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Cheap and Simple Fixes, the First of Many Parts

There is a chapter in the forthcoming SuperFreakonomics called “The Fix Is In — and It’s Cheap and Simple.” The chapter is subtitled “In which big, seemingly intractable problems are solved in surprising ways.” Some of the examples, from the Table of Contents: “The dangers of childbirth … Hurray for seat belts … Why hurricanes kill, and what can be done about it.” And this one: “What really prevented your heart attack?”
You’ll have to wait a few more weeks to read our answer to that last question, but here’s a pretty good clue: a Reuters article about a new study in the American Journal of Managed Care:

High-risk patients who took a combination of three older heart drugs — a generic statin, a generic blood pressure pill, and a low-dose aspirin — cut their risk of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 80 percent, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
They said their study offers a simple, effective, and inexpensive way to help people with diabetes or heart disease avoid heart attacks and strokes.
“Even in people who took it less than half the time, they got over a 60 percent drop in heart attacks and strokes,” said Dr. R. James Dudl of Kaiser Permanente in California, whose study was published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

It is fascinating to poke through history and see how often cheap and simple fixes solved problems that were routinely thought to be either unsolvable or, at best, solved by very expensive, complicated, and invasive means. Of course this is partly because a lot of people stand to profit (or at least keep their jobs) by promoting the expensive, complicated, and invasive means …