Welcome to my blog

Hello. I am Sherlock and this is my diary. My job title is "osteopath", and my work is problem-solving. This involves detective work, hence my name. Detective work involves reason and science, but is not limited by them. It also involves the eye of experience, and "hunches". Thus, some would regard my activities as those of a quack, a title I assume here with irony. I am writing this blog because I like writing. I am quite opinionated, and perhaps I suffer from a repressed need for expression. I have no particular prior "agenda"; if I have any bees in my bonnet, no doubt they will make themselves apparent by their buzzing. All names and identifying details of any people featuring in these anecdotes have been changed. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The skewed "science" of the drug pedlars

The Daily Mail recently reported how large pharmaceutical companies preferentially publish clinical trials that give positive results and withhold from publication those giving negative results. This information has been circulating for a while now among scientists, doctors, medical journalists and us quacks. It is a "good thing" that the mainstream press has caught hold of it.

Let me explain for the scientifically unaware amongst you. Scientific knowledge is never certain, it is a question of probability. For any question asked in science (e.g. Does drug A have a beneficial effect on condition B?) there will be experiments done that give a "yes" answer, and others that give a "no" answer. All of the answers put together, with due consideration to the relative quality of the different experiments done, will give us an approximation to the truth based on the balance of probabilities. So if a drug company publishes the "good" (for them) studies and bins the "bad" ones, their drugs can get licensed for sale even though they may do no good at all. And since all drugs have side effects, these bogus medicines may do more harm than good. 

We quacks often get it in the neck from critics for not having science behind us. It is true, we don't. But equally, when those who do have the money to carry out proper trials on their methods systematically cook the books, it is not encouraging.

* "Drugs firms 'risk lives by hiding bad trials'", Daily Mail, 24 October 2012.

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