Good science

Today’s excellent Bad Science discusses some reasons for why drug trials remain completely in the hands of Big Pharma. Ben Goldacre mentions the Cochrane Collaboration as an alternative.

If we ever had a scientist in charge of health, instead of tinkering with payments to big pharma, they would do one simple thing: move hell and high water to collect and collate the best and cheapest evidence on healthcare. First you would give huge amounts of money to the Cochrane Collaboration, which collects and collates data independently on all healthcare interventions (and is quietly one of the most subversive organisations ever to be created, because it blows the lid on false commercial claims

Wow. This is an amazing resource. They provide free “Plain Language” abstracts and summaries of the research. I tried a few. Go to the reviews page and choose a topic from the drop down list.

I was a bit constrained by having to pick things that I could understand the arguments about. Depression, anxiety and neurosis seemed a fair start, so I chose that. Nice comprehensible summary.

Active placebos versus antidepressants for depression
Tricyclic antidepressants are only slightly better than active placebos.
This review examined trials which compared antidepressants with ‘active’ placebos, that is placebos containing active substances which mimic side effects of antidepressants. Small differences were found in favour of antidepressants in terms of improvements in mood. This suggests that the effects of antidepressants may generally be overestimated and their placebo effects may be underestimated.

Drugs and alcohol?

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programmes for alcohol dependence
…The available experimental studies did not demonstrate the effectiveness of AA or other 12-step approaches in reducing alcohol use and achieving abstinence compared with other treatments, but there were some limitations with these studies.

Alternative AIDs treatments?

Herbal medicines for treating HIV infection and AIDS?
There is no compelling evidence to support the use of the herbal medicines identified in this review for treatment of HIV infection and AIDS.

(Although another link says exercise can be beneficial)

What an amazing resource. A busy healthcare worker can access the results of research from around the world in a few mouse clicks. A nosy member of the public, e.g. me, can find a better source of medical information than the daily scare stories/new miracle cures stories. It’s one of those things that makes you realise what the Internet can achieve.

One thought on “Good science

  1. I have a “good science” story that i will be posting so check it out. It should be up by Sunday morning your time. The subject matter is different, but it’s a good story. I’ll link back to yours as well.

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