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June 02, 2005

Robert Waldmann Is Utopian (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

He expects New York Times reporter Benedict Carey to actually know that 17/111 is greater than 10/110:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: [Before the jump] Benedict Carey writes... "the stimulator was no more effective than surgery in which it was implanted but not turned on."

But after the jump Carey writes:

"17 of the 111 patients who had implants turned on and completed the trial showed significant improvement. But 11 of 110 who had no stimulation and completed the trial also felt significantly better."...

Robert comments:

It appears that Mr Carey is unaware of the subtle mathematical point that 17/111 is greater than 11/110.... [T]he difference does not reject the null that the two rates are the same, that is, that the treatment is ineffective.... It is, indeed, very strange that the FDA is considering approval of a treatment supported by such weak evidence. Like various experts quoted in the article, I would have expected that FDA advisory panel to tell Cyberonics Inc., the Houston company that makes the stimulator that the device would only be approved after they performed a larger study.... Still my basic point stands 17/111 > 10/110, weak evidence in favor of the alternative is not proof that the alternative is false...

Posted by DeLong at June 2, 2005 12:13 PM