology, so I won’t repeat that information here. I would like to point out, however, that at this point in time, we have no evidence from any randomized clinical trial demonstrating that proton beam therapy is better than other types of radiotherapy. Despite this lack of evidence, however, Medicare reimburses for proton beam therapy, at rates that are much higher than those for traditional radiotherapy.
The New York Times called this “crazy medicine and unsustainable public policy” and I agree. What do you think?