I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it

Every month there are dozens of news reports about medical breakthroughs and wonder drugs. While there is no easy way to know what to believe, there are questions you can ask.

Published: 16 September 2013 (2nd edition)
All our guides are date stamped and reflect the scientific findings and knowledge available at the time of publication.

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There’s a Nobel prize waiting for the person who can cure osteoarthritis, or MS, or Alzheimer’s, and many other major illnesses. So, beware the huckster and the testimonial.

Caroline Richmond

Medical journalist

Did you Know?

It may feel reassuring to spend a lot on a treatment – ‘if it’s expensive, it must be good’. However, some of the most effective and commonly used drugs have been used for long enough to be ‘off-patent’, so have become very cheap.

Partners

This guide was developed with support from Multiple Sclerosis Society, Alzheimer’s Society, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK, CORE Charity Epilepsy Research UK, Europe PubMed Central and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Background

Living with a debilitating condition is difficult, particularly if there is no cure or current treatments aren’t providing relief. When people feel that their doctors don’t have enough time or concern, alternative therapies can seem appealing. While there is no easy way to know what to believe, there are questions you can ask. We have worked on this guide with patients, carers, doctors, nurses and medical charities and explored how they ask about evidence to help them weigh up claims and make decisions.

 

What’s the problem this guide is addressing?

Every month there are dozens of news reports about medical breakthroughs and wonder drugs. The internet is cluttered with adverts and chat-room conversations testifying to ‘amazing’ benefits.

These stories offer hope of finding something that will do more than conventional medicines can. But the evidence for many of these treatment claims is unreliable. This leaves people unsure about what to try and where they can draw the line: how can we make sense of ‘cure’ stories? How can we tell the beneficial from the bogus, the likely from the doubtful?

 

Impact

The launch of I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it reached a large public audience thanks to features in Take a Break magazine, The Daily Mail, the Guardian, and The Scotsman. Which? brought the guide to the attention of consumers by blogging about the financial costs of ‘miracle cures.’ An article in BMJ “Guide aims to help patients be wary of ‘miracle cures’” also helped us to reach a professional audience.

It continues to grab the attention of patients — many of whom share their stories with us. Medical charities like Cancer Research UK, Epilepsy Research UK and MS Trust frequently use this guide and share it with their membership in print and on social media.

This guide has been translated into Croatian, Italian and Latin American Spanish thanks to the Croatian Cochrane Centre, Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco, Juan Manuel Marquez-Romero and Wiley respectively.