Published medical research is a failure – not what you think

Yes, you read that right. This so-called shill for the pharmaceutical industry is calling them as I see them – most published medical research is a failure –  but stay tuned for the full story.

Now by failure I mean that more often than not, claims that are supported by one or two published articles, rarely lead to a clinically significant product (such as a pharmaceutical). Of course, I don’t mean that the research is fraudulent, although some are, especially in low level journals frequented by pseudoscience pushers.

And I don’t mean it’s bad science, although there’s evidence of that, which I’ll discuss below.

And I don’t mean that there’s some grand conspiracy between Big Pharma and everyone else (again, no evidence to support that nonsense), although there is some evidence that research sponsored by Big Pharma is poorly done.

So what do I mean? Results from lot of medical research that get splashed in the news rarely, and I mean rarely, end up having any clinical utility. Rarely, but not never.

This does not mean that medical procedures, pharmaceuticals and devices that have been vetted through lots of research that repeat and confirm the original data and that form the basis of a scientific consensus are bad research. Almost everything that passes by the FDA and other regulatory agencies in other countries meets high standards for risk and benefit analysis.

Finally, arriving at a scientific consensus is a brutal, time-consuming process. It means that the theory or idea has been repeated many times, and the analysis and data are solid. So even though “most” research ends up in a failure, that’s because science is harsh to research that can’t be repeated, or was badly designed.

The best research isn’t a failure, even if it finds negative results. And the best ideas in medicine, let’s say vaccines, have been so thoroughly vetted that the consensus is nearly unassailable. Though people try with their poorly designed, unrepeatable research.

Continue reading “Published medical research is a failure – not what you think”

Part 6. Medical uses for cannabis – the TL;DR version

This is Part 6  of a series of six articles discussing various medical uses for cannabis or marijuana. In this part, I summarize all of the five previous articles into some bullet points so that you have quick and fast access to some scientific information about medical uses for cannabis or marijuana.

In case you missed them, here are the first five articles in this series:

Part 1. Marijuana and medicine assessing the science.

Part 2. Marijuana and cancer – assessing the science

Part 3. Marijuana and neurological disorders – assessing the science

Part 4. Marijuana and health risks – assessing the science

Part 5. Marijuana and pregnancy – assessing the science

Maybe you don’t agree with the science about marijuana’s role in medicine. But that’s not how science works. The evidence should lead you to a conclusion (actually, the acceptance or rejection of a hypothesis). One shouldn’t form an a prior conclusion, then go hunt for data. That’s not how it works.

As new systematic or meta reviews bring more clinical evidence of the benefits of the medical uses for cannabis – this takes time – maybe evidence based medicine can incorporate marijuana into the armamentarium of medical practice. But only real clinical evidence matters.

So let’s review where the evidence leads us. Continue reading “Part 6. Medical uses for cannabis – the TL;DR version”

Part 1. Marijuana and medicine assessing the science

I suspect, like legal same sex marriage, social norms are changing across the USA (and the world), which has lead to the decriminalization of marijuana in 23 states and the District of Columbia for some medical conditions. The US Federal Government, has shown little enthusiasm in enforcing Federal law about cannabis, although the Federal government retains the highest authority in regulating certain drugs like marijuana. So let’s look at marijuana and medicine assessing the science critically.

It’s clear that rational people still want regulations for marijuana, including prohibitions against public smoking (I don’t want second hand cannabis smoke wafting over me or my children, as much as I don’t want to inhale other people’s tobacco smoke). And a safe society would have strict regulations that would forbid marijuana smoking by individuals who have roles in public health and safety like physicians, pilots, mass transit drivers, and others.

But I think those would be reasonable boundaries for legalization of cannabis that would be reasonable to most people. But this is not the point of this article.

As the push to legalize marijuana for personal or medical use gains traction in the USA, there has developed a strong belief, unsupported by evidence, of the value of the medical uses of cannabis. What is troublesome is that the pro-marijuana side seems to make claims about the medical uses of cannabis that appear to be only tenuously supported by real scientific evidence.

In fact, some of the claims are downright dangerous. The reasons for pushing this is probably, though I can only speculate, to make it appear that marijuana is some miracle product, so let’s speed up the legalization of it. It’s like the Food Babe telling us that kale is the miracle food, except that kale isn’t illegal. It does taste awful (but again, not the point).

Because of the amount of scientific information, this article is part 1 of a 5-part series about marijuana and medicine – assessing the science. For detailed analysis of various aspects of the science of marijuana and medicine, check out each of the subtopics:

Part 2 – Marijuana and cancer
Part 3 – Marijuana and neurological disorders
Part 4 – Marijuana health risks
Part 5 – Summary of marijuana and medicine

Continue reading “Part 1. Marijuana and medicine assessing the science”

Part 2. Marijuana and cancer – assessing the science

This is Part 2 of a series of six articles discussing marijuana’s use in medicine and health care. In this part, we discuss marijuana and cancer – probably one of the most passionate and controversial “debates” associated with the use of cannabis.

It’s clear that there are numerous claims about the value of marijuana in preventing or treating various cancers. But what are facts? And what is smoke?

In this article, I’ll look at some of the more prominent claims, along with a skeptical analysis of those claims.

Continue reading “Part 2. Marijuana and cancer – assessing the science”

Part 3. Marijuana and neurological disorders – assessing the science

This is Part 3  of a series of six articles discussing marijuana’s use in medicine and health care. In this part, we discuss marijuana and neurological disorders – probably the only field of study regarding medical uses of cannabis that has a robust area of clinical research.

Although research into the use of marijuana and cancer takes all the news these days, there is probably just as vigorous research into neurological disorders.  If you read the story regarding CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who claimed he changed his mind about marijuana, you’d know he was also convinced that marijuana had some great potential in mental health. But is there really any high quality evidence?

In this article, I’ll look at some of the more prominent claims, along with a skeptical analysis of those claims. Continue reading “Part 3. Marijuana and neurological disorders – assessing the science”

Part 4. Marijuana and health risks – assessing the science

This is Part 4  of a series of six articles discussing marijuana’s use in medicine and health care. In this part, we discuss marijuana and health risks – even if there is evidence that marijuana had medical benefits, there must be a review of the risks of using it.

Only in junk medicine (see homeopathy or chiropractic, for example) is there a promise of great results with no risks. In real medicine, all benefits are balanced against the real risks of any medication or procedure.

The whole foundation of evidence (or science) based medicine is science – “it is the only set of methods for investigating and understanding the natural world.” Thus, the best factual evidence includes clinical research that describes not only the effectiveness, but also the risks, of a particular medical procedure.

In this article, I’ll look at marijuana and health risks – along with a skeptical analysis of those claims. Continue reading “Part 4. Marijuana and health risks – assessing the science”

Marijuana and cancer – what are facts and what’s just smoke

Editor’s note–this article has been updated and included into a multi-part series on marijuana and medicine. Check it out there. 

If you spend any amount of time on Twitter, Facebook, or just researching cancer treatments on the internet, you will run across something about marijuana and cancer – someone will claim that smoking pot, eating pot, hemp oil (which is manufactured from the seeds of cannabis plants that don’t contain much THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active hallucinogenic agent of cannabis), or some other consumption of cannabis will cure or prevent cancer.

Of one hand, studies of cannabis’ effectiveness in reducing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy, one of the the most common claims,  has generated negative results in some well done clinical trials and some positive results in others. But that has nothing to do with actually curing or preventing the cancer itself, just dealing with the effects of the treatment. Continue reading “Marijuana and cancer – what are facts and what’s just smoke”

Marijuana and pregnancy – again hitting that bong of science

Editor’s note–this article has been updated and included into a multi-part series on marijuana and medicine. Check it out there. 

As I have written previously, consumption of and growing marijuana should be completely decriminalized. And the laws need to be rewritten, not in the haphazard way it is now, but with protection and respect of rights of people to consume or grow (for personal use) cannabis. The criminal prosecution of marijuana use and distribution is a ridiculous waste of public resources.

The criminalization of marijuana has caused the growth of drug cartels that threaten the survival of Latin American democracies. And it has caused damage to delicate environments in pristine wilderness in the western USA where illegal marijuana farms use chemicals, human waste and water diversion to destroy the forest.

I could go on, but marijuana laws are simply unsupportable by any stretch of the imagination–the laws waste money and harm citizens.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that cannabis is completely safe. Or that the guy driving his car next to me or a surgeon about ready to slice into my abdomen or the pilot of the jet I’m boarding should be high.

Marijuana should be regulated and taxed like any other product in the class, such as alcohol and cigarettes. It’s a reasonable system where people can enjoy their weed, but it is regulated to prevent harm to others.

Continue reading “Marijuana and pregnancy – again hitting that bong of science”

The annual report of Skeptical Raptor’s blog–2014

2014-annual-report

Actually, it’s not so annual, cause this is the first time I’ve done it, more or less.

I started this blog in January 2012. Just three years ago. I really didn’t know what subjects would be my focus, but it was science generally. I kind of wandered around for the first few months, before I think I hit my stride with vaccines, junk medicine, evolution (though I really need to move back into that area), and other things that captured my interest.

In January 2012, I had precisely 262 page views. For the whole month. I really thought “why bother.” For 2012, I had 184,000 page views, which still made me wonder if the effort was worth it.

In November 2014, I had over 278,000 unique page views, meaning I did more in November than I did in all of 2012. For 2014, I had nearly 1.2 million unique page views, which meant this website is ranked 278,000th in the world. OK, that sounds terrible, except that there’s 1,200,000,000 (1.2 billion if you hate counting zeroes) websites on the interwebs as of this moment. So this blog ranks in the top 0.023% of all websites on the internet. It’s no Facebook or Amazon, but then again, I have reach goals for this blog, and those aren’t it!

My goal is to provide scientific evidence for science and medicine, while doing the same against pseudoscientific myths and memes that are popular on the social networks. I do it with my style–take no prisoners, and use the highest standards of evidence. I refuse to accept a cherry-picked study that supports an a priori conclusion, when the scientific consensus, based on a mountainous body of evidence, is a formidable fortress of knowledge.

I seriously get frustrated when people think that their opinion somehow trumps the scientific consensus. Or that they think they can lie or intentionally abuse data to fit their “beliefs.” Climate change deniers. Evolution deniers. Vaccine deniers. GMO deniers. HIV/AIDS deniers. All use the same methodology to make their points. Whining about so-called problems, based on nonsense and ignorance. Depending upon false authorities to “prove” that the denier point of view deserves respect. Finding the one study that is an outlier, and ignoring the mountains of evidence supporting the scientific consensus. Providing false-balanced presentations that make it appear that there is really a debate. Using personal attacks and conspiracy theories to attack the character of thoughtful and intellectually superior science supporters.

If it weren’t so dangerous, we’d laugh at these people. Well, I still mock them, but I know they are dangerous lunatics.

Continue reading “The annual report of Skeptical Raptor’s blog–2014”

Medical uses of marijuana–hitting the bong of science (updated again)

Marijuana_Cures_CancerEditor’s note–this article has been updated and included into a multi-part series on marijuana and medicine. Check it out there. 

As the push to legalize marijuana for personal or medical use gains traction in the USA, the “pro-pot” arguments become more enthusiastic and more off the beaten track of real science. I suspect, like legal same sex marriage, social norms have changed, and legal marijuana is something that will become commonplace across the country, except in some deeply conservative areas. The Federal Government has shown little enthusiasm in enforcing Federal law, which retains the highest authority in regulating certain drugs, in states that allow legal marijuana.

I personally have no issue with smoking marijuana, since other “drugs”, like alcohol, are completely legal and socially acceptable. I think that legalizing marijuana will reduce much of drug trafficking, reduce the burden of law enforcement and penal system costs, and have other beneficial effects to society.

I still want regulations such as control over public smoking (I don’t want second hand cannabis smoke wafting over me or my children, as much as I don’t want to inhale other people’s tobacco smoke), there needs to be regulations about when it might be illegal to be high (I don’t want my Delta Airlines pilot to be smoking weed before flying my jet, and I don’t want automobile drivers to be under the influence), and I want age regulations no different than there is for alcohol and cigarettes (despite . But I think those are reasonable boundaries for legalization of cannabis that would be reasonable to most people. But this isn’t the point of this article.

What troubles me about the “debate” about legalization of cannabis is that the pro-pot side seems to make claims about various medical benefits that appear to be only tenuously supported by real scientific evidence–in fact, some of the claims are downright dangerous. The reasons for doing this is probably, though I can only speculate, to make it appear that marijuana is some miracle product, so let’s speed up the legalization of it. It’s like the Food Babe telling us that kale is the miracle food, except that kale isn’t illegal. It does taste awful (but not the point). Continue reading “Medical uses of marijuana–hitting the bong of science (updated again)”