Astrology, aspirin and your heart

One of many things to warm to from Richard Peto's appearance on The Life Scientific (the programme radio with the title odd)...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0003zth

...was a re-telling of his argument with The Lancet when publishing findings about the beneficial effects of aspirin and other drugs in heart attack patients.  Huge trial, uncontrovertible results, practical implications: great stuff:

During the first 5 weeks there were 804 (9.4%) vascular deaths in the aspirin-allocated group compared with 1016 (11.8%) in the placebo control group.

The benefit is modest, but clear and if followed everywhere, as it was, could save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.

The editors or reviewers responded with a request to analyse sub-samples of the data set, to see, for example, if the patients who benefitted were all or mostly male, or old, or middle-class, or...

That seems plausible, but to go back and re-interrogate the data for additional results is bound to show something, although this may be a mere consequence of doing lots of analysis (the problem of multiple testing), and Peto was opposed in principle to this sort of data dredging.

In the end, Peto and his colleagues agreed to perform and publish the requested analysis, but first, they performed and published an analysis by star sign:

subdivision of the patients in ISIS-2 with respect to their astrological birth signs appears to indicate that for patients born under Gemini or Libra there was a slightly adverse effect of aspirin on mortality (9% SD 13 increase; NS), while for patients born under all other astrological signs there was a strikingly beneficial effect (28% SD 5 reduction; 2p < 0-00001).

As they say, if you torture the data long enough, they'll confess to anything!

But if the results were significant for some biological or social sub-division that fitted our assumptions, would we be so quick to laugh?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068511/

Full story in readable format: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)61505-7/fulltext

Original article: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(88)92833-4/fulltext

http://jameslindlibrary.org/wp-data/uploads/2014/07/ISIS-2_Collaborative...

 

Topics: 

Author: 

DrDave

Comments about SHEU

"The survey reports have been used to inform commissioning at specific commissioning groups. They are also being used within our Extended Schools Clusters and to inform The Annual Public Health and the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment." Programme Manager - Young People

I think the HRBQ is an absolutely wonderful, informative tool and I am keen to really encourage schools/other relevant partners (as appropriate) to utilise this invaluable data to encourage voice of the child, and subsequently contribute to shaping priorities and services.

Senior Health Improvement Practitioner (Children and Young People)

"Many thanks to SHEU for your excellent professional support over the years."

PSHE teacher

"You and the team have the evidence to show how young people's behaviour has or hasn't changed over time." 
Tribute from a Health Education Co-ordinator to John Balding, presented at his retirement lunch, May 2005

Health Education Co-ordinator

I just wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed your talk at last week's conference.

Chief Executive, substance use charity

"The data from last time were spot-on and we have done lots of work with it. We are very keen to repeat the survey." Headteacher

Headteacher

"We have never consulted our young people like this before. The survey makes a great contribution to our 'best value' planning." Sports Development Officer

Sports Development Officer

"The Schools Health Education Unit is the jewel in the crown of the Health Education Authority." Major General Sir John Acland 1928 - 2006

Major General Sir John Acland

"One year (following the SHEU survey) responses from our Year 4 cohort caused us concern, so we put in place a number of team building, motivational projects. We then assessed their effectiveness by requesting the SHEU questionnaires for these pupils as Year 5's."

Learning Mentor

"Thank you from my staff to you and all your staff. The speed of 'turn-around' of the questionnaires is outstanding in anyone's terms." Headteacher

Headteacher