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Friday, 31 July 2020

Day 137 of self-isolation - The scientific method

The scientific method

 Why are potential cures of Covid-19 being suppressed?

Because they don't work. Because it is not a good idea to promulgate quack cures. Because some people will believe them, and die as a result.

Let's consider a few examples.

Onions

Keep an onion in a corner of your room.  You might laugh about this, but it's a common belief. Keep an onion in a corner of your room.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/will-an-onion-in-the-room-stop-a-cold-or-the-flu-770452

Has anyone done randomised double-blind clinical trials on this? I don't think do. Why not? Is it because "The truth is out there" and "they don't want you to know"?



Oregano oil


Does Oregano Oil make a good treatment for Covid-19? Again, no-one has done randomised double-blind clinical trials on this. Does that mean that his possible cure is being deliberately suppressed by Big Pharma? Do your own research! If you're diligent, you might be able to find a youtube video that supports this.

Violet leaf oil


You apply this to your anus. Again, we have to ask the question "Why has no-one done randomised double-blind clinical trials on this?" Is this an attempt by the medical profession to cash in on the virus?

https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/2/25/applying-essential-oil-to-anus-cures-coronavirus-iranian-cleric

Hydroxychloroquine


You take this together with an antibiotic and Zinc. HCQ was first recommended by Trump. which in one country has turned it into a political issue. But America aside, it's a pure medical issue, and on this, at last, randomised double-blind clinical trials have been done! And have shown that, not only is it ineffective against the virus, but can cause problems for people with Covid-19.

https://thegoptimes.com/watch-internet-erupts-over-frontline-doctors-who-broke-silence-on-covid/?fbclid=IwAR0aFF0ZCbPPZuwO2RWuNDvWg10Y-mMf-_oAK_y7KGSoVJp6-4V85XIGzvA

But doctors say ...

We have frontline doctors, such as Dr.  Stella Immanuel, who claim that hydroxychloroquine and zinc may cure  the coronavirus.

As always in science, there are contrary opinions. There are probably still some holdouts for the phlogiston theory of combustion, and there are certainly people who believe that demons are the cause of some of our diseases.

She is a brave lady, and her opinions are contrary to orthodox opinion. Dr. Stella Immanuel claims "medical issues like endometriosis, cysts,  infertility, and impotence are caused by sex with 'spirit husbands' and  'spirit wives.'"

So what is being suppressed?

What is being suppressed, is false advertising.

In any society, there are people who want to make a quick buck out of a disaster. I know about Oregano Oil, because I have had spam telling me about it, and where I can buy it. I know about onions because someone told me about it on Facebook, and I checked it out. I know about Violet Leaf oil because there are people who really believe it. And there are people who believe that plain water can cure all sorts of things, and that black cumin seeds are a cure for any disease, and there are people that have a miracle cure for whatever ails you, only $25 per bottle, $40 for two bottles.

But.

We've been here before. We know about "confirmation bias" and "cherry picking". And we've worked out a way to distinguish fantasy from fact. We call it the "scientific method".

People try really hard to fool themselves, and when they tell you about the onion, they might really believe that it works, because last year they tried it, and they didn't get the flu. Or that they have a friend to used Violet Leaf oil, and he got better after a couple of weeks.

That's why we have randomised double-blind trials. Here's how it works.

You take a fairly large number of people (a few thousand, on a few dozen) and you randomly divide them into two groups. One group gets the medicine that you're testing, the other group gets a small sugar or flour pill. So the patients don't know who is getting the medicine and who isn't. And you don't tell the doctors either, hence "double blind". You do this because of the "placebo effect", if you give people a medicine that does absolutely nothing, then they will feel a bit better, because they think they've been given medicine. This is a well-known effect. And you don't tell the doctors either, for the same reason.

And then you see if the people getting the medicine did significantly better than the people getting the placebo, and if they do, then you have a treatment that really works.

And you report the details of the test in a scientific journal, and people read it, and look for mistakes in your methodology, and maybe even repeat the trial, and eventually, you have something that works. Like dexamethasone.

So. You can keep your onions, and your Oregano oil, and all the other quack cures that are too absurd to even bother testing. You can keep the potential cures that might have worked, but on testing, turned out not to work.

I'm sticking with science. Because science actually works.

 



6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. So that one-year-olds find it easier to read.

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  2. "A Henry Ford Health System study shows the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine helps lower the death rate of COVID-19 patients, the Detroit-based health system said Thursday."

    https://thenationalpulse.com/coronavirus/hydroxychloroquine-works-says-study/

    https://eu.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2020/07/03/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-patients-treatment/5368661002/

    "How many people died because mainstream media panned Hydroxychloroquine?"

    https://noqreport.com/2020/07/03/how-many-people-died-because-mainstream-media-panned-hydroxychloroquine

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  3. There are two kinds of study. One looks at historic data. The other is a double-blind randomised clinical trial.

    The Ford study is not a double-blind randomised clinical trial.

    The problem with historical analyses, is that they are not randomised, and they are not double-blind. The problem with an analysis being non randomised, is that we don't know how the candidates for receiving the treatment were selected. If they were selected for the drug because they were less ill, then you can see how that would invalidate the results.

    That's why double-blind RANDOMISED clinical trials are the "gold standard". And every such trial has shown that HCQ has no useful effect, and does have negative effects.

    "How many people died because mainstream media panned Hydroxychloroquine?"

    Wrong question. The right question is, "How many people died because Trump pushed Hydroxychloroquine?"

    Because we do have drugs now that actually work, that have been tested in a double-blind randomised clinical trial and shown to have real benefits, and if HCQ is used instead of those, then people are dying unnecessarily.

    And that's why, in the UK, where pro and anti-Trump is irrelevant, our NHS recommends dexamethasone as treatment. Because it's been gold-standard tested, and it really does work.

    I don't blame Trump for this - he's not a doctor. Any more than I blame Trump for suggesting that disinfectant could be injected. He doesn't know any better, it isn't his fault.

    But I do blame all the people who take no notice of the science, and plug a drug that has been shown to be useless.

    But what is really sad, is the way that in the USA, mask-wearing has been turned into a political issue. Even thought the CDC recommended mask wearing, Trump led the way by announcing that he wouldn't mask - although now he's flipped his position on that and agrees, at last, that mask-wearing is patriotic. But too late - too many Americans have decided that mask-wearing is a symbol of politics, not an obvious precaution against a pandemic.

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    Replies
    1. I am currently taking part in a drug trial. I am one of the control group. Usually one would not know this, but the drug on trial is administered by infusion of a large quantity of fluid over a period of hours, so they are not going to put the control subjects through that in an attempt to maintain a double blind. The allocation of subjects to the group getting the drug or to the control group is randomised, but both staff and patients are aware of who is getting the drug.

      One has to assume that this research has value, even in the absence of the double blind aspect. It is costly in resources and staff time (financed by a major drug company). I don't think that studies not employing the double blind procedure can be dismissed as totally without value.

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  4. Thank you for taking part in a process that will benefit us all.

    Your trial is randomised, and that's probably the most important aspect. It would be nice if it were also blind, so that you didn't know whether you were getting the drug or the placebo.

    The reason for the placebo, is that it is well known that even the act of giving and receiving something that is expected to help, will have a beneficial effect.

    I don't entirely see why you didn't get a placebo, though. Couldn't they have given you a sugar pill and said "This is part of the test"? Because how would you know whether that was just placebo or not?

    But still - thank you for taking part in a trial that might benefit us all.

    ReplyDelete