Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Keynote - Dr Ben Goldacre

Keynote 2 – Dr Ben Goldacre – Author of Bad Science and Bad Pharma

1.      Big data (Dr Ben’s term not mine) is used to avoid falling victim to noise
Probability and distribution is vital when working average
Funnel plots are useful to demonstrate this pattern
“Everyone likes to think they are ‘just above’ but only half of us can be above the median”

Systematic Reviews (Meta-Analysis) are the best tests (next is randomised control trials) that you can run all the way through to ‘Ideas, Opinions and Editorials’
-        Science is built on test rather than authority as it should be about clarity and evidence rather than thought
-        PHDs can be bought – Ben did for his dead cat!

Scientific studies get blown out of proportion – findings are often laboratory based and can’t be related to human-world reality
Correlation and Causation – normally at the heart of the issues of bogus claims
Running true Randomised Trials is difficult to close off any other factors
-        “People take a really long time to die and that’s really annoying for medical research”
-        Can’t gloss over the issues of your data set – you have to highlight
Randomised control trial example
-        200 people with headaches
-        Randomly split them in to 2
-        Half get the new pill, half get the old pill
o   Get scores to the changes
Mapping Drug Prescription variance across the UK is very different. In one of the most advanced countries where medical treatment is near at hand, there should be little variation as the decisions should be based on data and not opinion of medical administrators.
The same information about small chances to improved survival rates are inferred differently by different people
-        Chemotherapy usage to increase life expectancy a little or prolong life further for example
Dr Ben argues for providing patients with evidence and information to allow the patient to make logical choices
-        Doctors are given targets that are driving their behaviour that are directly effecting their patients
Should be monitoring the impact of drug assignment on the public by just collecting data about the outcome that just doesn’t get monitored.
Need better data; need better data hygiene to make truly informed decisions and resolve uncertainty
-        There is no urgency to fix this issue as doctors have to learn to ignore the human side

-        The lack of empathy is what is causing the impotence of the decision

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