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Infection control saves more lives than personalized medicine ever will

Jon Otter tweeted out this graph today, and it just blows me away:

“Trust apportioned” is apparently the term in UK English for what we in the US call hospitals. So the dotted lines are hospitals and the solid lines include community cases. Huge drops in C diff diarrhea and MRSA BSIs. This is the English MRSA Miracle, expanding out into other hospital-acquired infections.

This is important – thousands of lives are being saved. Yet because it is the result of many small interventions rather than one big breakthrough, you probably won’t read about it in the popular health press. That’s a shame.

In fact, it is downright dumb. Infection control has long been the red-headed stepchild of medicine: usually ignored, except at budget time when it is likely to take a beating. Yet it has the potential to save many more lives than other interventions that hog all the glory (and funding).

Let’s take a look at infection control versus my personal favorite for an overhyped intervention, personalized cancer medicine.

Personalized medicine is a gargantuan business. Sales for PM in just one category – head and neck cancers – already dwarf those of standard cytotoxic therapies, and the gap will only widen. The same story is playing out for nearly all major cancers.


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