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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

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 […]

Here’s something I know nothing about

Paul Campos writes: Does it seem at all plausible that, as per the CDC, rates of smoking among people with GED certificates are double those among high school dropouts and high school graduates? My reply: It does seem a bit odd, but I don’t know who gets GED’s. There could be correlations with age and […]

Birthday analysis—Friday the 13th update, and some model checking

Carl Bialik and Andrew Flowers at fivethirtyeight.com (Nate Silver’s site) ran a story following up on our birthdays example—that time series decomposition of births by day, which is on the cover of the third edition of Bayesian Data Analysis using data from 1968-1988, and which then Aki redid using a new dataset from 2000-2014. Friday […]

Are you pro or anti-biotics?

Paul Alper points to this news article by Susan Perry: Probiotics have been overhyped and rely on ‘shaky’ science, reporter finds Although some of these studies’ results may be promising, they aren’t strong enough to support the long list of claims currently being made by the manufacturers of probiotic products. . . . Perry links […]

Gary Venter’s age-period-cohort decomposition of US male mortality trends

Following up on yesterday’s post on mortality trends, I wanted to share with you a research note by actuary Gary Venter, “A Quick Look at Cohort Effects in US Male Mortality.” Venter produces this graph: And he writes: Cohort effects in mortality tend to be difficult to explain. Often strings of coincidences are invoked – […]

Lots of buzz regarding this postdoc position in London

Tom Churcher writes: We are currently advertising for an infectious disease modeller to investigate the impact of insecticide resistance on malaria control in Africa. The position is for 3 years in the first instance and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. No previous malaria or mosi experience required. Please circulate to anyone who might be […]

DG XXXVII: Lumosity fined $2 million for deceiving customers about its “brain training” programs

Paul Alper writes: Because you went to MIT and are a chess enthusiast, you probably know a lot more about Claude Shannon than I do. However, did you know that as intellectually brilliant as he was, he died of “after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease”? I bring up this factoid because it sort of […]

GIGO

Lee Wilkinson writes: In the latest issue of Harvard Magazine (http://www.harvardmagazine.com/2015/12/cambridge-02138), a letter writer (David W. Pittelli) comments under the section “Social Progress Index”: We are informed by Harvard Magazine (November-December 2015, page 15) that the country with the best “Health and Wellness” (“Do people live long and healthy lives?”) is Peru, while the United […]