The peer-review system is one of the oldest ways science has used to verify itself however like anything, it is open to abuse. Does one or two bad
studies mean the whole of the peer-review system is tainted though?
No, it certainly doesn't.
Here's one way the peer-review system is modernising itself
One conspiracy that always goads me is the "Big Pharma won't let it happen" one.
This is usually propagated by those who have no clue how medical science works.
There are thousands of examples of why this is completely untrue but let me tell you mine.
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is THE most common heart problem in the world bar none.
It's responsible for more hospital admissions than virtually any other disease and is the leading cause of strokes in the adult population.
There's a a saying that "AF begets AF" which means the longer you have episodes of it, the longer subsequent episodes will become and these will be
more prevalent leading to permanent AF.
Up until fairly recently the only course of action to treat AF was with drugs. This is a cash-cow for pharma as billions upon billions of dollars
worth of these drugs are prescribed worldwide every year.
There is/was a surgical procedure which had a reasonable success rate for curing AF but there is a relatively high mortality rate for this and it's a
hugely invasive procedure. Essentially they slice the heart into sections and sew it back together again to interrupt the electrical circuits which
propagate the AF.
There's a minimally invasive technique which has been going since the 1980's called cardiac radio-frequency ablation. As it's name (possibly!)
suggests, this uses very high frequency electricity to ablate or burn parts of the heart and this is used to stop dangerously fast rhythms,
tachycardia from occurring.
As we say, dead meat don't beat.
In the late 80's I was involved in early attempts to replicate the Cox-Maze but using ablation rather than incisions. We had some success but not
really enough to warrant us using it as an alternative treatment to medication. However a discovery was made which suggested that if we just burn
around the pulmonary veins in the left atrium (where all AF starts) we could block AF from starting so in people who had only just developed AF there
was a good chance of a "cure".
Meaning not having a lifetime of expensive drugs, some with quite unpleasant side-effects.
Since this was quite experimental, there was a lot of Heath-Robinson type machines and equipment in use as we used to have to make them ourselves but
as time went on a few small companies started making bespoke equipment for this procedure.
Cut a long story short, this PV Isolation procedure now has around a 60-80% success rate in curing
paroxsysmal AF (AF which spontaneously
starts and stops for no reason, usually in short bursts but if left will lead to chronic or permanent AF, which is bad) and has cost the pharma
companies $BILLIONS in lost revenue.
Sure, they attempted to say the procedure wasn't as effective as drug therapy but as our technique became more specific and refined they had no
choice other than to admit defeat.
Not once did we have anyone from Big Pharma coming in and trying to silence us.
I've never been offered big money to be silenced and as far as I'm aware, I'm still alive as are my colleagues.
What has happened is that the small companies which helped develop the technique have all now been bought out by big device companies (and in one case
a very big pharma company indeed) and the technique developed even further.
If there's money to be made you can bet your last penny that big pharma will want to get their fingers into it.
But only if a technique is successful.
The last thing they will want to do is silence it.