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spinning the research


Medical Studies Lying

Stefan “Kellepics” Keller – Deutschland / Germany – Pixabay

We all know that the practice of Medicine is becoming increasingly about the money.  I’m not being harsh or mean here.  It’s just a simple fact.  You can see this simply by looking at some of the FINES THAT BIG PHARMA HAS HAD TO PAY over the past year or so.   These multi-billion dollar fines were mostly for blatant lying about research results (fraud).  And now we see evidence from the medical research community that there is a great deal of result twisting or “spinning” going on in their research results.  What is “spinning” you might ask?  It is certainly nothing new. 

Doctor Chester Wilks, one of the six chiropractors who took the “Medical Monopoly & Propaganda” case all the way to the Supreme Court (and won) back in the early 1990’s, wrote in 1973’s Chiropractic Speaks Out: A Reply to Medical Propaganda, Bigotry, and Ignorance about the way that this is accomplished within the medical research community.  Wilks wrote,

There is a story of a horse race between two entries, an American and a foreign stallion, that was run on American soil.  The American horse won the race and as a result, an American newspaper reported the race saying, “A horse race between the great American stallion and the foreign entry had the American entry winning easily”.  The foreign newspaper reporting the same race said, “The superiority of our horse breeding was clearly demonstrated in an international horse race today.   Although not familiar with the foreign turf, our stallion made a brilliant performance coning in a close second while America’s finest entry, running on familiar soil came in next to last.”  This simple story classically illustrates the effectiveness of deceptive reporting without telling an outright lie.

Doctor Wilk wrote this paragraph four decades ago.  Has anything changed over the course of the ensuing forty years?  Sure it has.  The problem has gotten worse!  Much of this comes in the form of “PRESS RELEASES“.  These are nothing more than unpaid advertising —- free commercials that are disguised to look like great “Ah ha moments” for the medical and drug companies.   They could be about a new drug that cures half of the people who take it —- but kills the other half.  Or they could be about that new surgery that is being touted on all three network’s six o’clock news as the greatest thing since sliced bread.  No matter what you are being told, you had better turn your BS detectors to full power and pay attention when watching these “Press Releases” that are made to look like legitimate news stories.  Truth is true under all circumstances.  Science is all too often whatever the person with the most money says it is.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at what the medical research community is now saying about medical research.

A French study (Misrepresentation of Randomized Controlled Trials in Press Releases and News Coverage: A Cohort Study) published in PLoS Medicine — a medical journal — says the problem is rampant.  Not surprisingly, the researchers found that media coverage of medical research results and so-called “scientific studies distorts results and misinforms the public.  This begs the question of just how bad this problem really is?  I can assure you that it’s probably worse than you ever dreamed.  The French physicians doing the PLoS research showed that any beneficial effects of experimental treatments are nearly six times more likely to be found in a press release if the conclusion of the study itself was also spun. 

Here are some interesting stats from their study.  Forty percent of the medical research had some kind of spin in the study’s conclusion (abstract).  These included:

  • Not acknowledging statistically-insignificant primary outcomes
  • Extrapolating data inappropriately
  • Focusing on significant results in areas that are less (or not significant) to the study’s outcome
  • False claims of safety  
  • Failing to mention poor study results (HERE)

Amazingly enough, half of all the medical studies and press releases that the study’s authors looked at were spun.  Stop and think about this for a moment.  I have been hollering for the past twenty years about the fact that we cannot trust the research that is coming out of our scientific medical community.  Much of this is due to the fact that the relationship between doctors, the medical research community, and our medical schools can only be described as incestuous.  So, the next time you see a “news story” on that latest drug or surgery that looks too good to be true —– just remember; it probably is.  Just another one of the joys of EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE!


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