Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
In one of the trials, which examined the efficacy of the drug methotrexate in treating systemic sclerosis—an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the skin and internal organs—the original researchers found the drug to be not much more effective than the placebo, as they reported in a 2001 paper. However, in a 2009 reanalysis of the same trial, another group of researchers including one of the original authors used Bayesian analysis, a statistical technique to overcome the shortcomings of small data sets that plague clinical trials of rare diseases such as sclerosis. The reanalysis found that the drug was, as it turned out, more effective than the placebo and had a good chance of benefiting sclerosis patients.
The idea of blood transfusions has critics, too: Dr. William Shaffner of Vanderbilt University is skeptical, saying he was surprised that the WHO would make transfusions a priority in the ongoing crisis because they are labor-intensive, making it difficult to serve a large number of patients. "You can't do this en masse," Schaffner said. "This is going to be a desperate attempt to provide something for a relatively small number of patients." Finding suitable donors may also prove more challenging than WHO officials expect, he warned. Malnutrition and other health concerns could make it more difficult to draw blood from people. "These are people who have recovered from Ebola," Schaffner said. "When are they hale and hearty enough to actually do a donation?"