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The Hazards of Misguided Compassion

Paul D. Stolley, MD
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University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201. Requests for Reprints: Paul D. Stolley, MD, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 660 West Redwood Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Copyright 2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1993;118(10):822-823. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-118-10-199305150-00011
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The plight of patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is heart-rending, and so the patients, their families, and doctors want to be free of restrictions on the availability of drugs. Compassion combined with lobbying has led to exemptions from the usual way of evaluating the safety and efficacy of new treatments, so that drugs to treat HIV infection are available outside of randomized trials, and treatment decisions must be based on smaller randomized trials, which lack statistical power, and on nonrandom trials that may be biased. Through misguided compassion, the medical community may never learn enough about new drugs for HIV infection to use them properly and to understand whether they do more good than harm.



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