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new “study” reveals what’s wrong with medical research


If you’ve followed the section of my site filed under “EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE,” you are aware that for quite some time I’ve been showing you that medical research, as well as medical practice itself, is often anything but.  A recent article in Vox (The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Science, According to 270 Scientists) has put fresh legs to this fact.  Enter Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer and Brian Resnick.

The three authors sent out a survey to scientists around the world asking them what single thing they would change in their profession.  They heard back from 270 of them.  Their top-seven list was largely made up of points that I myself have been trying to make for the better part of three decades.  The top complaint won’t surprise you a bit — science is whatever the person with the most money says it is.  In simpler terms, the highest bidder runs the show; probably why the authors concluded, “based on our survey, funding appears to be at the root of many of the problems facing scientists.

To do most any kind of research, scientists need money.  The way money is handed out puts pressure on labs to publish a lot of papers, breeds conflicts of interest, and encourages scientists to overhype their work.”  Overhyped?  You don’t say.  This is something I have written about over and over again (links to follow later).  And as for CONFLICT OF INTEREST, the relationship between BIG PHARMA, our UNIVERSITY SYSTEM, and government (can anyone say FDA?) is frequently nothing short of incestuous. 

BRIBERY is the norm, although it’s not usually done with straight cash handouts.   The money is ‘laundered’ the very same ways our politicians do it — via speaking fees, consulting fees, outrageous Per Diems, under the table, etc, etc, etc. 

And as for financial COA’s, the authors tell us what most of us already knew about concerning the field of NUTRITION — yet another of the arenas that the medical community either chooses to ignore, or gives out information that is OUTDATED and literally 180 degrees backwards. “Much of nutrition science, for instance, is funded by the food industry — an inherent conflict of interest. And the vast majority of drug clinical trials are funded by drug makers.”  It’s no wonder those who understand how things really work have lost faith in the system to look out for their best interests and protect them.

The authors go on to state that, “Scientists often learn more from studies that fail. But failed studies can mean career death. So instead, they’re incentivized to generate positive results they can publish.”  But what do we do here in America with “failed” studies?  We bury them in hopes that they never see the light of day.  This practice is so common that it actually has a name — INVISIBLE & ABANDONED RESEARCH

When studies that don’t turn out they way the drug company hoped they would, they are either ditched prior to completion or simply not published.  Either way, this medical research dies a quiet death, while perpetually skewing results to always make products or procedures look better and safer than they really are.  

Along these same lines, the authors discussed poorly designed studies.  Be aware that this is a sleight of hand that’s usually done on purpose in order to pull the wool over people’s eyes.  My favorite (simple) example of this phenomenon is THE CUPCAKE STUDY.  Just remember that when medical research is criticized for being poorly designed, the poor design is rarely by accident.  Why?  “Many of our survey respondents noted that perverse incentives push scientists to cut corners in how they analyze their data.” 

This commonly used tactic is widely known as “DATA MINING” and is another of the many ways you can make study results say whatever you want them to say.  What are the consequences of Data Mining?  For one, you have people who are wildly excited and optimistic over things they should literally be terrified of (HERE is a great example).  But it goes much deeper than this.  Listen to the authors….

“The consequences are staggering. An estimated $200 billion — or the equivalent of 85 percent of global spending on research — is routinely wasted on poorly designed and redundant studies, according to meta-researchers who have analyzed inefficiencies in medical research. We know that as much as 30 percent of the most influential original medical research papers later turn out to be wrong or exaggerated.”

In case that didn’t hit you upside the head like a sledge hammer, re-read it until it does.  But the fun and games don’t end there.  One of the things that makes science “scientific” is that because research results are true, they can be validated / verified or falsified by repeating the experiment.  Would it shock you to learn that huge numbers of studies cannot be replicated?  “A landmark study published in the journal Science demonstrated that only a fraction of recent findings in top psychology journals could be replicated. This is happening in other fields too.”  

Scientific journals don’t like to publish studies that repeat previous research.  The authors said that the chief reason for this, “is to discourage scientists from checking each other’s work.”  It’s sort of like used to happen do in school when you and your best friend graded each other’s math homework.  Even though you may both have been complete dunces mathematically speaking, you always seemed to get 100% on your homework assignments.  This phenomenon is very similar to their next bullet point — peer review.

Peer review is the process of having a board of your “peers” look at research prior to publishing and see if it has problems. If all appears well, the medical research is accepted for publication.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Yet this was the point the authors said, “over and over again in our survey, respondents told us this process fails. It was one of the parts of the scientific machinery to elicit the most rage among the researchers we heard from.” 

According to those who know best (scientists), it seems that peer review is full of bias, jealousy, procrastination, then sloppily rushing things through as deadline appears, are the norm.  The result?  “Numerous studies and systematic reviews have shown that peer review doesn’t reliably prevent poor-quality science from being published.  I think peer review is, like democracy, bad, but better than anything else.”  Which brings us to the next point — the cost of purchasing studies for your own research needs.

As someone who likes to put my money where my mouth is by backing up what I write about with current medical research (HERE is a great example concerning Autism), I hate the fact that, “too much science is locked behind paywalls”  In other words, numerous journals don’t provide anything other than abstracts unless you pay for the study.  At $30 to $50 bucks a pop, who can afford it? 

A single article in Science will set you back $30; a year-long subscription to Cell will cost $279. Elsevier publishes 2,000 journals that can cost up to $10,000 or $20,000 a year for a subscription.  Journalist John Bohannon recently described the plight of a PhD candidate at a top university in Iran. He calculated that the student would have to spend $1,000 a week just to read the papers he needed.” 

What does this ultimately mean for science?  Frequently it means that doctors are not staying abreast of the latest scientific literature, leading them to conclusions that are half a century behind the times (HERE and HERE are two of hundreds of examples).  Unfortunately, when science actually does get thing correct, they are not good at letting the public know about it in ways that can be understood.

The sixth point the authors make is that, “Science is poorly communicated to the public.  Far too often, there are less than 10 people on this planet who can fully comprehend a single scientist’s research.”  This lack of communication is not only due to an inability to communicate, but something the authors mentioned earlier — overhyping their results via outrageous claims and press releases  that are purposely made to look like legitimate news stories. 

They went on to discuss a couple of last year’s infamous debacles —- “The University of Maryland issued a press release claiming that a single brand of chocolate milk could improve concussion recovery.  One review in BMJ found that one-third of university press releases contained either exaggerated claims of causation (when the study itself only suggested correlation), unwarranted implications about animal studies for people, or unfounded health advice.”  It’s why I have dealt with Press Releases on my site at least twice (HERE and HERE).

I’ll not take the time to cover the author’s seventh point, having to do with the fact that life as a medical researcher — particularly a recent grad —- is “stressful“.  What can I say?  Life is stressful.  But allow me to give you a tiny glimpse into the reason(s) these seven issues are such a huge problem by using four of our medical community’s most popular drugs and procedures — true sacred cows if you will — as examples.  Testing procedures, Vaccinations, Antibiotics and Statin Drugs.

What happens when we can’t trust our medical research?  We end up with entire classes of medications and procedures that are not scientifically valid (HERE).  This is because not only does the medical profession via their sponsor — Big Pharma — lie and cheat when it comes to much of their research, but beyond that, they simply ignore whatever they don’t like or agree with. 

One of the biggest areas this is seen in concern examinations.  When it comes to common testing procedures (PHYSICAL EXAMINATIONS, WOMEN’S ANNUALS, CT SCANS, COLONOSCOPIES, MAMMOGRAMS, PROSTATE EXAMS, etc, etc, etc), what are we told?  We are told that these procedures save lives and if we don’t regularly receive them, we are likely to die in an untimely fashion.  This is such a well known “fact” that few people question such recommendations. 

But a quick click on the links shows that despite the hubris surrounding this topic, the medical research has been clear for years — in some cases for decades.  The truth is that due to a phenomenon known as OVERDIAGNOISIS & OVERTREATMENT, these tests are not saving lives — or at least not to the degree we have been told.

This brings us to Vaccinations.  Everyone knows how great vaccinations are.  After all, it was VACCINATIONS and Antibiotics, that according to LBJ’s “Great Society,” were going to wipe sickness and disease off the face of the planet.  Some of our vaccinations have obviously helped with this.  Because of a few successes, the resultant cry for more vaccinations and “forced vaccination” is becoming increasingly loud. 

Just a few days ago, Slate ran an article by Phoebe Day Danziger and Rebekah Diamond (medical students) called The Vaccination Double Standard: Despite Years of Research, There’s No Good Way to Convince Anti-vaxxers of the Truth — It’s Time to Make Vaccination Mandatory for All Kids.  Why don’t parents want their kids to receive the government-mandated schedule of vaccines?  According to these extremely pro-vaccination authors…..

“The roots of the anti-vaccination movement are deep and multifaceted. There is mistrust of the medical establishment and its historically unseemly ties with large industry. There is awareness of the long history of unethical conduct in both medical research and everyday medical practice, which has led often to the exploitation of vulnerable populations.

There is, above all, a profound discontent with the current medical and cultural landscape, marked by over-medicalization of normal processes; nonholistic care fixated on signs and syndromes rather than whole people shaped by their social, emotional, and physical environments; a national food system that relies on the industrial and heavily processed; and broad social and economic policies that fail to support children, families, and communities.”

I’ve shown you repeatedly (HERE and HERE are two of them) that our vaccination policies as they exist today are not only over-hyped (see my earlier link on Flu Vaccines), but are causing us to trade yesterday’s childhood illness — illnesses that most kids got and got over without any sort of medical intervention (developing their immune systems in the process), for today’s epidemics of AUTOIMMUNE and CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DEGENERATIVE DISEASES

And really; where will it end?  Big Pharma currently has OVER 300 VACCINES in R&D — some of them actually designed to create autoimmune reactions within your body such as THIS ONE or THIS ONE.  The vaccination issue is such a hot-button issue right now, there is no way an American dare publish anything contrary to the status quo.  if you don’t toe the line when it comes to your research, you can kiss your career — no matter how illustrious —- goodbye (HERE).  Which brings us to the next leg of the journey; antibiotics. 

Proper use of ANTIBIOTICS has undoubtedly saved countless lives.  However, on the other end of the spectrum, their overuse has proved to be horrendously harmful.  If you flip through my content filed under GUT HEALTH (LGS, DYSBIOSIS, etc), you’ll quickly realize that antibiotics are a double-edged sword that have decimated our collective health as severely as almost anything other than our national SUGAR ADDICTION.  Despite the medical research community continuing to shout this fact from the roof tops, little changes.  It’s one of the big reasons I’ve told you that the gap between the two sides of medicine (research and practice) is the size of the Grand Canyon (HERE).

And finally we get to STATIN DRUGS.  Without going into incredible detail, suffice it to say that Statins are not all they seem.  There are any number of EXPERTS or scientists from other countries (HERE) who have been beating the drum that not only are Statin Drugs not safe, they don’t even begin to get to the source of the problem of clogged arteries —- INFLAMMATION.   But one thing is for certain — they are a cash cow!

This article is yet another indictment as to the reasons we can’t trust science to be unbiased —- especially not with hundreds of billions of dollars at stake.  Even though the authors of today’s article say that it’s all going to be OK eventually, right now things are bad — far worse than the general public has any real idea of.  And frankly, that’s exactly how Big Pharma wants things. 

If you are looking to break free from the chains of Big Pharma, get off the MEDICAL MERRY-GO-ROUND, and GET YOUR LIFE BACK, for many of you it’s as simple as following the information on THIS POST. And be sure to spread the wealth by liking, sharing or following on FACEBOOK while you are at it — still a fantastic way to reach the people in your life that you love and care about most.


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