Something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations – scientific research. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, voiced his concerns: “Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” Dr. John Loannidis, professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, has concluded that up to 80 percent of non-randomized research studies (the most common research) are wrong, along with twenty-five percent of randomized trials (research gold standard). Incredulously, all these studies are published in top peer reviewed medical journals.
Everyone agrees Evidence-Based medicine (EBM) is a good idea—running trials to test treatments before they are given to patients– but EBM has been hijacked by commercial interests. A vivid example was published recently in the British Medical journal (BMJ). It set out in forensic detail how a clinical trial, showed the antidepressant Seroxat was safe and effective when given to depressed children. Yet, in reality, Seroxat not only didn’t improve their depression, it actually made them more likely to commit suicide.
The BMJ’s investigation makes it clear that the research trial was little no more than a cynical marketing exercise. Although there were 23 authors listed, many respected psychiatrists, none of them had actually seen the results. They hadn’t even taken part in writing them up. That had been done by an employee of the company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The academics had the same relationship to the product as celebrities do to the perfume or skin cleansers they endorse.
Our doctors use this research to inform their medical decisions –what drug to prescribe, what surgery to elect, and what health strategy to adopt. The collateral damage from bad drugs is huge; it is estimated that psychiatric drugs alone are a leading cause of premature death.
If EBM is to deliver trustworthy research results for the public, it has to become independent of the commercial and cultural factors driving the current system.
Jerome Burne. “Dose of Jeremy Corbyn Needed to Make Medicines Safe, “Health Insight UK, Sept. 21, 2015. http://healthinsightuk.org/2015/09/21/dose-of-jeremy-corbyn-needed-to-make-medicines-safe
Arjun Walia, “Editor In Chief of World’s Best Known Medical Journal: Half of All the Literature is False,” Collective Evolution, May 16, 2015, http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/05/16/editor-in-chief-of-worlds-best-known-medical-journal-half-of-all-the-literature-is-false
Robert Olivia, “Flawed Medical Research May Be Ruining Your Health and Your Life,” Collective Evolution, May 6, 2015, http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/05/06/flawed-medical-research-may-be-ruining-your-health-your-life-important/
Richard Horton, “What is Medicine’s 5 Sigma?,” The Lancet, Vol. 385. p. 1380, April 21, 2015, http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736%2815%2960696-1.pdf
Student Researcher: Joshua Gill-Sutton (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Advisor: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)