Monday, October 31, 2016

Harris' "Reviews Of Medical Studies May Be Tainted By Funders' Influence"

This NPR story is a summary of the decisively titled "The Mass Production of Redundant, Misleading, and Conflicted Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses" authored by Dr. John Ioannidis.

The NPR story provides a very brief explanation of meta-analysis and systematic reviews. It explains that they were originally used as a way to make sense of many conflicting research findings coming from a variety of different researchers. But these very influential publications are now being sponsored and possibly influenced by Big Pharma.

This example explains conflicts of interest and how they can influence research outcomes. In addition to financial relationships, the author also cites ideological allegiances as a source of bias in meta-analysis. In addition to Dr. Ioannidis, Dr. Peter Kramer was interviewed. He is a psychiatrist who defends the efficacy of antidepressants. He suggests that researchers who believe that placebos are just as effective as anti-depressants tend to analyze meta-analysis data in such a way as to support that belief.

Ways to use in class:
-Meta-analysis as a way to sort out conflicting research findings.
-An example of conflict of interest.
-An example of experimenter bias (in the form of both the conflict of interest as well as individuals who believe that anti-depressants are ineffective).
-If you are like me and teach lots of pre-PT/OT/PA and nursing students, this is a applicable example for that crowd.
-Confirmation bias