Chapter 18

Experiments: Medical Breakthroughs or Misleading Results?

In This Chapter

arrow Distinguishing experiments from observational studies

arrow Dissecting the criteria for a good experiment

arrow Watching for misleading results

Medical breakthroughs seem to come and go quickly. One day you hear about a promising new treatment for a disease, only to find out later that the drug didn’t live up to expectations in the last stage of testing. Pharmaceutical companies bombard TV viewers with commercials for pills, sending millions of people to their doctors clamoring for the latest and greatest cures for their ills, sometimes without even knowing what the drugs are for. Anyone can search the Internet for details about any type of ailment, disease, or symptom and come up with tons of information and advice. But how much can you really believe? And how do you decide which options are best for you if you get sick, need surgery, or have an emergency?

In this chapter, you go behind the scenes of experiments, the driving force of medical studies and other investigations in which comparisons are made — comparisons that test, for example, which building materials are best, which soft drink teens prefer, ...

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