Trials in a Vacuum

Science is supposedly a carefully constructed edifice, with each new discovery building upon those that have preceded it. But this may not be the case for clinical trials in medicine. Very few such trials cite previous clinical studies addressing the same question.

This can have serious effects on patients. Some patients have suffered severe side effects and even died during studies because researchers were not aware of a treatment's documented dangers. And all too often, even with a multitude of clinical trials on a particular subject, they still do not provide the answers doctors need to treat patients.

The New York Times reports:

"There are several steps along the way to a published paper where researchers might be asked about already published papers on the same topic. Those who finance the research, the ethics committees that review some studies and the journals that publish the studies all could ask the investigators how they assured themselves they had found prior relevant results. But ... none of those groups feel any official responsibility."

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