Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of Statistics

Average age of first-time house buyers

One of my favourite radio programmes is More or Less, presented by the excellent Tim Harford. If you are even remotely interested in statistics, then you should listen to it. It does a splendid job of unpicking some of the dodgy numbers we hear in the news.

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Cochrane review on industry sponsorship

Many papers have been published that compare clinical trial publications sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry with those not sponsored by industry. Last week, the Cochrane Collaboration published a systematic review by Lundh et al of those papers. The stated objectives of the review were to investigate whether industry sponsored studies have more favourable outcomes and differ in risk of bias, compared with studies having other sources of sponsorship.

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Interim analyses

I'm currently reading Ben Goldacre's latest book, Bad Pharma. If you want to know what I think of it, you'll be able to read my review of it in EMWA's journal, Medical Writing, in due course, after I've finished reading it. But today, I want to share a few thoughts on interim analyses of clinical trials, prompted by one section of the book (pages 184-186, if you have the book and want to look up the section).

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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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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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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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Always read the full paper

My attention has just been drawn to a paper which reviews basic research in homeopathy. It's bollocks, of course, as is most research in homeopathy, but it does provide a useful little lesson in the importance of reading the full paper and not relying on the abstract.

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Student tuition fees

Forgive me for writing 2 non-medical posts in a row, but this morning's Today programme on Radio 4 contained such an egregious schoolboy error in statistics that I just couldn't resist.

They were discussing student tuition fees, and some new estimates that students starting university next year will graduate with about £50,000 worth of debts. UK readers will doubtless be familiar with the background to this, but for those of you from further afield, this results from a decision to increase student tuition fees from their current £3000 per year to £9000 per year, in what represents one of the most dramatic broken promises from some members of the government for quite a while. And as we're talking broken promises from politicians here, that's saying something. Astute readers will notice that that still amounts to only £27,000 for a 3-year degree course, but the figure also includes the amount students need to borrow for their cost of living.

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London riots

London is under attack. Last night’s scenes of violence and destruction are worse than anything I remember in my lifetime. What I think was most scary was that the police were simply overwhelmed, and did not have the resources to deal with the rampant criminality.

I got to see some of this first hand. I happened to be in Colliers Wood yesterday evening. One shop had been set on fire, and other shops had had windows smashed and were being looted. The police were present, but were not able to intervene in the looting. I saw police in riot gear guarding a petrol station. They had presumably taken the (no doubt very wise) decision that preventing a petrol station being set on fire was the most important use of their limited resources.

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Bias in papers about bias

I have just read a paper describing how Evil Big Pharma manipulates the medical literature so that they can make more money from selling their drugs, no matter what the science says. That paper made me grumpy.


Well, if you are going to write a scientific paper criticising someone for introducing bias into the scientific literature, would it be too much to ask that you should do it in an unbiased way? What makes me grumpy is when people write papers about how evil and biased the pharmaceutical industry is (and this is certainly not the first such paper), but then themselves distort the facts to make a point.

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