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February 21, 2013

Health coalition lists dozens of medical 'don'ts'

WASHINGTON — Don't use feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia. Don't use drugs to aggressively treat diabetes in those older than 65. Don't automatically use imaging technology for minor head injuries in children and headaches in adults. And don't give antacids to babies with reflux.

Those are among the 90 medical "don'ts" on a list being released Thursday by a coalition of doctor and consumer groups. They are trying to discourage the use of tests and treatments that have become common practice but may cause harm to patients or unnecessarily drive up the cost of health care.

It is the second set of recommendations from the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation's "Choosing Wisely" campaign, which launched last year amid nationwide efforts to improve medical care in the United States while making it more affordable.

The recommendations run the gamut, from geriatrics to opthalmology to maternal health. Together, they are meant to convey the message that in medicine, "sometimes less is better," said Daniel Wolfson, executive vice president of the foundation, which funded the effort.

"Sometimes, it's easier [for a physician] to just order the test rather than to explain to the patient why the test is not necessary," Wolfson said. But "this is a new era. People are looking at quality and safety and real outcomes in different ways."

The guidelines were penned by more than a dozen medical professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The groups discourage the use of antibiotics in a number of instances in which they are commonly prescribed, such as for sinus infections and pink eye. They caution against using certain sedatives in the elderly and cold medicines in the very young.

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