When was medical science wrong?

Some studies stagnate so much on errors that they later recant. Last week, for example, Science was forced to retract a breakthrough article suggesting that chronic fatigue syndrome could be caused by a virus called XMRV. Fish oil does not reduce the risk of heart disease. Science is intrinsically self-correcting, Born said, because bad experiments or results are almost always revealed eventually.

But students agreed that there is a risk that practices such as hacking will do greater harm when it causes science to lose credibility to the public due to experiments or questionable results. While in the following two periods the proportion of publications referring to “medication error” decreased (to 31.7 and 32.8%, respectively), many bubbles of new terms appeared that support the remarkable diversification of research topics. Medical journals benefit from studies that suggest breakthroughs and, of course, the media like flashy headlines. Born introduced the topic of p-hacking and questioned whether a significant part of the problem related to practice is an incentive structure in science that pressures researchers to obtain positive results.

In fact, the question of whether medical research problems should be passed on to the public is difficult in the meta-research community. Medication errors were consistently listed frequently and, together with CPOE and ADE, were associated with high citation rates of the respective manuscripts. The objective of this study was to quantitatively analyze the existing scientific literature on medical errors in order to obtain new knowledge in this important area of medical research. Erick Turner, a psychiatrist at Portland VA Medical Center in Oregon caused a stir in the world of psychiatry a few years ago when he launched a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that the vast majority of clinical trials that found antidepressants to be ineffective were never published or were presented positive results.

And of course, he continues to suggest that an obsession with winning funding has helped a lot to weaken the reliability of medical research. A better understanding of medical errors can be of great importance because it can lead to approaches that aim at their reduction. As a result, a research study on blood pressure drugs and COVID-19 was withdrawn from the New England Journal of Medicine. Turner's study could not conclude whether the manufacturers of antidepressants chose not to send negative studies to medical journals, if they did and their documents were rejected, or both.

Reshma Jagsi, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, wonders if these conflicts of interest were influencing the results. The supplement, made from the leaves of ginkgo trees, was widely used in ancient Chinese medicine and is still promoted as a way to preserve memory. He chose to publish an article, appropriately, in the online journal PLoS Medicine, which is committed to publishing any methodologically sound article without regard to how “interesting the results can be”.

Theodore Eflin
Theodore Eflin

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