Top 20 Research Studies of 2016 for Primary Care Physicians

Mark H. Ebell, Roland Grad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article summarizes the top 20 original research studies and four practice guidelines of 2016, based on regular literature surveillance and as selected by members of the Canadian Medical Association. The studies, known as POEMs (patient-oriented evidence that matters), were rated highly because of their relevance, validity, and potential to change practice. Key hypertension treatment findings include reduced mortality (a benefit not demonstrated in lower-risk persons or persons with diabetes mellitus) but also an increase in harms with a more aggressive blood pressure target in high-risk persons with hypertension and without diabetes. Additionally, one study found that cardiovascular events are rare in patients who meet the criteria for hypertensive urgency. Regarding respiratory conditions, the combination of fluticasone and salmeterol is preferred to fluticasone alone in patients with moderate to severe asthma; nasal irrigation but not steam inhalation is beneficial for patients with chronic sinus symptoms; and delayed prescriptions reduce antibiotic use in patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection. Studies on musculoskeletal topics found that of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs currently available, diclofenac is most likely to be effective for hip or knee osteoarthritis; the benefits of opioids in patients with chronic low back pain are limited and not clearly superior to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; and hip radiography is not helpful for diagnosing osteoarthritis of the hip. Regarding diabetes and obesity, the Mediterranean diet is more effective than a low-fat diet for weight loss, and aggressive blood pressure targets are not recommended in patients with diabetes, especially older persons. Other recommendations include use of an oral syringe rather than a medicine cup to measure liquid medications for children, and abrupt smoking cessation preceded by two weeks of nicotine replacement via a patch, rather than a slow phasing out of tobacco use. Finally, although azithromycin has a slightly higher failure rate than doxycycline for the treatment of chlamydia, it still cured 97% of patients in a randomized trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-579
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican family physician
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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