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November 17, 2006
Ah, the Heck With the Error Bars
OK, here's a stumper: are there any anti-inflammatory medications that don't have cardiovascular side effects? Aspirin's GI bleeding effects have been known for decades, various NSAIDs have had warnings turn up over the years, the COX-2 drugs are somewhere over there in that huge cloud of legal and statistical dust, and now a study says that one of the last left standing, naproxen, may have cardiac effects as well.
Or does it? This is an attempt to get some useful data out of a large Celebrex trial, looking to see if it had protective effects against Alzheimer's disease, and the whole thing was stopped early when all the COX-2 cardiovascular risks became an issue. As this article makes clear, Steve Nissen isn't convinced, and he's not a person who keeps his worries about drug safety all bottled up inside. His point is that the trial's statistical validity was ruined by the early halt, and that larger epidemiological studies don't back up its conclusion. I should note that he's now running a massive trial addressing this issue as well.
Contrast that with this quote from one of the new paper's authors:
"Particularly for safety data, 'truth' may come in small doses. We firmly believe that results from trials should be published regardless of the direction, magnitude, or statistical significance of the observed results," said Barbara Martin of the John Hopkins University School of Public Health, who worked on the study.
Let me tell you, that kind of thing makes me very nervous. Regardless of the magnitude or statistical significance? That's not a way to arrive at the truth. That's a tornado passing over a pig farm
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