Every week media headlines tell us about another “medical breakthrough” whether it be for cancer, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, obesity, glaucoma, the common cold, or hangnails. But then a funny thing happens – we don’t hear about it anymore. Our lives go on and so do the diseases. What happened?
It turns out that most of the “breakthroughs” are fake news (to coin a phrase). Why? Because it sells. Who doesn’t hope that they (whoever they are) will finally cure (fill in the blank)? And we read all about it.
Recently researchers did something the media doesn’t often do – they did follow-ups of the so-called cures. They were found to be just so much hot air. They couldn’t be replicated by other scientists. (1)
In an interview, lead author Dumas-Mallet advises: “When a study is an initial study, even if it’s very exciting and amazing … it still needs to be confirmed.” (2)
Remember Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum, “Trust, but verify.”
- Harris R. Reports of medical breakthroughs don’t prove out. Health News from NPR. March 6, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/06/518802242/reports-of-medical-breakthroughs-often-dont-prove-out
- Dumas-Mallet E, Smith A, Boraud T, Gonon F. Poor replication validity of biomedical association studies reported by newspapers. Published February 21, 2017.