Skepticism following the science
We’ve been urged to “follow the science” so many times during the past six months that we suspect many people are growing sick of the advice.
Besides, what if the scientists aren’t following the science? Some of them are not.
Americans became justifiably suspicious of the World Health Organization earlier this year, when its officials appeared to be acting as apologists for Chinese leaders who were not being honest about COVID-19. Now, the United Nations organization is drawing fire again.
WHO officials have released a new study suggesting that remdesivir, a drug now being touted for treatment of COVID-19 patients, is little or no help.
Understand that no one has called remdesivir a cure for the disease. Its proponents say only that it shortens the recovery time of COVID-19 patients by five days, on average.
WHO officials say their study, involving more than 11,000 patients in 30 countries, indicates remdesivir does not shorten recovery times, however.
Another study, by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, did support the lower recovery time conclusion, however. WHO officials insist their research should be believed because they used a larger number of patients.
“It’s just a much higher-powered study,” one WHO doctor insisted.
End of story? No.
Critics of the WHO study point out shortcomings in how it was conducted. For example, WHO doctors administered 10-day courses of remdesivir, meaning some patients may have been hospitalized longer than necessary simply in order to finish being treated — whether they required that or not.
And, WHO’s critics add, there was no use of placebos.
COVID-19 patients and their doctors knew what kinds of treatment they were receiving, ranging from remdesivir to hydroxychloroquine. That alone is a serious drawback to any health care study.
So, who’s right and who’s wrong about remdesivir? That is a troubling question — and one that should remind us simply “following the science” is bad advice.
It all depends on which “science” we rely on, and that is not a comforting thought.