Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Doctors and studies

I should not write about this because I cover studies, but I believe my skepticism is pretty well known by now.

A Maine chiropractor and acupuncturist named Dr Michael Noonan recently observed that most studies were skewed or just plain wrong. Look at the drugs or devices that get a big rush, then have to be pulled back or removed from the market.

Now, some docs are studying research itself. How can it be so unreliable?

Dr. John Ioannidis, author of "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False" (NIH website) shows some ways research can be misleading.

Usually the worst offender is a false positive--the results seem much clearer and better than they are.

First, research is more likely to be published if it has a clearcut, dramatic conclusion. But most studies do not show dramatic results--sugar pills may win or supplements do little.

A positive result is also more likely if a drug manufacturer is paying. 

Drug companies also push studies they cherry pick to favor them.

Sometimes, too, results are distorted, such as the favorable buzz on Vioxx when Merck knew it had problems. Distorted=lying.

Ioannidis says ignore most research. Or at least sprinkle on many grains of salt.

Ooops--wasn't there a study about salt?

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