Sunday, January 6, 2008

'Scientific' Studies are NOT Infallible

Whether you...
  • support democrats or republicans
  • prefer evidence-based medicine to reiki, or reverse
  • read the Washington Post or the New York Times
  • watch CNN or the View
  • believe ads which state '3 out of 5 dentists prefer...'
  • think Bush has been a great president or deserves impeachment
  • have health insurance at work or qualify for Medicaid
  • 'care enough to send the very best'

You should know that...

  • studies can (if so desired) prove or disprove almost any theory which the authors choose
  • who conducts the study is very important to consider when examining the results
  • how results are stated can influence the reader's opinion
  • many, many PR companies exist to conduct studies with the intent of meeting their clients (see KRC Research who works for PhRMA)
    • At KRC Research, our goal is to provide information and insights that can build, drive and enhance communications. Our approach rests on the following principles:
    • Good research is well-planned. That means our research planning process is as rigorous as our research implementation, seeking clarity and consensus on research goals and parameters.
    • Good research is useable. That means our research is designed to provide clear answers to communications questions—what should be communicated, how, and to whom.
    • Good research is understandable. That means we deliver debriefs and reports that are not only thorough and insightful, but clear in meaning and accompanied by clear recommendations.
  • evidence is sometimes a hard thing to prove
Read "Survey Says: Big Pharma's Getting Better" at the WSJ Health Blog

and please read...

"Lancet Speared" at The Doctor is In (opening paragraph below)

Remember the Lancet study? You know, the one which came out days before the 2006 election, reporting that the Iraq war had caused about 655,000 excess civilian deaths — a number about 20 times larger than most other estimates? It was widely reported in the mainstream media, echoed by politicians and pundits who were quick to use it to further damage the Bush administration politically and heighten opposition to an already
unpopular war. It was also widely cited in Europe and the Middle East as evidence of American brutality and callousness in the execution of the war. Because it was published in a prestigious medical journal, those who were skeptical of its findings were left arguing about arcane epidemiological and statistical flaws which virtually guaranteed that no one would listen. The idea that a medical journal would publish a document almost purely political in nature was, of course, pooh-poohed by all the right people.

Read the rest of this post at The Doctor Is In here.

Read the original article "Data Bomb" in the National Journal.

Finally, keep in mind that messages you hear or read are almost always shared with a purpose.

The purpose in this message from me at this time is to encourage you to question reports and clever studies and to think things over for yourself.


  1. yes should always be utilize a healthy measure of skepticism when reading any study. mark twain said it best with "Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable."

    i am still reading and listening but i am still not quite sure what you are about. but i will give you are very passionate.

  2. I am so happy to see someone other than me bring up this issue. I know so many people who speak with quotes, refer ideas to something they have read, and I LONG for original thought and questioning of one set of "facts." Particularity when it comes to drug companies/doctors (I have MS,DX 17yrs ago), I have many issues and I feel very alone and up against a huge brick wall.
    Thank you!

  3. Thank you ladies.
    Conversations with my friends often follow this pattern (or one similar) -
    I read (heard) that...what do you think?
    Well if that's the case, then what about...?
    I'm not so sure, because I thought....

    Since entering the blogsophere last summer, I find myself reading something and going...but wait a minute!!

    For someone who almost never contradicted anyone's ideas, I certainly am starting to sound like an activist (of what exactly I'm still figuring out.) Most definitely, my experiences since being diagnosed with MS in 2005 and ensuing difficulties navigating the 'healthcare system' and various 'non-profits' has given me something to be passionate about.

  4. are you on one of the MS drugs? i am currently not taking anything.

  5. Yes, I chose copaxone due to the reported depressive effects of the other choices and simply didn't need that extra burden. I have battled depression for 15 years and am currently above the surface, wanting to stay there.

    I started with Copaxone Dec 2005 and it'll be 2 years since a major relapse in Feb 2008. I first experienced Optic Neuritis in Mar 2000.

    I use Neurontin for nerve pain and I think it does help somewhat with spasticity. Provigil has helped with debilitating fatigue.

    If you have questions, please feel free to email me.

  6. You have a 95.7% chance of being confronted with a specious statistic within the next 5 minutes...