In March this year, Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin held its sixth annual symposium on ‘Why Treatments Fail’. The subject was chosen in the belief that the more we understand treatment failure, the greater the chances of developing strategies that succeed. The symposium explored failure of medicines at a molecular level; failure of prescribers to put knowledge into practice; failure of prescribers to cope with changes in diagnostic criteria; problems around doctors' and patients' failure to communicate with each other; failures of the NHS to meet patients' expectations; computer programmes that help patients see the potential consequences of treatment failures; the cost of failure to the NHS. Here we summarise the talks, incorporating ideas that arose in discussion.
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