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The results of one in four medical clinical trials are probably fraudulent or unreliable

In 2020 a researcher in Great Britain decided to analyze the raw data used by 500 medical clinical trials, and found that one in four contained fraudulent or unreliable data.

Carlisle, an anaesthetist who works for England’s National Health Service, is renowned for his ability to spot dodgy data in medical trials. He is also an editor at the journal Anaesthesia, and in 2017, he decided to scour all the manuscripts he handled that reported a randomized controlled trial (RCT) — the gold standard of medical research. Over three years, he scrutinized more than 500 studies.

For more than 150 trials, Carlisle got access to anonymized individual participant data (IPD). By studying the IPD spreadsheets, he judged that 44% of these trials contained at least some flawed data: impossible statistics, incorrect calculations or duplicated numbers or figures, for instance. And 26% of the papers had problems that were so widespread that the trial was impossible to trust, he judged — either because the authors were incompetent, or because they had faked the data.

Carlisle called these ‘zombie’ trials because they had the semblance of real research, but closer scrutiny showed they were actually hollow shells, masquerading as reliable information. Even he was surprised by their prevalence. “I anticipated maybe one in ten,” he says.

There is the real story, however.

Carlisle rejected every zombie trial, but by now, almost three years later, most have been published in other journals — sometimes with different data to those submitted with the manuscript he had seen. He is writing to journal editors to alert them, but expects that little will be done.

In other words, the peer-review medical community continues to allow fake research to be published, even when it has been warned that research is fake.

But of course, we must trust everything they tell us. They are SCIENTISTS, and we must “follow the SCIENCE!”

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Jeff Wright

    Nothing generates retractions like medicine.

    In the 1990s-2000s, any quack not even allowed to so much as even *sniff* the then-art-bedecked cover of JAMA managed to get in The Lancet.

    Now JAMA actually puts their table of contents on the cover too.

    However docs kept up with things is beyond me:

    “Was that cancer study in the Jasper Johns or the Rembrandt?”

    No wonder medical bills are so high.

    Once, I was sitting in the lobby of Murder Center East looking at the reflection of a doctor as he asked the receptionist what insurance my Dad had. He had Railroad retirement.

    I saw that man rub his hands together.

  • The lesson here is to avoid doctors, drugs, and hospitals as long as possible, and use them only when your health is so severely threatened to the point that the risk/benefit ratio falls in their favor. Note that almost all drugs advertised on TV do not cure anything. They merely “treat” or “manage” your illness. Drugs that cure disease are poor revenue drivers. Many will cause other conditions, that will require other drugs for treatment. Primary lesson: Eat nutritious foods, get lots of exercise, and stay healthy as long as possible.

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