All that glitters is not gold- why we need better trials and reporting

In an age of increasing global information overload, it is becoming progressively more difficult to discern real health and safety signals, or potentially beneficial possibilities, from background noise. The explosion in exploratory analyses of emerging large-scale medical record databases and registries
has helped to highlight many potential issues of interest. But establishing the reality of such uncontrolled ‘findings’ can be challenging. A major concern is that apparent associations, which are identified by these often opportunistic analyses, are frequently reported by the media and others as potential ‘medical breakthroughs’ or as possible ‘safety concerns’ for existing therapies. Remarkably, such reports often give equal (or greater) prominence to unsubstantiated exploratory findings than they do to robust results from properly designed and conducted trials. As a result, these reports can raise hopes or fears inappropriately in the population at large. In addition, the almost daily publication of frequently conflicting findings diminishes public faith in scientific pronouncements and may preclude people taking note of proven results that could be crucial to their future health.