The problem with medical research

When doctors do research, they do clinical trials on groups of patients, and can provide an overall probability of how helpful a medicine will be in a particular population of patients, with certain characteristics.
The problem is that patients only care about what’s going to happen to them as an individual – and this is something doctors just cannot predict.
However, rather than honestly admitting their ignorance, they try to cloak it with jargon !

Even for common medicines like statins, we don’t know for whom these drugs make a difference, and by how much !

It’s horribly messy, but the mess is largely obscured. Behind the big, probabilistic knowledge that a drug works at a population level, there is a hidden half of enigmatic variation. Patients are irregular, so are doctors. In their diagnoses, interventions and interpretation of the effects of treatment, professionals’ practices also vary widely. Given so many variables, we often simply do not know in any case why a medical case turned out like it did.

The key point here is that average knowledge is often all we have, all we can work on, all that we normally discover. But strong average knowledge can be feeble about you.

Doctors think in generalities, but patients must live with the particularities of their individual experience !

Notes from Michael Blastland’s book “The Hidden Half.”

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