“The Cult of Statistical Significance” authors challenge cold medicine makers’ math in Supreme Court case

by Trade Marketing on December 28, 2010

More Book DetailsIn supposedly one of the top ten cases of the Supreme Court this year, authors of The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives, Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey have filed a case involving Zicam, a common cold medicine from Matrixx which evidently causes users to permanently lose their sense of smell. The case will have general and large implications for liability, regulation and the Securities Exchange Commission. In addition, at least two of the other briefs filed for this case cite Ziliak and McCloskey (2008) to support their argument against the Court's use of a bright line 5% standard.

On November 12, 2010, Ziliak and McCloskey filed the Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court of the United States. The brief has been accepted by the office of the Justices and the case will be argued in January of 2011. The nasal Zicam seems to be the main culprit in over 200 lawsuits already filed, according to Ziliak.

"The clinical trials claimed that the adverse effect was not 'statistically significant' at the 5% level of statistical significance (Fisher's standard of judgment, not Gosset's) and thus they claimed, incorrectly, that the adverse effect was not 'important'."

The brief explains, as in "The Cult of Statistical Significance," why the Supreme Court should not use a bright-line standard of statistical significance. "What matters is Oomph and the odds of getting it.  (We call it in the brief, 'practical importance')," explains Ziliak. The oral argument is scheduled for January 10, 2011.

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