You’re experimenting with nonpharmaceuticals— CBD oil, melatonin, exercise—to treat a chronic health condition.
Launching in September 2019, WhichWorksBest’s toolkit helps you ask the crucial question: which dose, frequency, brand or treatment works best for you?
WhichWorksBest borrows ideas from 30 years of academic research on single person experiments. This simple, affordable toolkit helps you track symptoms and statistically rate the effects of your nonpharmaceuticals.
Each of us is a unique mix of behaviors, genes, microbiome, experiences, relationships, and personal history. So it’s no surprise when a treatment that works well for one person — whether melatonin, echinacea, CBD oil, exercise, caffeine, tickling, or sunlight — fails for someone else.
People frequently rely on intuition and trial and error when testing treatments. They start with one treatment and then, if that doesn’t seem to work well, move to another. Unfortunately this approach potentially introduces numerous biases and errors, researchers say.
Even with mega-funded pharmaceuticals, informal evaluation strategies often disappoint people. “The trial and error approach to medicine is not cost efficient because several of the most prominent drugs only work on one-third to one-half of patients,” according to John Whyte, M.D., WebMD, and James Gillespie, Ph.D., Saint Mary’s College. “Thus, many patients are subjected to the cost, inconvenience, side effects, and potential adverse reactions of taking medicine that will have little to no clinical benefit.”
To attack this problem, in the 1980s researchers at McMaster University began designing a framework for single person experiments, also known as n-of-1 trials. The framework used classic research techniques—standardized symptom logging, randomized schedules of treatment blocks, blinding, a placebo (optional), and multiple statistical tools— to statistically rate each treatment’s unique effects on a single person’s symptoms.
Researchers concluded that, even for well-studied pharmaceuticals, single person experiments had many benefits. “By permitting direct estimation of individual treatment effects, single patient trials can facilitate finely graded individualized care, enhance therapeutic precision, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs,” noted researchers in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology in August 2013. Single patient trials are “not only ethical but arguably obligatory to undertake” for people with some chronic conditions, according to one researcher.
WhichWorksBest is not a health care provider and doesn’t recommend treatments. Even with nonpharmaceuticals, single person experiments involve risks and require persistence and precision beyond the average person’s capabilities. WhichWorksBest provides information and tools only — you and your physician are responsible for all aspects of any experiment you undertake and conclusions you draw. Do not alter your health care without first consulting with a health care professional.