How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? Or to applicable proof of a medical study’s findings?
Before the findings of a medical study can be considered generalizable, other studies with different researchers but similar participants and methods must come to the same conclusions. Otherwise, fluke results or flawed methods could be the basis for much medical knowledge. In fact, last summer JAMA published results of a study showing that follow-up studies often contradict original research findings.
Does this mean that the same questions should be asked again and again? Of course not, indicates an article in Monday’s Washington Post, which calls unnecessarily repeated studies “one of medicine’s most overlooked problems.” The author argues, “Repeated tests of the same diagnostic study or treatment are a waste — of time and money, and of volunteers’ trust and self-sacrifice. Unnecessary clinical trials may also cost lives.”