Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

The other scandal with EPO

Recent posts have focused on how elite endurance athletes might be manipulating their red blood cell counts to get a competitive advantage.   About 10 years ago I did a brief article that provides a scientific explanation for why blood doping and EPO work.  The article is still current.

In my 7/22 post I also expressed optimism that the biological passport system might be able to keep doping in check.   My colleague Ilkka Heinonen forwarded a link to a recent paper that paints a less optimistic picture.

While we are on the topic of EPO, there was a major expose in the Washington Post on the overuse of EPO to boost blood counts in patients with anemia.   The story points out that the development of EPO was a major breakthrough in biotechnology and a triumph of converting basic research into improved clinical care.

However, like a lot medical innovations, overuse is a problem and a major driver of health care costs in the U.S.  The best estimate is that about 30% of medical care costs have something to do with use of technology in ways that do not improve patient outcomes.

No matter where you are on the U.S. health care reform debate, the issues related to technology overuse need to be addressed.   During the next few weeks I will be focusing on the Olympics, but let’s not forget the real world while we are at it.

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