Durham’s ground breaking Equazen EyeQ/fish oil initiative report released

In response to a reader comment, I looked to see whether Durham’s fish oil trial initiative report had been published. When we got a copy of this report through a Freedom of Information request (in October 2008) we were told that this had been passed to Durham’s web team. However, I cannot find this report on Durham’s website.

I was expecting Durham and Equazen to trumpet the release of this report: I had thought that ‘Durham schools initiative fails to show any benefit to fish oil (Equazen EyeQ) supplementation’ would have been an excellent headline. Oddly, though, this report has sneaked into the public domain (with no apparent publicity or fanfare) through the Bishop Auckland Town Hall (BATH) website [PDF].

Our opinion regarding the quality of the report and the underlying statistical work still stands. I find Durham and Equazen’s treatment of this research odd, though – after publicising the initiative to a massive extent, why do they seem to be being so quiet about the report’s publication (on the prestigious BATH website) and the report’s results?

* It took some google fu to even find the report, and I don’t think I would have found it without having a draft of the report in hand.

UPDATE: A reader writes to suggest that this report may be on the Durham County Council intranet: see here and here. Interesting…

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9 Comments

Filed under patrick holford

9 responses to “Durham’s ground breaking Equazen EyeQ/fish oil initiative report released

  1. The stats are still not clear to me.

    We therefore sought to identify for each of the 832 pupils a matching pupil who had not taken the supplement.

    Previously, it looked like the match group could be drawn from people who were less than 80% compliant. Why have they not published the data?

    Completely inadequate.

  2. Durham were quite explicit – in Jan 2009 – that the statistician was given a list of children who achieved 80% compliance; this group was then matched with the database of all children. Either they have since redone the stats – so far as I can see, this isn’t the case – or one statement or the other is inaccurate.

  3. hang on. 832 kids had 80% compliance, but they only managed to find 640 matching kids.

    Does this mean that the data from the other 192 kids was just ignored?

    If so, their method contains yet another fatal source of bias, the bias in selecting only those pupils who were “matchable”…

    • It does look that way – do these people honestly have no idea how a trial/study should be analysed to come up with meaningful results as opposed to results that match a pre-conceived agenda? It made all their acknowledgement of the potential influence of ‘bias of compliance’ seem rather insincere (and they pretty much discounted it anyway).

  4. Data-illiteracy is surprisingly common though. I happen to know that a certain household-name pharmaceutical company paid untold millions so that some psychology academics could test the effects of a new drug on some psychological measures. However, they insisted upon analyzing the data themselves. After sitting on it for several weeks (when the analysis only takes a few hours, tops), they revealed the fruits of their labours – they had taken every single one of the three hundred raw variables measured, and done a between-groups t-test on them. This despite the fact that most of the variables are completely meaningless, and the rest are only meaningful when compared to other variables. Despite clear instructions about how to do it properly, they had literally just put all the data into excel and run some t-tests.

    It was about the time that I heard about this that I stopped believing in Big Pharma Conspiracies…

    • Most of these alleged conspiracies are unbelievably small-scale and small-minded – if I were going to have a world-domination conspiracy, I would hope that I could come up with something a little bit more ambitious in scope. Not quite Conan the Barbarian:

      To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

      But, something stirring, and more along those lines than stuff like this.

  5. I’m might give my undergrad psychology students that report and getting them to critique it, actually. At least then it wouldn’t be completely useless! And I think it would make a great teaching tool.

  6. Sounds like a good idea – putting the research to some use. Maybe we could publish the best critique here, as a guest post?

  7. Pingback: Pills and Publicity « Stuff And Nonsense

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