Meta analysis definition in medicine
What is meta analysis?
For a straight-forward definition, meta-analysis is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies. It is often used to access the clinical effectiveness of healthcare interventions; by combining data from two or more randomized control trials.
When the results of clinical trials are combined to try and get a clearer answer to a question about effectiveness or safety. These are less trustworthy than a single clinical trial, and results can be due to chance. These are frequently used to raise or dismiss safety concerns.
Meta analysis examples
- In 1998 for example, a meta-analysis of published antidepressant trials found that 75% of the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication is due to the placebo effect and other non-specific effects, rather than the treatment itself.
- A meta-analysis in 2002 found a 30% reduction in suicide and attempted suicide in the placebo groups compared to a 40% reduction in the treated groups.
- In another example, a more recent meta-analysis done in 2008 analyzing data from the FDA, revealed that 82% of the response to antidepressants was accounted for by placebos.
- Another meta-analysis found that 79% of depressed patients receiving placebo remained well (for 12 weeks after an initial 6–8 weeks of successful therapy) compared to 93% of those receiving antidepressants.
- A 2009 meta-analysis reported that 68% of the effects of antidepressants was due to the placebo effect.
Meta analysis benefits
One of the major and overall benefits of meta-analysis is that it offers a rational and helpful way of dealing with practical difficulties in effective research. See the diagram below for more on meta analysis.
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