Keep an eye on Ben Goldacre…

Ben Goldacre, the Bad Science column writer and at present, Wellcome research fellow in epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has a book coming out soon (Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients). I’ve not seen it yet, but when I do I’ll get you a review as soon as I can. Mean time, he’s written a nice piece for the New York Times.

Bottom line: All that icky stuff you hear, think, assume, guess, wonder about regarding the medical industry, especially Big Pharma? Well, a lot of it is true. The NYT piece is especially focused on the file drawer effect. The is where studies that show result B are put quietly in the file drawer, while studies that show the result A (the one you were hoping for) are published and publicized. In some areas of science there are actually rules that stop this from happening (or slow it down, anyway) but in pharmaceutical research (and psychology, I’ve heard) it probably happens a lot

If I toss a coin, but hide the result every time it comes up tails, it looks as if I always throw heads. You wouldn’t tolerate that if we were choosing who should go first in a game of pocket billiards, but in medicine, it’s accepted as the norm. In the worst case, we can be misled into believing that ineffective treatments are worth using; more commonly we are misled about the relative merits of competing treatments, exposing patients to inferior ones.

Ben will probably be around quite a bit promoting his book so expect podcasts and stuff.

Comments

  1. #1 Romeo VItelli
    February 2, 2013

    The book is out already here in Canada and it’s a comprehensive look at the pharmaceutical industry. Vintage Goldacre.

  2. [...] Keep an eye on Ben Goldacre… [Greg Laden's Blog] [...]

  3. #3 malcolm
    UK
    February 3, 2013
  4. #4 Alex Hallatt
    UK
    February 4, 2013

    I used to work in clinical research, in the pharmaceutical industry and I’m glad Ben has written this, as it mirrors my experience.

  5. #5 sailor
    February 4, 2013

    This was a big problem, but I think the journals now demand drug companies state they are going to do a study before they do it, and then publish the results so you cannot hide the ones that do not come out as they want.

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