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    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Prove It: Hip protectors don't protect hips. Or do they?

    Three of the authors of the study on bone breaks didn't tell editors of an influential medical journal, which is publishing their research Wednesday, that they had consulted for or received research money from the makers of bone-strengthening drugs. That potential conflict was discovered by The Associated Press.

    Editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association - which has tough rules on financial disclosure - had asked the authors about any conflicts and were told there were none. The researchers said later they didn't believe their industry connections were relevant because the study of hip fractures didn't involve bone drugs and didn't recommend them.

    The editor of JAMA agrees. Dr. Catherine DeAngelis said that in this case, the drug company connections didn't violate the journal's detailed financial disclosure policy.

    DeAngelis said she believes her journal is being unfairly scrutinized by The AP, which found the researchers' ties to drug companies through searches on the Internet and through a consumer database.

    "This has nothing to do with drugs," she said. "At what point do you say, come on, is this a witch hunt?"

    Well, you can see the critics' point. If researchers are paid by drug companies, they do have an incentive to find alternatives to those drugs lacking. However, assuming that the abstract is a correct distillation of the study, it looks like their conclusions are correct.

    They put one-sided hip protectors on 1042 nursing home patients. That means the patients wore special panties with padding on only one hip. Then, they counted the hip fractures. The padded hips were just as likely to break as the unpadded hips. Unless they used inferior quality hip protectors, it's impossible to find fault with their conclusions. They didn't manipulate the statistics. Three percent of padded hips broke compared to 2.5% of unpadded hips. Those are essentially the same rates.

    However, that doesn't excuse them for not disclosing their ties to makers of osteoporosis drugs. The reader does deserve to know about that potential bias. Especially since studies are often more statistically obscure (and less conclusive) than this one.

    posted by Sydney on 7/25/2007 08:29:00 AM 0 comments


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