Like virtually all cataract surgery patients, my parents were thrilled with their cataract procedures. Why not? After a quick office procedure, their new intraocular lenses (IOLs) gave them better vision than they had experienced for more than a decade.
Now imagine a world with no devices for cataracts, only drugs. Imagine taking one or more medications every day for the rest of your life – drugs which could not cure cataracts, but which slow the inevitable progression towards blindness. Imagine the typical chronic-medication side effects: somewhere between minor discomfort and an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality. How does that sound?
When given a choice, I’ll take medical devices over drugs every time. Here’s why.
Devices correct underlying pathologies. Cardiac ablation gets rid of a small number of misfiring heart muscle cells. The lap chole removes an offending gallbladder. Laproscopic hernia repair puts your intestines back where they belong.
Except in rare cases (antibiotics and antifungals, most notably), drugs don’t correct underlying pathologies. They can’t. Almost all drugs up-regulate (agonists) or down-regulate (inhibitors) some naturally occurring biochemical process. Because this re-regulation only happens in the presence of the drug, medicine must be taken chronically. Because the same biochemical processes exist throughout the body, systemic side effects of drugs are inevitable.
Industry and academia spend a ton of money every year on pharmaceutical research and development. At the same time, according to the CDC, “among older Americans (aged 60 and over), more than 76% [take] two or more prescription drugs and 37% [take] five or more.” Does anyone really think patients want yet another drug to add to their daily regimen? Patients suck at compliance.
No patient wants to take a medication every day for the rest of their life. As a health care entrepreneur, I’d prefer to tell patients and physicians, “There’s a device for that.”
Medical devices are changing the world. That’s why I do what I do.
- New drugs trail many old ones in effectiveness against disease (Reuters.com)
- What Makes a Breakthrough Cancer Drug in the Eyes of the FDA (wsj.com)
- Decline In Placebo-Controlled Trial Results Suggests New Directions For Comparative Effectiveness Research (healthaffairs.org)