The Rise of Medical Evidence
Summary by: Jeffrey M. Drazen, MD
Medicine is powered by knowledge, but how do we know what is true and what is not? How do we deal with uncertainty in a setting where outcomes are not closely related to known variables? For example, although there are a few people who have survived jumping or falling from an airplane at high altitude, it is a rare event. Thus, a test to determine how to prevent death from such a disaster would only take a small number of participants to see if a particular method works. In contrast, when considering a medical condition where a large fraction of people might seemingly “recover” without treatment, such as tuberculosis, how does one determine if a treatment is effective? In this talk, I will examine how we gained knowledge about tuberculosis as an example of a disease where a combination of observational scientific findings and clinical trial data are linked to advance knowledge. I will also discuss other examples of clinical trials challenges and the solutions to these challenges.