Cold water for miracle meds

ice-bucket-challenge-2Keith Humphreys pours cold water on the miracle drug hype:

Like everyone else, I constantly see headlines that the cure for some dread disease has been discovered. On those occasions when journalists interview me about such stories, I have a habit of dispensing cold water. For example, a few years ago, a small clinical trial seemed to show that anti-depressants helped meth-addicted people to stop using drugs. This is what I said to an excellent health reporter, Erin Allday, about the findings:

“There have been quite a few bombs pharmacologically…those earlier experiences have taught me to be cautious now.”

Being skeptical about miracle cures is simply playing the odds.

Then, he reports research on the the latest medical marijuana “miracle”:

You may have heard for example dramatic anecdotes “proving” that high-CBD marijuana cures seizures in children. Sounds great, but as more data were gathered by neurologist Dr. Kevin Chapman “the miracle” took a beating:

Dr. Chapman’s study, which involved a review of the health records of 75 children who took CBD, found that 33% of them had their seizures drop by more than half. However, 44% of the children experienced adverse effects after taking CBD, including increased seizures. Of the 30 patients whose records included the results of brain-wave tests, a less subjective measure of seizure activity, only three showed improvements in those exams.

“It really wasn’t the high numbers we were hoping for,” Dr. Chapman said.

No one who understands medicine will be surprised by this result.

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4 responses to “Cold water for miracle meds

  1. Pingback: Cold water for miracle meds - 12 Step Gazette

  2. Kathleen Rager

    Any study of only 75 people should not get anyone too excited.

  3. All this proves is that that high-CBD marijuana helps some but not all. I can take a medication for one illness but down the road the medication doesn’t help me so then I have to try something else until I find the right one.

    • One small study is difficult to draw conclusions from. That’s the problem. This is pushing back against advocates who made big claims based on small studies. When better methods were used, those high cure rate claims turned into 10% with large numbers of adverse events.

      That said, it might turn out to be a good option for some patients, but not worthy of big segments on CNN or a good basis for public policy.