Wandering Thoughts

May 17, 2009

Wandering Blog Goodies

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 9:29 am
Tags: , ,

The Italians are coming! (Owen Barder in Ethiopia)

John Quiggin excerpts Akerlof and Shiller on neo-classical economics’ starting points and the weaknesses that come with this:

The economics of the textbooks seeks to minimise as much as possible departures from pure economic motivation and from rationality. There is a good reason for doing so – and each of us has spent a good portion of his life writing in this tradition. The economics of Adam Smith is well understood. Explanations in terms of small deviations from Smith’s ideal system are thus clear, because they are posed within a framework that is already very well understood. But that does not mean that these small deviations from Smith’s system describe how the economy actually works
Our book marks a break with this tradition. In our view, economic theory should be derived not from the minimal deviations from the system of Adam Smith [needed to provide a plausible account of observed outcomes – JQ] but rather from the deviations that actually do occur and can be observed.

And Ben Goldacre has a column that shows just how economic power can skew scientific method. And which should scare you even if you’re not arthritic.

In Australia a fascinating court case has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug Vioxx. … The first fun thing to come out in the Australian one is email documentation showing that staff at Merck made a “hit list” of doctors who were critical of the company, or of the drug. This list had words like “neutralise”, “neutralised” and “discredit” next to the names of various doctors. “We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live,” said one email, from a Merck employee. Gosh okay, see you at mine later…
.They’re also alleged to have used other tactics, like trying to interfere with academic appointments, and dropping hints about how funding to institutions might dry up. Institutions might think about whether they, in turn, wish to receive money from a company like that.

But bigger, and better, is the publication Merck paid academic journal publisher Elsevier to produce…But this time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog: they gave Merck an entire publication to themselves, which looked like an academic journal, but in fact only contained reprinted articles, or summaries of other articles. In issue 2, for example, 9 of the 29 articles were about Vioxx, and 12 of the remaining were about another Merck drug, Fosamax. All of these articles presented positive conclusions, and some were bizarre: like a review article containing just 2 references.

In a statement to The Scientist magazine, Elsevier initially said that the company “does not today consider a compilation of reprinted articles a ‘Journal’”. I would like to expand on this statement. It was a collection of academic journal articles, published by the academic journal publisher Elsevier, in an academic journal shaped package. Perhaps if it wasn’t an academic journal they could have made this clearer in the title which, I should have mentioned, was: The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine.

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