Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Robots around Le Monde

I present this view from France courtesy of patient safety and quality expert Michael Millenson, who saw a copy of Le Monde while in Europe.  Rough translation:  Robotic Surgeons: Stop the Fraud!  The article is by Professor Abdel Rahm√®ne Azzouzi, Chief of Urology of the University Hospital of Angers.

Here are Google-assisted translations of some key excerpts:

For over ten years now, proponents of robotic surgery bombard shameless untruths about the value of surgical robots in their field. As Ezekiel J. Emanuel said, a former adviser on health to the White House and a columnist for the New York Times, this pseudo-innovation increases costs without improving quality of care (New York Times, May 27, 2012 ).  

Given the lack of evidence of the superiority of robotic techniques in the prostate removal surgery, how can we not question the inertia of regional health agencies (ARS), the Council of the College of Physicians and the French Association of Urology, who prefer not to offend, for reasons that escape us, the holders of an innovation with questionable benefit to the patient.  

The overly commercial strategy of Intuitive Surgical - the monopoly on this robotic technology with its model Da Vinci - is shocking in health care and particularly affecting patients with cancer.

In its approach to its surgeon customers, it is only a question of increasing the number of cases for surgery by attracting psychologically fragile patients at the announcement of their disease and touting their results they do not have scientific proof. In other words, if the Da Vinci robot was a drug, it would never have obtained authorization to market.

For their part, supporters of the robot, having invested in the order of 2 to 2.5 million euros to acquire this surgical tool, betting on a return on investment by increasing the number of procedures, which in the case cancer localized prostate would increase the stock of patients operated incorrectly or prematurely. This irresponsible move strengthens the opponents of screening for prostate cancer, and delay the quality of the management of the disease. 

A Republican practice of medicine as expected in France must ensure that patients' interests and those of the community are always higher than the activity of so-called "expert" centers, in terms of fame and financial benefits .

Given the lack of rigorous evaluation today and to better protect patients from a natural attraction to new technologies, our advice to all patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer . . . is to be vigilant before a proposal to remove the prostate, especially in centers with a robot, and to ensure that all available treatment options has been offered to them.

In other words and as stipulated in Article 35 of the Code of Public Health, the physician must provide clear and honest information, and provide proper care to his patients.

Therapeutic innovation, when it is real, is essential to the evolution of medical practice, but it is only if it is dedicated to the patient, and not to those who support it or to manufacturers who are at the origin.


nonlocal MD said...

Interesting that this is also going on in Europe. It's a tribute to the emotional vulnerability vs. cognitive rationality of people everywhere. (not to mention the unbridled marketing plan of Intuitive.) However, I would have thought that Europe would have had protections against acquisition of unneeded medical devices, unlike our Wild West? Wonder how it's done over there.

Frenchy said...

Yes indeed, Da Vinci has managed to sell its equipments to public and private hospitals in France, greatly helped by an agressive marketing campaign. However running cost is more than ever an issue as the french patient is not used to pay significant out-of-pocket amounts, and also because it is not directly financed by public funds. All of this could have been acceptable if there had been clear demonstration of added value for the patient over time, however it is not the case yet. This is why medias start to bring this topic on top - in fact this article was not the first one, controversy really started about a year ago.