Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Professor Pell: tribute from Snowdon, Blastland and Dockrell

Chris Snowdon's blog has this, reproduced from early 2009, to amuse us while he's away. Since Professor Jill Pell recently came back into the news with her asthma-drops-by-18-percent story, I decided to link to it here.

Michael Blastland's critique of Jill Pell's 17-percent-heart-attack study dates from November 2007: although not the first criticism, it was probably the first dedicated thumbs-down to emerge from the BBC, but this did not prevent the study's findings going three times round the solar system and back before the study itself was published in the New England Journal of Medicine the following summer.

It's quite incredible (or ought to be) that representatives of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies seriously considered Pell's study has any foundation in sound science when a comparable English study found only a 2.4 percent drop in heart attacks – and even this study was not borne out by statistics. The researchers guessed that there were 'already' smoke-free venues in England, and this accounted for a lower drop in heart attacks in England than in Scotland. A considerably lower drop, in fact. Actually the English tried for a 10 percent drop before they settled for 2.4 percent, but even though 2.4 sounds more believable and carefully calculated, it still doesn't rely on the data.

The third party in this story is ASH (UK)'s policy officer.

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