Contradictory Medical Studies

Posted on July 30, 2007  Comments (2)

I have written before about false research findings. This is an important topic – we need to remember that the interpritation of one study (or many studies) in not necessarily conclusive. Another article – When Medical Studies Collide:

Two years ago, the headlines blared that echinacea was a bust. Millions of people who believed the best-selling herbal remedy was warding off colds were probably deluding themselves, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. Now echinacea is back in the news. This time, it works! So says a study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

How could two studies come to such different conclusions””especially when there have been no new trials of the herb? While the New England Journal reported on one clinical trial, authors of the latest report combined data from previous studies, a controversial approach called a meta-analysis. Its conclusion is dramatically different””not just from that of the New England Journal paper, but also from a review last year of the same studies.

The problem is, the world of medical and health research is messier than most people realize. Black-and-white answers are rare, even when it comes to a single drug trial.

Just remember those last two sentences. Very simple. And most people would agree if you showed them those two sentences and asked if they agreed. But then they see a headline and away they go… Just force yourself to repeat that idea every time you see a health report. Don’t believe the headline without strong support.

An interesting tidbit from the article. The coneflower is the source of echinacea. I tried to find photos that I am pretty sure I have on my hard drive of the flowers in my back yard, but I couldn’t.

Related: Correlation is Not CausationAnother Paper Questions Scientific Paper Accuracy

2 Responses to “Contradictory Medical Studies”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Medical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)
    April 18th, 2008 @ 8:29 am

    but those organization should not be trusted to provide honest and balanced opinions they should be expected to provide biased opinions…

  2. annakat
    August 25th, 2008 @ 11:55 am

    This reminds me of when my mother was dying of cancer my sister read a book written by a doctor that had saved 10 cancer patients. He had done a study on over 200 patients and had a cure that was 100% effective. It contained some of the worse tasting stuff imaginable. My sister insisted mother drink the stuff. I argued, Mother drank, my sister believed, my mothers cancer doctor shook his head, and eventually my mother died.

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