Scientific rigor off the pharm

Good news!  Here’s a study that is using scientific rigor to test the utility of a non-pharmaceutical therapy.  The existence and prominence of this study is as important as the results.  It was published in The Lancet and highlighted in the BBC’s health section.

Both the original and the BBC report on it are refreshingly honest.  The BBC’s article is entitled “Schizophrenia: Talking therapies moderately effective”.  They do not claim to have cured the world, but simply by publishing the article they underscore its importance.

The authors of the study also reach conclusions with caution, point out the weaknesses of their study and discuss what needs to be done from here on the scientific side.  At the same time, they quietly but forcefully make a profound point: when we test other therapies with the same rigor with which we test pharmaceuticals we can get results that are at least as good, and the side effects are minimal to non-existent.

In their words, “Evidence suggests that the effectiveness of [antipsychotic] drugs has been overestimated, whereas the severity of their adverse effects [has] been underestimated … Although differences in efficacy between antipsychotics and placebo were noted, they were smaller than those for most of the analysed adverse effects.”  In my words, antipsychotics are somewhat effective.  So is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  Antipsychotics have devastating side effects.  CBT has none.

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