The Room Where It Happens: A Skeptic's Analysis of the New Heart Failure Guidelines

Milton Packer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


New heart failure guidelines have been issued during the past several months, both in the United States and in Europe, in response to recent advances in and the approval of new drugs for the treatment of heart failure. Although guidelines documents are often viewed as authoritative and purely evidence-based, there are replete with meaningful (and inexplicable) inconsistencies, which derive from a review of the same body of scientific data by different groups. This satirical review highlights several examples of the entertaining foolishness of recent guideline documents in the good-natured hope that physicians will understand what the guidelines are, and more importantly, what they are not. Specifically, this paper describes the emergence of a new nonexistent disease; the strange battle between 2 bradycardic drugs (digoxin and ivabradine); the confusion that reigns over the positioning and dosing of inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system; and the special recommendations that have been issued for certain special populations. As Otto von Bismarck remarked, guideline deliberations are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made. Yet, even after they are ready for public view, we should be cautious. Practitioners who rely on them for clinical decision-making engage in an unnecessary form of self-deception; those who read them literally and adhere to them strictly do not practice evidence-based medicine; and those who delve into them in a search for the truth are destined to be disappointed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-730
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Cardiac Failure
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Guidelines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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