This article discusses notable unsolved problems in medicine. A classic example is the unknown mechanism(s) by which general anesthesia functions.

Evidence-based medicine

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) has become the central paradigm in medical practice and research. However, debate continues around EBM and about how results obtained from large samples of patients can be applied to the individual.[1][2][3][4]

Specific conditions

There are numerous diseases for which causes are not known. There are others for which the etiology is fully or partially understood, but for which effective treatments are not yet available.

Idiopathic is a descriptive term used in medicine to denote diseases with an unknown cause or mechanism of apparent spontaneous origin.[5] Examples of idiopathic diseases include: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and Idiopathic pulmonary haemosiderosis.

Gates Foundation Grand Challenges

Main article: Grand Challenges In Global Health

On 26 January 2003, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made available $200 million for a medical research initiative on "Grand Challenges in Global Health". The initial list were:[6]

To improve childhood vaccines:

To create new vaccines:

To control insects that transmit agents of disease:

To improve nutrition to promote health:

To improve drug treatment of infectious diseases:

To cure latent and chronic infections:

To measure disease and health status accurately and economically in poor countries:


  1. ^ Kulkarni, Abhaya V. (2005). "The challenges of evidence-based medicine: A philosophical perspective". Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 8 (2): 255–260. doi:10.1007/s11019-004-7345-8. PMID 16215804.
  2. ^ Greenhalgh, Trisha (2012). "Why do we always end up here? Evidence-based medicine's conceptual cul-de-sacs and some off-road alternative routes". Journal of Primary Health Care. 4 (2): 92–7. doi:10.1071/HC12092. PMID 22675691.
  3. ^ Wieringa, Sietse; Engebretsen, Eivind; Heggen, Kristin; Greenhalgh, Trish (2017). "Has evidence-based medicine ever been modern? A Latour-inspired understanding of a changing EBM". Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. 23 (5): 964–970. doi:10.1111/jep.12752. PMC 5655926. PMID 28508440.
  4. ^ Loughlin, Michael; Lewith, George; Falkenberg, Torkel (2013). "Science, Practice and Mythology: A Definition and Examination of the Implications of Scientism in Medicine". Health Care Analysis. 21 (2): 130–145. doi:10.1007/s10728-012-0211-6. PMID 22622355.
  5. ^ Martin, Elizabeth A. (2010). "Idiopathic". Concise Medical Dictionary (8th ed.). doi:10.1093/acref/9780199557141.001.0001. ISBN 9780199557141. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
  6. ^ Varmus, H.; Klausner, R.; Zerhouni, E.; Acharya, T.; Daar, A. S.; Singer, P. A. (2003). "PUBLIC HEALTH: Enhanced: Grand Challenges in Global Health". Science. 302 (5644): 398–399. doi:10.1126/science.1091769. PMC 243493. PMID 14563993.