Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fauci and McNeil: continuing adventures in bad science

WTF?!! [spit] AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! [spit] #$%&!!!!!

What pharmaceutical company is paying to plant these articles?

This has the added outrage of not just being terribly unscientific but also morally suspect methodology. Not only is sqrt(1763/2) ~ 30, but they stopped the trial early when the difference started to appear significant. I can prove any coin is unfair if I stop flipping it when it starts to appear unfair.

Dr. Fauci and Mr. McNeil were apparently at it yet again ... we've caught them before:

Mr. McNeil also has this recent article. There is a theme involving the University of North Carolina, but they do have a center for AIDS research there. However, "Pharmaceutical Product Development, Inc." was a major donor to local races in North Carolina last year, though I haven't found any particular connection to any of the drugs in the trials or a ton of references to AIDS on their website. They have provided "research management" to NIH/NIAID (Dr. Fauci's organization) specifically for HIV/AIDS research. All of this could be plain "synergy" and the poor scientific methodology plain confirmation bias. I don't think there has to be something nefarious going on here.

I wonder if there isn't a deeper connection to this article. Pure speculation on my part at this point, but a couple of my favorite quotes ...
"We've never done ghostwriting, per se, as I'd define it", says John Romankiewicz, president of Scientific Therapeutics Information, the New Jersey firm that helped Merck promote Vioxx with a series of positive articles in medical journals. "We may have written a paper, but the people we work with have to have some input and approve it."

Underlining mine. And ...
Alastair Matheson is a British medical writer who has worked extensively for medical communication agencies. He dismisses the planners' claims to having reformed as "bullshit".

Spittle-flecked ire, indeed. Fauci and McNeil may be the worst collaboration of a scientist and a journalist since Levitt* and Dubner.

*I'm using scientist in loose sense here. Levitt is an economist, but a lot of economists use the scientific method. It is even looser because I'm pointing out flaws in the use of the scientific method.

We have another contender for the worst graph ever made

Or should I say three? I don't even think I need to say anything.

The reigning champ has the added benefit of using more complicated methods in the disservice of the pursuit of knowledge, but the new one has the added spice of moral outrage of poor scholarship in the service of the elite.