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The “Lies” Of Medical Science: What’s An e-Patient To Do?

There’s an extraordinary new article in The Atlantic entitled “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science.” It echos an excellent article in our Journal of Participatory Medicine (JoPM) a year ago by Richard W. Smith, 25-year editor of the British Medical Journal, entitled “In Search Of an Optimal Peer Review System.

JoPM, Oct 21, 2009: “….most of what appears in peer-reviewed journals is scientifically weak.”

The Atlantic, Oct. 16, 2010: “Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong.”

JoPM 2009: “Yet peer review remains sacred, worshiped by scientists and central to the processes of science — awarding grants, publishing, and dishing out prizes.”

The Atlantic 2010: “So why are doctors — to a striking extent — still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?”

Dr. Marcia Angell said something just as damning in December 2008 in the New York Review of Books: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.” (Our post on Angell is here.)

What’s an e-patient to do? How are patients supposed to research if, as all three authorities say, much of what they read is scientifically weak? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Power Of The Press: News Story Prompts Journal Study Changes

In an unusual move, a journal has actually gone in and changed a previously-stated conclusion of a previously-published paper. This follows a Reuters Health story that raised questions about the study. Reuters reports:

“A journal editor has scrubbed a line supporting the use of a L’Oreal-Nestle tanning pill from the conclusion of a company-sponsored study.

The edits come days after a Reuters Health story about serious shortcomings in the report.

Dr. Tanya Bleiker, editor of the British Journal of Dermatology, which published the study, told Reuters Health this week by e-mail she had changed the conclusion of the report, with the permission of the authors, and added the researchers’ financial conflicts.

Half of them were employees of Laboratoires Inneov, a joint venture between L’Oreal and Nestle that makes the tanning pill, called Inneov Sun Sensitivity. However, the original version of the study did not include a conflict of interest statement, Bleiker said last week, because “the authors stated very clearly that there was no conflict of interest.”

On the first page of the report, the researchers concluded that their “results support the use of this nutritional supplement.”

That sentence has now been removed. But the new version of the report now available online still says the tanning pill increases the threshold for sunburns and “represents a complementary strategy to sun avoidance and sunscreen use for a global approach to photoprotection.”

An independent dermatologist who reviewed the results for Reuters Health disputed those claims last week.

Referring to whether the pill would protect women against the sun’s harmful UV rays, Dr. Peter Schalock, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said he had “hard time seeing that statistically or scientifically (the researchers) have proven it.”

Journalists and the general public can learn from this example. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

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