In which I complain about the sorry state of medicinal reporting. - Blogs - Bulbagarden Forums

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In which I complain about the sorry state of medicinal reporting.

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by , 16th August 2011 at 12:45 PM (349 Views)
Seriously, what the hell?

To quote the article:

Quote Originally Posted by WebMD
A study published by The Lancet shows that if inactive people increased their physical activity by just 15 minutes per day, they could reduce their risk of death by 14% and increase their life expectancy by three years. The study compared inactive people with active people who engaged in a range of different levels of physical activity.
Now, I'm sure that they don't mean that the risk of death is reduced by 14% in the original paper, but that's what they say here. Now think about this for a second -- the "risk of death" is reduced. How in the world are you going to reduce that? Everyone dies. It's not like by exercising for 15 minutes daily, you can live forever. That's just ludicrous.

The increase in life expectancy, I can see that, but what the hell does "reduced risk of death" mean? Normally I'd say it means "increase in life expectancy," but they've already said and quantified that. Why would they quantify the same thing twice without stating they're the same thing. They wouldn't. Which leads me to believe that they mean something else.

But what exactly is that something else? Do they mean that possibly your risk of death in time period x is reduced? They never specify what exactly that means in the article. So, from the point of a passerby (which, inevitably, is the target audience of all reporting), it looks like they're saying "you reduce your chance of dying." Which, as I said before, is ludicrous.

All of this may seem vaguely pedantic, but it's a reflection of the sorry state of medicinal reporting -- error-prone, sensationalist, and inaccurate. Many times have I seen a title in Google News saying "Study shows x." Intrigued, I click on the article, and find what they're saying to sound a little fishy -- so I do a little bit more research, and I find out that the article conveniently forgot to mention the limitations of the study or treatment.

An example of this being the particularly atrocious example of dichloroacetate, the "miracle cancer drug." The premise being that this chemical was a cure-all for cancer -- give a patient this drug and they'd start to cure their cancer! The fact that this compound is a fairly simple organic compound put up a red flag to me, and when I searched on it, I found that the reporting was wildly inaccurate. As the professor who wrote the blog post says:

I sure wish it were true, but you should be able to tell from how poorly it is written and the ridiculous inaccuracies (mitochondria are cells that fight cancers?) that you should be suspicious [...] The simple summary is this: that claim is a lie. There have been no clinical trials of dichloroacetate (DCA) in cancer patients, so there is no basis for claiming they have a cure; some, but not all, cancers might respond in promising ways to the drug, while others are likely to be resistant (cancer is not one disease!); and there are potential neurotoxic side effects, especially when used in conjunction with other chemotherapies.
Why did the reporting fail to mention these potential side effects and why did they lie about the efficacy of the drug? And how the hell did they mess up the function of the mitochondria? This case, and the "risk of death" article are quintessentially why medicinal reporting is such a shambles right now.

So, kids, whenever you see a "New Study Shows!" take it with a grain of salt.

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Comments

  1. Mintaka's Avatar
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    Mind blown at the first part, about 'risk of death'.

    Facepalm at "mitochondria fights cancers" Would it explain the "inaccuracy" of the report? :P
  2. Parma's Avatar
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    @hurristat - In addition, studies are only done on a specific portion of people. If this is the case, then why is the reporting of these studies aimed to everyone and not just that demographic?

    If there's no basis for this "cure", then why report it?

    It's nothing more than a case of false advertising at work.
  3. Karamazov's Avatar
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    So death....or get off my butt and exercise. I'm choosing death, no contest.
  4. Serenity's Avatar
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    I'll choose life on the weekdays, and death on the weekends. Plain and Simple.
  5. hurristat's Avatar
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    @parma -- my post pointing out the atrocity of medicinal reporting when it comes to things like this. and the DCA has some hope of becoming a cure for some cancers, it just isn't the wonder drug that people purport it to be

    @Karamazov -- no, but what if you want to live forever? D:

    @Octy -- yeah, I'm just too lazy to live on the weekdays. I understand what you mean.
  6. Karamazov's Avatar
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    Then I'd live forever exercising. Would you want to live a long but unhappy life, or life a short but sweet one? I choose short and sweet.

    Besides...eh, I don't feel like leaving my chair.

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