Posts like this simply make my blood boil. Perhaps I should keep my “buttons on the inside” (i.e. not let other people push my buttons), but I get frustrated when doctors get their priorities all out of whack and misinterpret the results of experiments. Let’s try this one more time:
Statistics measure population tendencies, and are bad at predicting individual results. I ought to make every doctor on the face of this planet write this on a chalkboard until they say it in their dreams. Maybe it should be a semester course in medical school and biostatistics. A three-hour course required for graduation. Three hours a week of writing this on the board, supervised, and a recorder stuck under their mouths at night for verification. To pass the class, they have to be saying this in their sleep.
Orac seems to take the most extreme example of the alternative-medicine-is-good-and-conventional-medicine-is-bad nutcase (and, the person who fits the description he gives on the page is a nutcase, I’ll give him that), and equate people giving testimonials.
Let’s look at this argument then: clinical trials good, testimonials bad. Do you see the bias here? No? Well, let’s give a different example:
Testimonials good, clinical trials bad. Do you see the bias here? Ok, good. Now, let’s go back: Clinical trials good, testimonials bad? Oh, still don’t see it? Let’s phrase it a different way: Evidence of population tendency good, individual people’s results bad. See what I’m getting at? No? I’ll show you the link again: here. Read it again. And again. And I’ll join you when you’ve got it down.
So testimonials and anecdotal evidence? I’m glad the FDA hears them. We need to hear them. After all, they come from the people that we in the healthcare/pharma/research industries are trying to help. The sparks for ideas that lead into scientific revolutions come from odd, anecdotal observations that are outside of what statistics predicts. Individuals give important information that statistics will miss, and cutting out anecdotal or testimonial information and relying solely on clinical trials for our research is like cutting off our legs because the car gets us there faster.