In war against coronavirus, researchers fast-track tests of Ebola drug | Town Square | Mountain View Online |

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In war against coronavirus, researchers fast-track tests of Ebola drug

Original post made on Apr 7, 2020

An antiviral drug that one Palo Alto woman has credited in her recovery from a severe case of COVID-19 in March is undergoing numerous fast-tracked clinical trials across the globe.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 7, 2020, 11:38 AM

Comments (1)

12 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2020 at 2:20 pm

Despite valuable reporting and obvious good intent, I have to cite a broad issue in recent Embarcadero writing on this topic, and even in media at large. This problem prompted some complaining comments to the linked March-21 story on the local patient who got an experimental drug; Web Link yet the basic problem remains in that story now, despite revisions and its author's own comment "We’re not saying that the drug is working for everyone ... She took a drug and felt better..."

What many general journalists seem to have trouble understanding is that a patient crediting a drug (or any other factor) for their recovery may have little medical meaning; it may even be *deeply* misleading.

Even should it prove out objectively that the drug helped the patient, the patient doesn't know that yet -- nor does the journalist. It's irresponsible to frame such a leap of assumption as objective reality -- even inadvertently -- as this publication has done:

In the Mar.-21 story, even now, 2nd photo caption includes "Her condition has improved through the antiviral drug remdesivir" -- which you do NOT know as fact. She received the drug; her condition improved. YOU project (or uncritically repeat from the patient) an assumption of causality.

Further, that article's current title remains wrong: in the story, the patient called a COVID-19 test (NOT the experimental drug) her "saving grace."

These drugs show promise; we all hope they'll prove useful. Contrary to the writer's statement that I quoted in my first pph, the problem in the reporting above wasn't simply "we don't know the drug is working for everyone" but rather, you don't know the drug worked even for that one patient. The tendency to project such a connection is the writer's, and needs guarding against.

Today a talk-show host opined on one of the quinine-related meds being touted as potentially useful. True to type, he dwelt on individuals who credited their survival from COVID to that drug, and another who refused it and died. In his mind, the drug saved the one group; its lack doomed the other person. Problem: he does not KNOW that at all. He jumped to causality assumptions, eagerly. He did not explore people who received the drug but died anyway, nor the many who didn't get it and recovered. Even if the causality that he took for granted turns out to be true at a medically useful frequency, he DIDN'T KNOW THAT. It was in his mind.

This is a general problem when spokespeople without scientific training or instincts fail to distinguish their personal convictions or suspicions from true demonstrable reality. In doing so, they also seriously fail their audience.

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