Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Is Science Broken? Part 1: Science Doesn't Produce Reliable Results.

I hope not, but it's clearly got a problem (subscription-only link):

"It was the kind of study that made doctors around the world sit up and take notice: Two popular high-blood-pressure drugs were found to be much better in combination than either alone.
""There was a 'wow' reaction," recalls Franz Messerli, a New York doctor who, like many others, changed his prescription habits after the 2003 report.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't true. Six and a half years later, the prestigious medical journal the Lancet retracted the paper, citing "serious concerns" about the findings.

"The damage was done. Doctors by then had given the drug combination to well over 100,000 patients. Instead of protecting them from kidney problems, as the study said the drug combo could do, it left them more vulnerable to potentially life-threatening side effects, later studies showed. Today, "tens of thousands" of patients are still on the dual therapy, according to research firm SDI.

"...Just 22 retraction notices appeared in 2001, but 139 in 2006 and 339 last year. Through seven months of this year, there have been 210, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, an index of 11,600 peer-reviewed journals world-wide...."
Sounds like any new therapy or finding should be approached with great skepticism.  And not implemented until confirmed.

For myself, I like to take drugs that have been around for a couple of human generations.  Hopefully the effects are at least all known by that point, since long-term, multi-generational human tests are simply not possible.

Just remember, you are the long-term test.

Part 2.