Monday, January 17, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies And Medical Science

 Lies, Damned Lies And Medical Science

Is there something wrong with the scientific method? Two of the most thought provoking articles debunk the public illusion that the scientific method--including placebo-controlled randomized trials and peer-review of journal reports, are at all reliable safeguards against bias in medical and behavioral research. Independent analyses show that the overwhelming majority of reported scientific findings are later proven invalid. An article in The Atlantic, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science" by David Freedman, is a fascinating profile of Dr. John Ioannidis, a prominent, highly regarded epidemiologist, who says that as much as 90% of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. In 2005, Dr Ioannidis published two articles--one in PLoS Medicine, the other in JAMA--that debunked much of what passes the peer review process of medical journals--including placebo-controlled trials that are touted as 'the gold standard.'  "Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong..." The reason that many false scientific theories continue to be considered true even after they are proven wrong is powerful stakeholders--in particular, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers and government public health service agencies--all of who are invested in their application.
Vera Hassner Sharav, AHRP

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