Money Talks in Setting Medical Standards

The $15 million dollar lack of funding for a medical research program may be killing the equivalent of one jumbo jet full of people in the U.S. every other day. That's half the money for 1 new jet fighter, but many experts in medicine think this figure of $15 million would save hundreds of people every 2 days. Why? A widespread health study is necessary to convince the medical profession that a shift in its way of treating heart attacks is not only necessary, but critical.

Richard Smalling is an interventional cardiologist at a University of Texas hospital in Houston. Interventional cardiologists are the folks who do procedures like heart catheterizations, balloon angioplasties, and the placement of stents in arteries that tend to close up because of cholesterol and kill us. According to him and various studies, on average, it takes 4 hours for a heart attack patient to get to the hospital and get treatment. Way too long. Opening a blocked artery that's causing the attack should be done within 90 minutes of first medical contact to save huge amounts of heart muscle and save over half the victims of heart attacks.

In Houston, a pilot program is responsible for ambulance medics giving half a dose of a clot-busting drug on the way to the hospital. While that's going on, a hospital team is being assembled to work on the patient in the cath lab to get the artery opened. It has been hugely successful. 80% of the heart attacks have been stopped very early, not by the doctors, but by the paramedics. The medical profession is slow to change anything. Despite Houston's success, it's going to take a randomized medical study to change their inertia. Malpractice the equivalent of killing a jumbo jet full of people every other day from unnecessary heart attacks may be occurring. Government funding costing one-half of a jet to do the research and modification of backward-thinking medical groups is urgently needed to save...us.

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