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Hard Road for Medical Treatments

Promising studies are often refuted later.
October 20, 2008

Only a tiny fraction of the compounds tested for different diseases ever make it to clinical trials. Now a report in Science suggests that the results of even encouraging clinical trials are later refuted with surprising frequency.

Scientists from the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece analyzed published studies, from 1990 to 2004, of promising new drug candidates or medical devices. (A sampling is shown at below.) Of 32 interventions described in these papers, each of which had been cited more than 1,000 times, 13 were later shown not to work or to be less effective than originally thought.

Seven of the studies investigated new applications of well-known compounds; of these, six were later refuted. The report concludes that studies of new compounds and devices are a better use of research money.

“For common diseases, continuing to play with old agents and interventions is unlikely to give us much hope for finding some major effective intervention that we were not already aware of,” says John Ioannidis, senior author of the study.

Source: John Ioannidis

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