Another rant by one of my favorite bloggers, mathematician Cathy O’Neil (mathbabe). This is really a must read IMO and it illustrates why it is important to understand when statistics are being misused.
Another good post on the misuse of statistics is “If correlation doesn’t imply causation, then what does?”
by Michael Nielsen
Check them both out!
In the pharmaceutical industry, where companies are making enormous bets with huge money and people’s lives, it makes sense that there are conflicting interests. The companies, who are in charge of testing their drugs for safety and for successful treatment, tend to want to emphasize the good and ignore the bad.
That’s why they are expected to describe beforehand how they are planning to do the tests. It stands to reason that, if they did a thousand tests and then only reported on the best ones, the public would get a biased view of the safety of their products.
For some reason, though, this standard doesn’t seem to be universally followed, and lying with statistics seems to be okay.
The newest example comes from Merck (see Pharmalot article here), which changed its statistical methods on testing Vioxx for Alzheimer’s patients from an intent-to-treat analysis to an on-treatment analysis even though their stipulated…
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