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“How Come Patients Don’t Know About These . . .?”

28 April 2010

Recently we received an email from a patient asking for some information about a new device.  She asked the very valid question “how come patients don’t know about these?”

In Australia and New Zealand, legislation prevents medical device companies from promoting products to treat certain conditions directly to the general public.  This legislation covers most of the Medtronic’s products. Where we can promote treatments, there are very strict guidelines around what we can and can’t say, and the evidence we need to back up any claims about a product.

There are numerous reasons for this legislation being in place, including:

  • The idea that your doctor should be the primary source of any information about medical treatments as they know your individual circumstances.
  • Fears that companies may persuade people they need expensive devices when another treatment may be more appropriate.
  • Concerns that companies with a vested interest in selling treatments may bamboozle patients with unsubstantiated claims about how well the treatment works, how safe it is, or who it is suitable for.

Where the good intent behind the legislation can sometimes fall down is when we hear of people who have suffered with conditions for many years before they find out there is a device that can help them.  Or don’t find out about the device at the best time for it to really help them.

No-one is arguing that doctors shouldn’t be the main port-of-call for any health advice, but the current system puts a lot of pressure on doctors to always be up to date on every available treatment so that they can tell you if something new is developed. GPs don’t use any of our products, so you are also relying on them referring you to the appropriate specialist before you have a chance to hear about our therapies.

There are loads of reports in the Australian media on how to remove wrinkles or shed a few kilos, but virtually none on what treatments are available if your heart beats too fast or you need a hip replaced.  So you aren’t likely to be informed about medical devices through the media.

We’d love to hear more discussion about the fact that there are device options out there.  They aren’t for everyone, but, they might help, especially when other treatments have failed.  What do you think – how do you find out about medical treatments that are available?  Who do you think should be responsible for telling the patients about what can help them?

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