Friday, April 11, 2014

Changing Sience 4/8/2014

In the academic world, and especially at the undergraduate level much of the research is done simply because it is funded and in someone's field rather than because of how much it will impact the world. This research can rarely be called fair for more than ten percent of the population since only that top 10% will be able to afford the product when it is released even if it were to affect them. We ought to focus spending and scientific resources not just on problems that are interesting or hard for scientists to solve or on things that could be easily monetized but they should focus on solving problems that can help as many people as possible.
Due to the way the current grant funding systems works, basic science in medical research has reached a point where it is hard to call it true science. Science relies on peer review in order to ensure the quality of research and that there are reproducible results. However the way that the current grant system is structure no longer lends itself to the continuation of that philosophy since grants are not awarded for peer review but for new and unique ideas on the treatment for an ailment. This flaw in modern research tactics is brought to light in 'Trouble at the Lab' by the economist, where at one point the author brings up a study by Amgen who tried to recreate 53 landbreaking cancer studies with the help of their original publishers and out of these 53 studies they were only able to reproduce to results of six. The market for biomedical research is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse on its own, with over $59 billion being spent in 2012 alone, and if only 11% or even 25% of the studies being done have reproducible results that's $40 to $52 billion being wasted every year on bunk research whose result could have been completely fabricated due to the lack of peer review taking place. Many of these groundbreaking papers with unreproducible results spawn research on similar subjects that could just as easily have bunk results. This wastefulness needs to be removed from the system by allowing more grants for scientists to peer review papers before they or other base more research off of them. This would have a two fold effect that could reduce the research costs for new treatment while opening the door to more research that may not have been done in the current system and both of these changes could have the effect of making more medicine available to more people all at a lower cost.
The most common drugs being created and pushed by Big Pharma aren't cures for rare and deadly diseases or even drugs actually cure diseases. Most drugs introduced today are designed and prescribed to treat symptoms of more complicated health issues that are often left untreated once the symptoms can be abated by medications such as lipitor, prilosec, viagra, and diabetes medications like Glucophage. All of these drugs have a whole host of side effects that can be treated by the other such as in the case of statins like Lipitor which are attributed to a 48% increase one's likelihood of contracting type-2 diabetes. While diabetes drugs are necessary for people with type-1 diabetes, the majority of diabetes cases are type-2 which should have a long term treatment that involves a change of lifestyle and not a permanent prescription, this is also true most cases of high LDL cholesterol and bad acid reflux. Pills like viagra don't even treat a real disease, they provide a change of lifestyle for the elderly who in the past would have had no choice but to accept that they can't have sex anymore. Pills like Viagra and for the most part Glucophage are the bread and butter of modern pharmaceutical companies that allow people to live an otherwise unnatural and unsafe lifestyle that can ultimately shorten their life. Much of this money that went into researching chemicals like these would be better spent if it went into finding cures for common diseases that affect millions like TB or distributing existing cures to things like dysentery and malaria to the people.
Changing the way and reason for basic science research could have significant impact on what comes out of the technoscience machine. Better enforcing peer review by allowing grants for researchers to peer review papers could reduce the waste of grant money on ideas and concepts that don't work, opening the door for other solutions and options to be developed and worked on. If Big Pharma were incentivised in someway with money or emotions to develop low cost cures to diseases that exist only among the poor then more sick people could be treated by the charities that work to help treat the ill in poor countries and they may even be able to eradicate diseases like TB completely like they did with the smallpox virus . All of these changes would lead to a higher quality of medicine for everyone and a better life for those without the money to access current medicines.

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