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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

No statistically significant differences for get up and go

Anoop Balachandran writes:

Andrew Gelman is not the plagiarism police because there is no such thing as the plagiarism police.

The title of this post is a line that Thomas Basbøll wrote a couple years ago. Before I go on, let me say that the fact that I have not investigated this case in detail is not meant to imply that it’s not important or that it’s not worth investigating. It’s just not something that […]

Acupuncture paradox update

The acupuncture paradox, as we discussed earlier, is: The scientific consensus appears to be that, to the extent that acupuncture makes people feel better, it is through relaxing the patient, also the acupuncturist might help in other ways, encouraging the patient to focus on his or her lifestyle. But whenever I discuss the topic with […]

Pro Publica Surgeon Scorecard Update

Adan Becerra writes: In light of your previous discussions on the ProPublica surgeon scorecard, I was hoping to hear your thoughts about this article recently published in Annals of Surgery titled, “Evaluation of the ProPublica Surgeon Scorecard ‘Adjusted Complication Rate’ Measure Specifications.”​ The article is by K. Ban, M. Cohen, C. Ko, M. Friedberg, J. […]

No guarantee

From a public relations article by Karen Weintraub: An anti-aging startup hopes to elude the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and death at the same time. The company, Elysium Health, says it will be turning chemicals that lengthen the lives of mice and worms in the laboratory into over-the-counter vitamin pills that people can take […]

Take that, Bruno Frey! Pharma company busts through Arrow’s theorem, sets new record!

I will tell a story and then ask a question. The story: “Thousands of Americans are alive today because they were luckily selected to be in the placebo arm of the study” Paul Alper writes: As far as I can tell, you have never written about Tambocor (Flecainide) and the so-called CAST study. A locally […]

Birthdays and heat waves

I mentioned the birthdays example in a talk the other day, and Hal Varian pointed me to some research by David Lam and Jeffrey Miron, papers from the 1990s with titles like Seasonality of Births in Human Populations, The Effect of Temperature on Human Fertility, and Modeling Seasonality in Fecundability, Conceptions, and Births. Aki and […]

Evil collaboration between Medtronic and FDA

Paul Alper points us to this news article by Jim Spencer and Joe Carlson that has this amazing bit: Medtronic ran a retrospective study of 3,647 Infuse patients from 2006-2008 but shut it down without reporting more than 1,000 “adverse events” to the government within 30 days, as the law required. Medtronic, which acknowledges it […]

Calorie labeling reduces obesity Obesity increased more slowly in California, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), and NYC, compared to some other places in the west coast and northeast that didn’t have calorie labeling

Ted Kyle writes: I wonder if you might have some perspective to offer on this analysis by Partha Deb and Carmen Vargas regarding restaurant calorie counts. [Thin columnist] Cass Sunstein says it proves “that calorie labels have had a large and beneficial effect on those who most need them.” I wonder about the impact of […]

Will youths who swill Red Bull become adult cocaine addicts?

The above is the question asked to me by Michael Stutzer, who writes: I have attached an increasingly influential paper [“Effects of Adolescent Caffeine Consumption on Cocaine Sensitivity,” by Casey O’Neill, Sophia Levis, Drew Schreiner, Jose Amat, Steven Maier, and Ryan Bachtell] purporting to show the effects of caffeine use in adolescents (well, lab rats […]

You won’t be able to forget this one: Alleged data manipulation in NIH-funded Alzheimer’s study

Nick Menzies writes: I thought you might be interested in this case in our local news in Boston. This is a case of alleged data manipulation as part of a grant proposal, with the (former) lead statistician as the whistleblower. Is a very large grant, so high stakes both in terms of reputation and money. […]

What recommendations to give when a medical study is not definitive (which of course will happen all the time, especially considering that new treatments should be compared to best available alternatives, which implies that most improvements will be incremental at best)

Simon Gates writes: I thought you might be interested in a recently published clinical trial, for potential blog material. It picks up some themes that have cropped in recent months. Also, it is important for the way statistical methods influence what can be life or death decisions. The OPPTIMUM trial (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)00350-0/abstract) evaluated use of vaginal progesterone […]

Does Benadryl make you senile? Challenges in research communication

Mark Tuttle points to a post, “Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk” by Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women’s Health Watch. Merz writes: In a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers offers compelling evidence of a link between long-term use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl and dementia. . . . […]

Killer O

Taggert Brooks points to this excellent news article by George Johnson, who reports: Epidemiologists have long been puzzled by a strange pattern in their data: People living at higher altitudes appear less likely to get lung cancer. . . . The higher you live, the thinner the air, so maybe oxygen is a cause of […]

When do statistical rules affect drug approval?

Someone writes in: I have MS and take a disease-modifying drug called Copaxone. Sandoz developed a generic version​ of Copaxone​ and filed for FDA approval. Teva, the manufacturer of Copaxone, filed a petition opposing that approval (surprise!). FDA rejected Teva’s petitions and approved the generic. My insurance company encouraged me to switch to the generic. […]

Ioannidis: “Evidence-Based Medicine Has Been Hijacked”

The celebrated medical-research reformer has a new paper (sent to me by Keith O’Rourke; official published version here), where he writes: As EBM [evidence-based medicine] became more influential, it was also hijacked to serve agendas different from what it originally aimed for. Influential randomized trials are largely done by and for the benefit of the […]

Bigmilk strikes again

“Positive Results Are Better for Your Career”

Brad Stiritz writes: I thought you might enjoy reading the following Der Spiegel interview with Peter Wilmshurst. Talk about fighting the good fight! He took the path of greatest resistance, and he beat what I presume are pretty stiff odds. Then the company representatives asked me to leave some of the patients out of the […]

Informative priors for treatment effects

Biostatistician Garnett McMillan writes: A PI recently completed a randomized trial where the experimental treatment showed a large, but not quite statistically significant (p=0.08) improvement over placebo. The investigators wanted to know how many additional subjects would be needed to achieve significance. This is a common question, which is very hard to answer for non-statistical […]

“Smaller Share of Women Ages 65 and Older Are Living Alone,” before and after age adjusment

After noticing this from a recent Pew Research report: Ben Hanowell wrote: This made me [Hanowell] think of your critique of Case and Deaton’s finding about non-Hispanic mortality. I wonder how much these results are driven by the fact that the population of adults aged 65 and older has gotten older with increasing lifespans, etc […]