6 – Fair Tests of Treatments
In this Chapter:
- Why are fair tests of treatments needed?
- Comparing like with like
- Treatments with dramatic effects
- Treatments with moderate but important effects
- Comparing patients given treatments today with apparently similar patients given other treatments in the past for the same disease
- Comparing apparently similar groups of patients who happen to have received different treatments in the same time period
- Unbiased, prospective allocation to different treatments
- Ways of using unbiased (random) allocation in treatment comparisons
- Following up everyone in treatment comparisons
- Dealing with departures from allocated treatments
- Helping people to stick to allocated treatments
- Fair measurement of treatment outcomes
- Generating and investigating hunches about unanticipated adverse effects of treatments
- References (Chapter 6)
- Fair tests of treatments are needed because we will otherwise sometimes conclude that treatments are useful when they are not, and vice versa
- Comparisons are fundamental to all fair tests of treatments
- When treatments are compared (or a treatment is compared with no treatment) the principle of comparing ‘like with like’ is essential
- Attempts must be made to limit bias in assessing treatment outcomes[/getit].
The principles underlying fair tests of treatments may not be familiar to many readers, but they are not complicated. In fact, much of our everyday, intuitive grasp of the world depends on them. Yet they are not taught well in schools and are often needlessly wrapped up in complex language. As a result, many people shy away from the subject, believing that it is beyond their ability to comprehend. We hope this and the following two chapters will persuade you that you are actually already aware of the key principles, and so will readily understand why they are so important.