One of the characteristics of scientologists that has amazed me is that I have never seen *one* of them who appreciated the need for blind or double blind experiments to establish the effectiveness of a drug or medical treatment. It seems that the possibility that people can fool themselves lies entirely outside of what a scientologist can imagine--something like a square with three sides. I don't know if this is an effect of scientology indoctrination, if it is a sorting artifact of those who get sucked in or if knowing about the ability of humans to fool themselves is a strong protection against cults.
For that matter, I don't know how widespread in the general population an appreciation of the reasons for such testing methods. It might be quite rare in spite of the fact that drug tests protocols are often reported in the press. I would like to hear comments on these points.
The prevalence and protective effect (if any) of knowing the function of blind testing would certainly make an interesting study if someone could get funding.
Anyway . . . http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030908/02 has a report on the death of a most influential researcher in making tests for drug effectiveness a requirement.
From the article:
"Louis C. Lasagna, MD, best known for having pioneered well controlled research on the placebo effect, died of lymphoma on August 6 at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Mass. Dr. Lasagna was dean emeritus of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University.
""The [placebo] phenomenon was known but [Lasagna's research] was a turning point for how drugs should be evaluated. He was a leading figure in establishing the efficacy of drugs," said David Stollar, acting dean of the Sackler School. "One could be seriously misled in evaluating the effectiveness of a drug without recognizing that some of the effectiveness was not reflecting the action of the drug."
"Richard I. Shader, professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the Sackler School, explained that before Lasagna's studies, "people were just capitalizing on the placebo effect without trying to quantify it. Lou worked with a man named Beecher at Mass General Hospital, and they approached the placebo effect scientifically, trying to keep the psychological and the actual effects straight and to figure out why some groups of people were more responsive to placebo than others."
"In 1954, Lasagna published his classic paper, "A study of the placebo response," in the American Journal of Medicine. There was little literature at that time on placebos, and he cited only a few references dating to the 1940s and 1950s.
"Robert Temple, associate director of medical policy of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), views Dr. Lasagna as a leader among those clinical pharmacologists who, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, "started to point out that our data to support the efficacy of drugs was utter [rubbish]."
"The food, drug, and cosmetic act of 1938 that originally shaped the FDA was "devoted entirely to safety," said Temple. "Lasagna [who addressed Congress in 1962, helped to bring about] an amendment to that act which, for the first time, said that a drug had to be effective. In fact, if a drug doesn't work, it can't be safe, since nothing is absolutely safe. The importance of [the effectiveness requirement] isn't appreciated enough. This was well in advance of what the rest of the world was doing. It meant you've got to do [these studies] right, and it changed everything."
"Ira Shoulson, who holds an endowed chair in experimental therapeutics at Rutgers University named for Dr. Lasagna, described him as "a translator between the academic community and Congress."
"The 1962 amendment also required the FDA to "go back and look at every drug that it had approved since 1938 and at every claim for every drug," said Temple. Lasagna helped to lead this "heroic, two-decade effort, and something like a third of all the drugs were removed from the market" as a result."
(End quote--there is more)