20 July 2012

Does deworming really work?

The latest Cochrane Collaboration review of the evidence on the impact of deworming on various outcomes has come out decidedly less than optimistic.

Here's a summary by the very smart Alexander Berger from Givewell, some discussion on the Public Library of Science blog including comment from one of the Cochrane authors and Alan Fenwick from SCI, and finally a rebuttal to the review's findings on schooling from IPA, JPAL, CEGA, Deworm the World, and the authors of the original Busia experiment on deworming.

I haven't spent enough time looking at the details to come to a strong opinion here, but one point made on the IPA blog seems evidently correct - random assignment should be enough to ensure pre-treatment balance between treatment and control. That is the whole point of random assignment. And  following the recent debacle of the medical journal the Lancet being forced to retract the key finding of a social-science-y study after some actual social scientists pointed out a mathematical error, combined with my disciplinary and professional loyalties, I'm inclined to go with the social scientists rather than the doctors on this one.

Update: Thoughts from David McKenzie

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