Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of Statistics

Do 1 in 3 women really have an abortion?

My attention was recently attracted by an advert for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in which they claimed that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion.

2014-05-24 15.26.10

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Wages and prices

An allegedly good news story today is that "wages catch up with inflation".

It's a while since I've seen a more misleading statistic. Wages have not caught up with inflation at all. What has happened is that the annual rate of increase in wages (now 1.7%) is greater than the annual rate of increase in consumer prices (now 1.6%). However, given that prices have been increasing faster than wages for some years now, wages have quite a bit of catching up to do. A 0.1% advantage in the rate of change will not come close to doing that.

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Student tuition fees and disadvantaged applicants

One of the most significant political events of the current Parliament has been the huge increase in student tuition fees, which mean that most university students now need to pay £9000 per year for their education.

One of the arguments against this rise used by its opponents was that it would put off young people from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university. Supporters of the new system argued that it would not, as students can borrow the money via a student loan to be paid back over a period of decades, so no-one would have to find the money up front.

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Big data

I gave a talk yesterday at a CCRA event about big data, and promised the audience I'd post my slides on my blog.

So for the benefit of anyone who was at the talk who wants a record of what I said, or even for anyone who wasn't at the talk who is interested in a few of my random thoughts on big data, here are my slides.

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Are big pharma like the mafia?

I have recently read Peter Gøtzsche’s book, “Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare”. It’s a rant about how the pharmaceutical industry are evil and a form of “organised crime”. No, I’m not exaggerating, he actually does say that.

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More zombie statistics

There is an oft-quoted figure that 50% of all clinical trials are never published. It's surprisingly popular for a figure that has no evidence, as I've written about before. And since I wrote that post, another study has been published showing disclosure rates of 89%.

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The strange story of the Tamiflu data

In a recent post about chapter 1 of Ben Goldacre's “Bad Pharma”, I mentioned that the chapter included a strange story about how the Cochrane investigators tried to get access to data on Roche's anti-influenza medication, Tamiflu, which would require a whole blogpost by itself. When I started to look into the Tamiflu story, I realised I was wrong about that. It's actually going to require 2 blogposts to tell the story. This is the first of those posts. In this post, I shall tell the story of the utterly surreal interactions between the Cochrane investigators and Roche. I shall save the question of what the evidence actually tells us about the efficacy of Tamiflu for another day.

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A zombie statistic is born

We're all familiar with zombie statistics: widely quoted, but hopelessly wrong, statistics that just refuse to die.

I think I've just witnessed the birth of a new one. Thanks to Anna Sharman on Twitter, my attention was recently drawn to a rather implausible statistic on the Guardian website: "The self-employed face average debts of 18.6 times their annual income".

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Bad Pharma: Chapter 1

I recently wrote about some of my thoughts on Ben Goldacre's new book, Bad Pharma. As I mentioned in that post, I have quite a lot to say about that book, and today I'd like to share my thoughts on chapter 1 of the book.

Chapter 1 of Bad Pharma is entitled “missing data”, and tells us about the problem of incomplete publication of clinical trials. The overall message of this chapter could be summarised as follows: it is not possible for doctors to practice evidence based medicine if the evidence is not available to them, and the evidence is frequently not available.

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Misleading statistics from Sense About Science

I'm normally a huge, huge fan of Sense About Science. They do fantastic work in raising public awareness and understanding of scientific issues. In a world where people are bombarded with pseudoscientific nonsense from politicians, pedlars of quack 'alternative' treatments, and the like, their work is necessary, important, and usually very well executed.

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