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This article from the JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) explains how or why highly touted treatments for COVID-19 are making headlines as a cure without adequate or proper vetting and trials.MA
Michael McAleer, PhD (Econometrics), Queen’s | Asia University, Taiwan
Informed consent by a possibly confused patient of proposed treatments and therapy, including medication and surgery, involves the clear communication, explanation, and dissemination of complex information and knowledge by healthcare providers regarding the risks, benefits, and alternative medical options that might be available.

it is incumbent upon the healthcare provider to ensure that the patient is fully aware of the procedure to be undertaken, the associated risks and benefits, any viable options that might be available, and their associated risks and benefits.

It is in this context that two medical experts provide a comprehensive and illuminating discussion of how to communicate science during a pandemic, such as COVID-19.

Information can be distributed through a variety of outlets, including scientific journals and social media, even though the ever-present “fake news” is always ready to pander to the uninformed and ill-informed, including academics in medical and related disciplines.

This excellent Viewpoint highlights several areas of scientific miscommunication, including communication flaws and failures based on incomplete and inadequate scientific trials and experiments, especially studies involving the highly topical remdesivir, dexamethasone, and hydroxychloroquine, for which safety and efficacy are presently unknown.

Causality between treatment and outcome is difficult to prove, even based on numerous large and systematic clinical trials, so it will be insufficient, misdirected and misleading based on a small number of such trials that appear in news releases rather than being published in leading peer-reviewed academic journals.

It is easy to be cynical when some international research teams announce through news releases that they have “discovered” a novel treatment of COVID-19, possibly in search of research funds, when the purported findings are based on, say, a small number of patients in ICUs and on ventilators who do not represent the typical patient who is infected with COVID-19.

This is made even worse when leading administration officials around the globe announce they are using unproven treatments to guard against possible infection from COVID-19, when caution is needed to protect the unwary, which refers to most individuals, with the possible exception of healthcare workers.

While technically not “fake news”, such announcements do an extreme disservice to scientific communication, which needs to stay well ahead of the (mis-)information curve.

 

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