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Doctors and patients need to be wary of “bad science.”

Posted by Tom Cockley | Posted on July 2, 2012

Unite For Sight® is a non-profit global health delivery organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness.  Its very impressive record includes over 1,400,000 patients served; 54,577 sight-restoring surgeries performed; and 8,500 fellows trained.

I read in one of its blog entries ( a post on “bad science” and how it can be misleading to doctors and other vision care professionals.  The following is extracted, with permission, from Unite for Sight’s blog post on the topic.

In an interesting TED Talk presentation, Dr. Ben Goldacre – a doctor turned epidemiologist – addressed the troublesome issue of “bad science” – a term used to describe poor quality research methods. Usually, he states, qualified scientific researchers pride themselves on using the best methods for acquiring and analyzing data.  Goldacre, however, argues that not all scientific papers being published are based on the “gold standard” –  i.e. evidence – and that readers should be wary of misguided results.  This is especially true when reading many of the health claims that are popularly publicized in the media today.  He says that it would be easy for the public to take these claims as truth, but it is important to think critically, explore the science behind them, and to decide whether there are any political or private industry interests related to them.

One of the examples in the blog post concerns research and data reported by the pharmaceutical industry, which Dr. Goldacre claims are often biased and without scientific basis.   The danger, he states, can be that “scientific studies” in poor quality publications can convince a doctor to use a newer, more expensive drug than is warranted, without real advantages to doing so.  He says that the media, some substandard scientific publications, and commercial ventures at time distort the evidence that doctors and patients use to make vitally important decisions.

There is a positive side to the blog post.  It explains that the Cochrane Collaboration ( is an international network of professionals that produces a library of Cochrane Reviews (, a database of systematic reviews that scrutinize the results of medical and healthcare research.  Their hope is plainly that “healthcare decision-making throughout the world will be informed by high-quality, timely research evidence.“

Having a publication go through the peer review process is like having a signature of approval, and is something doctors, medical professionals, and even patients should look for when trying to compare drugs, medical procedures, or techniques.

The Unite for Sight’s blog post concludes with “Having public access to the Cochrane Library is a huge asset to the field of public health.”

Tell me what you think.

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Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognized as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting. They are published online in The Cochrane Library.

Tom Cockley is president of Gulden Ophthalmics and is the third generation of the nearly 75 year old visionary company that brings innovative, time-saving, utilitarian products to vision and health care professionals.

Information for this blog post extracted with permission from Unite For Sight.

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