Dale Wahlstrom is president and CEO of LifeScience Alley . His recen commentary includes this claim: “Medical devices save and improve lives. Between 1980 and 2000, medical device technology slashed the death rate from heart disease by a stunning 50 percent and cut the death rate from stroke by 30 percent. As a result, life expectancy was extended by more than three years.” Unfortunately as Gary Schwitzer found out that claim is baseless.
This quote attributes ALL cardiovascular health improvements to devices rather than siphoning off the mere fraction that might be attributable to devices versus drug therapies versus lifestyle changes.
Approximately 47% of this decrease (in coronary disease death rate) was attributed to treatments, including secondary preventive therapies after myocardial infarction or revascularization (11%), initial treatments for acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina (10%), treatments for heart failure (9%), revascularization for chronic angina (5%), and other therapies (12%). Approximately 44% was attributed to changes in risk factors, including reductions in total cholesterol (24%), systolic blood pressure (20%), smoking prevalence (12%), and physical inactivity (5%), although these reductions were partially offset by increases in the body-mass index and the prevalence of diabetes, which accounted for an increased number of deaths (8% and 10%, respectively).
So a little less than half is attributable to changes in risk factors. A little more than half to ALL treatments – including drugs, surgery, etc.
The largest reductions in deaths came from the use of secondary-prevention medications or rehabilitation after acute myocardial infarction or after revascularization (a total reduction of approximately 35,800 deaths) and from the use of initial treatments for acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina (approximately 35,145 deaths), followed by treatments for heart failure and hypertension, statin therapy for primary prevention, and treatments for chronic angina.
The editorial is more than a matter of playing loose with the numbers; it is a vast overstatement and a distortion of the evidence. There’s no question that medical devices have contributed to the decline. It is disingenous to attribute ALL of the benefit to devices.
Now one has to wonder if this CEO really believes what he said or was trying to “spin” data because of the debate around the medical device tax. However a CEO should not make statements without having all the facts first and this is clearly a case where he opened mouth A and inserted foot B.
Source for this Article: Forbes Guest Post: Industry editorial makes outlandish claim about impact of medical devices