One by one, the panaceas are toppling: now it’s aspirin

A major new Australian-American clinical trial has found that older people who have not had a heart attack or stroke get no benefit from taking a daily low-dose aspirin pill.

The disappointing results are hardly anomalies. They’re a textbook example of the natural history of much healthcare innovation. First come the promising results of early, small-scale trials on highly selective populations.

Where the new big thing is a diagnostic test, a drug, or a surgical procedure, the buzz builds, massive marketing follows and utilisation skyrockets. Years go by; the innovation becomes routine practice, part of the healthcare arsenal that keeps us well or fixes us when we’re not.

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