I came across this study on childhood eczema, titled “Study suggests symptoms of childhood eczema persist, likely a lifelong illness“. At first glance, it was intriguing. Upon further reading, the study just reeked of uselessness and rubbish.
An excerpt here:
How the Study Was Conducted: The authors examined the natural history of eczema using self-reported data from a group of 7,157 children enrolled in the Pediatric Eczema Elective Registry (PEER) study to evaluate the prevalence of symptoms over time. The average age of AD onset was 1.7 years.
Results: At every age (i.e. 2 to 26 years) more than 80 percent of the study participants had eczema symptoms or were using medication to treat the condition. During five years of follow-up, 64 percent of patients never reported a six-month period when their skin was symptom free while they were not using topical medications. It was not until age 20 that 50 percent of patients had at least one six-month period free of symptoms and treatment. The authors acknowledge that study participants may have had more severe disease and therefore more persistent eczema.
Discussion: “In conclusion, symptoms associated with AD seem to persist well into the second decade of a child’s life and likely longer. … Based on our findings, it is probable that AD does not fully resolve in most children with mild to moderate symptoms. Physicians who treat children with mild to moderate AD should tell children and their caregivers that AD is a lifelong illness with periods of waxing and waning skin problems.”
Editor’s Note: The PEER study is funded by a grant from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a company that makes pimecrolimus, a drug used to treat AD. The PEER study is an FDA-mandated study as part of the FDA approval process. This study was support in part by the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
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Thoughts on this “childhood eczema” study:
The conclusion sounded too dramatic for my liking. Upon further reading, it seems that their conclusion is based on plenty of weak foundations and assumptions. There are obvious limitations in the study, we start by asking these:
1) How do they define childhood eczema?
2) Are all those people involved in the study suffered purely from childhood atopic eczema?
3) Did the authors/researchers consider that the medication they have used could have resulted in steroid-induced eczema?
4) Did the authors/researchers consider the long term usage of topical steroids could have resulted in other side effects or diseases that resulted in their persistent “childhood eczema”?
If the answer to question 3 and 4 is no, then their entire conclusion can be debunked.
They have assumed that the start state – childhood eczema – is the only invariant factor that lasted throughout the people studied over the years. Such an assumption is clearly wrong. How true can the conclusion be then?
And to make it worse, this study is funded by a pharma company. It is obvious what their interests are: to keep childhood eczema persistent so that their drugs can sell. Such underlying motivations from key lobbyist industries help fund research to put out conclusions and statements like these. It would be fine if their drugs actually help people. They probably do, until iatrogenics are discovered, just like topical steroids.
It is clear that studies and research is not entirely neutral, just as the media. Published scientific or academic articles, journals, press releases does not necessarily equate to good science.
When can we ever have a scientific and academic system that sits on pure ideological rational values with neutrality? I hope one day, a group of people who share the same values could come up with an innovative system to make science and academia great again.
Be critical and read wisely, questions their premises and assumptions. You will then make the better decision with more complete information.