Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Medical Research We Never Hear About: The Problem of Unpublished Studies

From the 2 May 2012 article at The Health Care Blog

Every day, there is another medical study in the news. There’s another newspaper or TV story telling us that X can cure depression or make you thinner or cause autism or whatever. And since it’s a medical study, we usually think that it’s true. Why wouldn’t it be?

But what most people don’t realize, let alone really think about, is that there might be other studies that show that X does none of those things — and that some of those studies might never have been published.

Just this week, the journal Pediatricsreleased an article that perfectly demonstrates this problem. There have been a number of studies that have shown that a certain type of medication, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help stop the repetitive behaviors of autism, like hand-flapping or head-banging. If you were to do a search of the medical literature, as doctors and parents and patients often do, you’d think that using SSRIs is a good idea. But when researchers dug deeper, they found that there were just as many unpublished studies that showed that SSRIs didn’t help. If they had all been published (they were all good enough to be published), that same search of the medical literature would have shown that using SSRIs isn’t a good idea.

This is bad. We rely on studies to guide our decisions. What is going on?

The journals that publish articles certainly play a role. After all, it’s cooler to publish a study that has a grabby headline, that promises an answer or a cure. That’s much more likely to get readers than a study that says that something doesn’t do anything at all. But it turns out that the researchers themselves play a bigger role.

 

Some researchers don’t even write up their studies or try to publish them. ….

 

May 14, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

“Too much ownership of data and secrecy involved”

From the 21 March 2012 article by Gary Schwitzer at HealthNewsReviews.org

That’s what one author writes in a series of papers published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes this month addressing issues involving the integrity of research data.

Yale’s Harlan Krumholz writes: “Patients facing a decision deserve information that is based on all of the evidence.”  Further excerpt:

Every day, patients and their caregivers are faced with difficult decisions about treatment. They turn to physicians and other healthcare professionals to interpret the medical evidence and assist them in making individualized decisions.

Unfortunately, we are learning that what is published in the medical literature represents only a portion of the evidence that is relevant to the risks and benefits of available treatments. In a profession that seeks to rely on evidence, it is ironic that we tolerate a system that enables evidence to be outside of public view. Those who own data, usually scientists or industry, have the choice of what, where, and when to publish. As a result, our medical literature portrays only a partial picture of the evidence about clinical strategies, including drugs and devices. Experts have recently drawn attention to this issue, including contributions in this issue of our journal, but there is resistance to change….

The article goes on outline how sharing of clinical trial and research data could be shared for the common good.

Read the entire article here

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: