Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of 2012

Olympics medals table: a statistician's view

Much has been made in recent days of the standing of various countries in the Olympics medals table. As I write this, the USA is currently in the lead with 81 medals, China are second with 77, and Russia are 3rd with 53.

Now, it's fairly obvious that that doesn't necessarily prove that those 3 countries are the most sportingly talented countries in the world. They are all countries with huge populations, so you would expect them to win more medals than smaller countries. (The excellent statistics programme on BBC Radio 4 "More or Less" covered this concept recently, and it's well worth a listen.)

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Statistician vacancy

We have a vacancy for a statistician to join our friendly team. The role will mainly involve analysing data from clinical trials, but will also include such things as calculating sample sizes, advising on study design, writing statistical analysis plans, and analysing data from other sources (eg epidemiological databases).

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New collaboration for real world evidence

Real World Evidence (RWE) is an emerging powerful trend that has the potential to redefine the basis of value-based pricing, competition and access in the near future. In response to the growing demand, we have joined forces with Dendrite Clinical Systems to offer an innovative service to pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

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EMWA conference podcast

Ever wondered what medical writers do? Here is a short podcast (just under 10 min) recorded at the EMWA conference in Cyprus in May 2012, in which I talk to some medical writers about their many and varied jobs.

So here is your chance to hear about the world of medical writing from the medical writers themselves. I hope you enjoy it.

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Holy carp! Autistic fish!

New Scientist is normally a shining beacon of high standards of scientific journalism, so I must confess I was rather surprised when I saw an article with the headline "Antidepressants in water may contribute to autism", based on a study that showed nothing of the kind. To be fair, New Scientist have since realised that their headline was over the top and have changed it to "Antidepressants in water trigger autism genes in fish", for which they deserve some credit. They also deserve credit for acknowledging that the headline was changed in a footnote to the article.

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Safe alcohol drinking guidelines

You may have been rather surprised if you saw the story in today's news that "experts" are now recommending that we drink no more than 3 units of alcohol, or about 1 large glass of wine, per week. Yes, per week. Not per day, as is recommended in the government's current safe drinking guidelines.

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Medical writing training, October 2012

Booking is now open for our next "introduction to medical writing" course, which will run on 19 October 2012. This 1-day medical writing training course is particularly suitable for anyone wishing to enter the medical writing profession, and will also be useful to new medical writers. For more details please click here.

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EMWA conference in Cyprus

As I write this, it's now less than a week until the next EMWA conference, which will be in Cyprus on 14-18 May.

I'm hugely looking forward to it (not least as a chance to escape all the dismal weather we've been having lately) and the opportunity to catch up with my many friends in the medical writing world. I'll be teaching 2 workshops this time round: one on ANOVA and regression analysis, and the other on critical reading of medical literature.

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Lucentis, Avastin, and the role of licensing

Two drugs for treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that can lead to important loss of vision, have recently been much in the news. The drugs are Lucentis (generic name ranibizumab), which is expensive and is licensed for the treatment of AMD, and Avastin (generic name bevacizumab), which is much cheaper, but not licensed for the treatment of AMD.

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Epigenetics for breast cancer screening

A few weeks ago I was at a cancer research seminar, and was chatting to a consultant oncologist over coffee. He explained to me his view that the important advances in cancer over the next decade or so are likely to be in better diagnosis, rather than better treatment.

I don't know if he's right, of course, but what he said certainly makes sense. Cancer is incredibly difficult to treat once it's at an advanced stage, and the sad fact is that despite all the progress we've made in cancer treatment over recent decades, patients with metastatic cancer almost invariably die of their disease, despite the best efforts of the medical profession. However, if caught early, many cancers are treatable. It's therefore logical to think that if we can diagnose cancer more reliably at earlier stages, it's going to result in more people spared a horrible death from cancer than any advances in treatment that we might plausibly make in the next decade or so could do.

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