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The faulty statistics of complementary alternative medicine (CAM)

PainSci » bibliography » Pandolfi et al 2014
Tags: scientific medicine, stats, deep

Three articles on PainSci cite Pandolfi 2014: 1. Most Pain Treatments Damned With Faint Praise2. Statistical Significance Abuse3. Science versus Experience in Musculoskeletal Medicine

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

The authors illustrate the difficulties involved in obtaining a valid statistical significance in clinical studies especially when the prior probability of the hypothesis under scrutiny is low. Since the prior probability of a research hypothesis is directly related to its scientific plausibility, the commonly used frequentist statistics, which does not take into account this probability, is particularly unsuitable for studies exploring matters in various degree disconnected from science such as complementary alternative medicine (CAM) interventions. Any statistical significance obtained in this field should be considered with great caution and may be better applied to more plausible hypotheses (like placebo effect) than that examined - which usually is the specific efficacy of the intervention. Since achieving meaningful statistical significance is an essential step in the validation of medical interventions, CAM practices, producing only outcomes inherently resistant to statistical validation, appear not to belong to modern evidence-based medicine.

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