Despite lingering debates, statistical method wins acceptance and exerts influence among researchers.
Meta-analysis-a statistical method of quantitatively combining and synthesizing results from individual studies-has begun to exert an influence on science, its practice, and its use in policymaking, despite early opposition and skepticism. One recent example that has attracted considerable media attention concerns the use of "fen-phen" (fenfluramine/phentermine), the popularly prescribed obesity control drugs. A Mayo Clinic meta-analysis of 24 users with rare valvular disease alerted United States health officials to the potential risks of fen-phen in July. A health advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 8 turned up 58 more cases of heart valve damage in users of the drug. FDA has requested warning labels on all prescriptions, and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a Philadelphia-based maker of fenfluramine, has announced sponsorship of a study of 1,200 users.

Harris Cooper, a professor at the Center for Research...

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