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April 2009

The end of beer goggles

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 28th May 2009
When I learned about evidence-based medicine (EBM) as an undergraduate, I remember thinking that there were just too many crucial health questions waiting to be answered. There was not enough time for EBM to solve the more banal problems of daily life. How wrong I was. Last week, the British press reported on a topic close to the hearts of millions of men seeking a mate after an evening of drinking [1, 2]. Does alcohol interfere with perception of beauty? The term, "beer goggles", has been used to describe the phenomenon of "alcohol myopia" since the early 1990s. Do “beer goggles” exist? The study apparently showed that there was no evidence for beer goggles and suggested that “the effect of "beer goggles" should not be used as an excuse for men getting a woman's age wrong”.

Fair trials considered as long ago as the 1930s

Carl Heneghan
Last edited 4th June 2009
I was alerted to this excellent page on the James Lind Library recently by Iain Chalmers. For those of you who don’t know what the James Lind Library is, you should take a look at www.jameslindlibrary.org/. Basically, it is a collection of essays and examples explaining the role of fair tests in treatments in health care. One item worth looking at is the book ‘Testing Treatments’ – published by the British Library in 2006 – which is available for free and is translated into a number of languages such as Arabic, Chinese and Spanish. From a good source, I’m assured this book has been downloaded 80,000 times (as of April 2009) since becoming available under a creative commons license.

What is Evidence-Based Medicine?

Carl Heneghan
Last edited 7th June 2009
Only last week, Paul Glasziou alerted me to an editorial by David Sackett on 'Evidence-Based Medicine what is and what it isn’t' [1] which had been cited as the second most accessed paper on the BMJ website. I guess this wouldn’t be of interest until you realise the article is 13 years old - published in 1996. The major contribution of this paper is the classic definition of EBM: ‘Evidence based medicine is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients’.

The promise of the PolyPill

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 10th June 2009
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more mortality and morbidity than any other disease in both rich countries and poor countries [1]. The risk factors have been well-known for 50 years, but the optimal prevention strategy is still elusive. Primary prevention treats individuals before they have a heart attack, whereas secondary prevention focuses on individuals who have had a heart attack. Several classes of drugs treat cardiovascular risk factors, demonstrating benefits in both primary and secondary prevention [2]. Many of these drugs are off-patent, and therefore cheap. Six years ago, Wald and Law hypothesised that a “Polypill”, containing three anti-hypertensives, folic acid, simvastatin and aspirin, could reduce the rates of CVD by over 80%, if all adults over the age of 55 years took it [3]. This week the Lancet published the first ever trial of such a Polypill [4, 5].

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