Is there something wrong with medical research?

In a Huffington Post article, writer Dana Ullman raises some very significant questions about the state of American medicine, which has come to rely so heavily on pharmaceuticals. In particular, he attacks the medical research system that supports it.

Drugs are subjected to clinical trials lasting just six weeks. How can that realistically evaluate a medication that individuals may take for years? And, Ullman writes, the system tends to push negative data under the rug.

He quotes a heavy hitter in this area: Marcia Angell, a woman who edited the New England Journal of Medicine for two decades.

“Marcia Angell, MD, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of the powerful book The Truth about Drug Companies, said it plainly and directly: ‘Trials can be rigged in a dozen ways, and it happens all the time’ (Angell, 2004, 95).”

He quotes her further:

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. As reprehensible as many industry practices are, I believe the behavior of much of the medical profession is even more culpable.

And he quotes Turner EH, et al., “Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy,” The New England Journal of Medicine, January 17, 2008:

A review of 74 clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that 37 of 38 positive studies were published. But of the thirty-six negative studies, thirty-three were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome.

Take a look at Ullman’s article, for plenty of food for thought that appears to me to be very relevant to the autism-vaccine debate.

Phyllis Wheeler

6 thoughts on “Is there something wrong with medical research?

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  • July 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm
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    “A review of 74 clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that 37 of 38 positive studies were published. But
    of the thirty-six negative studies, thirty-three were either not
    published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome
    .”

    And therein lies the primary reason the FDA, as it stands, is useless. Such practices are completely legal.

    As for the six week-long trials. It depends on the drug and the population. Trials in animals may last that long or shorter, and if it’s a drug or treatment targeting tumor reduction, then there’s no need to make the trial last longer in humans than six weeks if the drug is designed to only be taken for four consecutive weeks. If it’s a drug that people need to take for extended periods of time, then two-year-long trials are not unheard of.

    Also, every one of those six weeks costs $1M+, and that money needs to be paid for somehow. I’m okay taking the risk of taking a drug that’s only been tested for six weeks if it means I save 30% on all my other medications.

    Reply

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