If you are a patient or caregiver, then you are also a consumer of medical research. Therefore, it is important to understand that medical research, even the best medical research, is produced in a historical and social context by individuals.
More simply put, there are usually only a few people who are responsible for the latest information on a topic like acid reflux, and even when the best of research methods are used, the research may be biased. This concept can be really important in deciding how to interpret the findings of a medical study, and therefore, how to pursue medical treatment. Unfortunately, some who base their decisions on “the latest medical research” are under the impression that just because research is published, it is impartial or unbiased.
I need to stop here and make one thing clear. Biased research is not bad research. In fact, I will argue that all research, including all medical research, is biased. Instead, my point is this: a researcher is just a person, or sometimes a group of a few people. This is a concept that can become very lost when the popular press reports something like, “Harvard Medical School Finds Large Doses of Acid Reflux Medication Can Hurt Your Bones.” I am using this fictitious example to illustrate a point. By the sounds of it, you might think that everyone at
I’ll use another example to further explain my point: If a researcher is a pharmacologist, he is probably going to ask a question like, “What is the half-life of Zantac in a five year old boy?” (from his question alone, he is probably biased for medication, and against surgery, as a reflux treatment). If a different researcher is a surgeon by training, he may ask, “When does a Nissen Fundoscopy work better than medicine to treat reflux?” (from his question, he is probably biased that surgery should be considered the first option to treat reflux). Can you already picture the potential research outcomes, headlines and then, the advice from your doctor, if either of these examples were real?
Understanding the latest medical research can be tedious at best, but having insight into how this information makes its way to your doctor and then to you is important to grasp.
Before your physician convinces you, or you convince yourself, to take an action of reflux treatment based on “the latest research,” you and your doctor need to understand the source of the research. This is just one more reason to make sure you are connected with the best doctors you can reach. Those who are up-to-date on the latest research on acid reflux, and especially those medical professionals who understand the “politics” of research, will be able to help you make a balanced and well-informed medical decision.