I base all of my medical opinions on Evidence Based Medicine, which involves review of published articles in reputable journals.
I have tried to educate family, friends and patients on the ways to evaluate written articles – just type in any search in Google, and you are likely to find hundreds of articles, usually with conflicting views. So, as an example, you could find that the good old “Green Chilli” has numerous health benefits…or none at all – depending on which article you read. While this may not be a HOT topic on its own, the underlying dynamics in research publication is causing some researchers to develop a fiery burn in the tummy.
Let’s immediately dispel those articles that are published with anecdotal evidence, or even evidence not based on a randomised control trials (RCT). So, if a green chilli is proven by a RCT to assist with lower back pain, I will take notice. But if an article published by a random organisation in the back of a monthly magazine claims that green chillies are good for impotence…I would take a limp view of it.
The main focus of this article, though, is to highlight the concerns recently, of biased medical reporting and even non-reporting of trial data. There has been a trend in some pharma circles, that will see a company not publish results if they show that their medication is not as effective as once thought. The concern is that non-publishing of data or selective reporting of data could even lead to safety issues being hidden from the public.
It is with this background that I welcome the initiatives by a group of experts that plan to tackle the “questionable integrity” of medical evidence. Experts from BMJ and the Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine set out the steps required to develop trustworthy evidence.
Too many research studies are poorly designed or executed, argues Professor Carl Heneghan, editor in chief of the journal Evidence Based Medicine, in an editorial with The BMJ’s editor in chief, Dr Fiona Godlee, and colleagues.
Too much of the resulting research evidence is withheld or disseminated only piecemeal, they add, and as the volume of clinical research activity has grown, the quality of evidence has often worsened, which has compromised medicine’s ability to provide affordable, effective, high-value care for patients.
The manifesto aims to solve these issues. Developed by people engaged at all points in the research process, patients and the public, it identifies nine steps towards more trustworthy evidence.
They include expanding the role of patients, health professionals and policy makers in research, reducing questionable research practices, bias and conflicts of interests, ensuring drug and device regulation is robust, transparent and independent, and producing better usable clinical guidelines.
You can read the full article here. Hopefully, this gathers momentum and will lead to higher quality medical data, and ultimately to a healthier world.