David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 19 (3):454-462 (2013)
The problem of collecting, analyzing and evaluating evidence on adverse drug reactions (ADRs) is an example of the more general class of epistemological problems related to scientific inference and prediction, as well as a central problem of the health-care practice. Philosophical discussions have critically analysed the methodological pitfalls and epistemological implications of evidence assessment in medicine, however they have mainly focused on evidence of treatment efficacy. Most of this work is devoted to statistical methods of causal inference with a special attention to the privileged role assigned to randomized controlled trials in Evidence Based Medicine. Regardless of whether the RCT’s privilege holds for efficacy assessment, it is nevertheless important to make a distinction between causal inference of intended and unintended effects, in that the unknowns at stake are heterogonous in the two contexts. This point has been emphasized by epidemiologists in the last decade. Their main focus is methodological, and regards the fact that bias and confounding do not affect studies on intended and unintended effects in the same way. However, deeper concerns ground the intuition for such a distinction; these are related to the constraints which we impose on evidence and their epistemological justification. My thesis is that such constraints ought to be understood to be different in the case of evidence for risk vs. benefit assessment. I present the recent debate on the causal association between acetaminophen and asthma in order to illustrate the point at issue.
|Keywords||RCTs, pharmaceutical harm, evidence hierarchies, epidemilogy causal inference, scientific method, risk|
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