Google Can Kill You

Some amusing (and intermittently troubling) stuff about Google and health-related search in a press release from a medicine-related public interest group:

To determine what patients typically see when searching for information on prescription medications, CMPI took a snapshot of the first three pages of Google search results for a commonly-used cholesterol treatment and a type-2 diabetes drug. CMPI also looked at the real world consequences of what happens when decisions are based on incomplete, false or misleading information. Using SSRIs and vaccines as examples, CMPI found that basing decisions solely on online hysteria and fear could lead to a public health crisis or even death.

More alarmism here, including charts like the following unsurprising one:



  1. The article above is a perfect example of what it complains about. “Google can kill you.” – Biased & ‘hysterical.’ It should read: GOOGLE CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE – JUST DON”T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ.” Internet medical information has saved my life from a dangerous conditions doctors were ignoring because symptoms not completely average. The internet saved me from a dreadful, low-success surgery and got me to a different doctor and a newer procedure. Internet information saved my best friend from a destructive and ineffective chemotherapy because, armed with information, we were able to persuade her oncologist to do an assay that showed which chemos wouldn’t work. He knew about it, just hadn’t bothered. The article suggests a sneer about ‘alternative’ medicine, but there is a great deal of legitimate medical research on the effect of certain foods and supplements on conditions from allergies, to blood pressure, to lowering cancer and diabetes risk that mainstream doctors won’t mention. Doctors may complain about having to counter internet information. Too bad. How many really tell patients possible medicine side effects? Or tell patients about procedures not offered at their particular hospital or practice? How many women have died when an MRI, in addition to a mammogram, would have revealed a cancer earlier but doc wouldn’t mention it – despite research and professional society recommendations – because that particular hospital or practice didn’t have a breast MRI?
    You can find the appalling statistics in medical journals themselves about how many patients are harmed by careless prescriptions or hospital errors, how much better prognosis is for patients who question, or are willing to travel to get better care. Medical care can’t be perfect. Even excellent medications will do damage to some people, and whether it’s an herb or surgery, nothing will work for everyone. Is some judgment necessary in surfing the ‘Net – of course. A much better use of the time spent on the studies above might be to provide some practical advice for people on which were legit research sites, how to evaluate advertising versus information, etc.
    An informed patient is a safer patient: NOT GOOGLING CAN KILL YOU.