Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of Statistics

Zinc and the common cold

Today's big health news story is a new Cochrane review that looked at zinc as a treatment for the common cold. The conclusion of the review is that taking zinc supplements within 24 hours of the onset of a cold can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms.

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Duration of exclusive breastfeeding and risk of anaemia

There's been a lot of stuff in the news today about a paper that's just been published in the BMJ by Mary Fewtrell and colleagues, which questions the current recommendation that infants should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months. There are many issues here, and I don't have time to look at all of them, but one thing that I found interesting is that the paper raises the possibility that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months may increase the risk of iron-deficiency anaemia in the infant, compared with exclusive breastfeeding for only 4 months.

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Implanon and contraceptive failures

Today a story has been in the news about the "scandalous" contraceptive failures reported with Implanon, a long-term hormonal contraceptive which is implanted under the skin. See here and here for examples from some of our most respected broadcasters. And see here for an example from possibly our least respected "news" source, the Daily Mail.

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The imperial war on drugs

I often write about drugs, and am doing so again today, but today's post is not about licensed pharmaceutical products designed to treat disease; it's about drugs of abuse: heroin, cocaine, and the like.

Bob Ainsworth, a Labour MP and a former cabinet minister, has publicly declared his support for legalising all drugs. It's certainly a radical solution. He imagines a future in which drug users can obtain heroin, cocaine, or whatever perfectly legally, either on prescription from their GP or perhaps bought from the local pharmacy (for such a radical policy, clearly there are a lot of details that would need to be worked out).

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Should we all take a daily dose of aspirin?

The lead item on the news on Radio 4 when I woke up this morning was a paper that has just been published in the Lancet on the effects of daily aspirin use on cancer deaths. This was presented as a major new piece of research that might mean we should all be taking aspirin every day.

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Why you should not believe a word in adverts

Last month, I blogged about the highly misleading advert for Dettol, which claims "Dettol protects: fact", and my response from the Advertising Standards Authority to my complaint about the advert. It appeared that the ASA had misunderstood my complaint, and thought I was doubting Dettol's ability to kill bacteria on kitchen surfaces (which I don't). Rather, I was complaining that the advert was claiming that using Dettol can protect against infection, which is not at all the same thing as killing bacteria. I emailed the ASA to explain why their original response missed the point and asked them to take another look at it.

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European Statistical Forum

I shall be speaking at the European Statistical Forum in Verona later this week, about the role of medical writers in reporting clinical trials.

It's a topic close to my heart, about which I have spoken many times before, but usually to audiences of medical writers. It will be nice to speak to a different audience and make the statistical community more aware of some of the issues of publication ethics.

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Dettol protects: fact or fiction?

Readers in the UK (and possibly further afield, for all I know) will probably have seen a TV advert for a household disinfectant called Dettol, which has the strapline "Dettol protects: fact".

We are generally shown pictures of mummies with cute little kids and told how important it is to keep the kids protected, so the mummies clean their kitchens with Dettol. There is a clear implication that doing so will keep the little ones protected from nasty germs and therefore healthier.

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An economic analysis of which journal to choose for your publication

I saw a fascinating question asked on Twitter the other day about choosing a journal for submission of your latest research paper. The question was asked by @deevybee (aka Prof Dorothy Bishop from Oxford University), who had been discussing the best target journal with a colleague (let’s call him “Al”, as we all know that a great many co-authors on papers seem to have that name).

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More dodgy statistics

Back in April, I wrote that perhaps I should start a "dodgy statistic of the month competition". OK, May and June have been and gone with no more nominations, so I'll make up for it by nominating 3 for July.

The first nomination goes to Vince Cable. This surprises me, as he is one of the few politicians we have who more often than not actually talks sense. Nonetheless, earlier this month he gave a speech in which he gave the statistic that "graduates, on average, could expect to earn £100,000 more in their life-time than non-graduates".

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