Let us suppose we have a treatment and we want to find out if it works. Call this treatment drug X. While we have observational data that it works—that is, patients say it works or, that it appears to work given certain tests—observational data can be misleading. As Edzard Ernst writes:
Whenever a patient or a group of patients receive a medical treatment and subsequently experience improvements, we automatically assume that the improvement was caused by the intervention. This logical fallacy can be very misleading […] Of course, it could be the treatment—but there are many other possibilities as well. Continue reading
On Monday, Belgian endocrinologist Francis Coucke appeared before the ‘Orde van Geneesheren’, a national body responsible for enforcing standards within the medical profession. Dr Coucke risks a two year suspension from the profession because his treatment (gamma globulines and home TPN) of patients with the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been deemed non-scientific: it has not been proven to work in large studies. Last year, he and a neuropsychiatrist colleague were required to pay a 635,000 euro fine for prescribing medicines not licensed for CFS to CFS patients. The fine was imposed even though special authorization for the prescriptions had been granted by the medical advisor to the national healthcare service.