First posted on 7/13/11 on Medicine and Social Justice
Two recent “Commentaries” in the same issue of JAMA address different challenges to the implementation of evidence-based practice guidelines. One, “Direct-to-consumer cardiac screening and suspect risk evaluation,” addresses the challenges posed by the potential for profit that occurs when companies market screening tests directly to the consumer (DTC) that may not be indicated, may not be indicated for the people who it is marketing to, or may even be harmful to the recipients of such screening. This harm can be physical, as in untoward events, or in risks inherent in the further procedures for those who “screen positive” but turn out to have been “false positives.” The harm is also financial, for there is a cost to doing these tests – to the individual (sometimes) or to their insurer; in the latter case, whether that insurance is public (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid) or private, the cost is to all of us. And, of course, that cost is the reason for such marketing, as it is what translates into profit for the company selling the test.