Thursday September 1, 2005
Â· “One of Britain’s most widely prescribed antidepressants has been linked to a seven-fold increase in suicide attempts.” Hold the front page! Oh hang on, it’s on the front page of the Times already. “An analysis of trials for Seroxat involving more than 1,500 patients found seven suicide attempts among those taking the drug and only one among those taking a placebo.” Step up once more Nigel Hawkes, health editor of the Times: step up here and read the academic paper. Methods section. First paragraph. “Paroxetine [Seroxat] treatment made up 190.7 patient years altogether and placebo 73.3 patient years.” The Seroxat group was almost three times as big as the placebo one. Does that make a sevenfold increase? Fingers only now, no calculators. But perhaps this was an innocent journalist, taking a press statement at its word. As a student of irrationality, Bad Science likes to study the origins of peculiar beliefs. The idea of a sevenfold increase wasn’t in the paper, because I read it. And it wasn’t in the press release (you know how we disapprove of science by press release) because I read that too. No. We can only assume Hawkes conjured it up by himself.
Â· And now with great regret I must announce that Penta Water, clustered molecule kings, worthy Bad Science adversaries and originators of my second best-ever hate mail have ceased trading. From www.teampenta.co.uk: “Regarding future stocks of Penta Water, we have been told by the US manufacturer that no further supplies from the US will be dispatched, pending an enquiry raised by Trading Standards (Labelling and Bottled Water Regulations, 1999).” They will be missed.
Â· I say second best-ever hate mail because I received another gem today. Enjoy: “Who is this smug arrogant little shit, Ben Goldarse? He has only to read the following two pages of the supplement his crap appears in to find some extremely bad science -of the stupid competing boys kind. Then there was, for example, the shameless witchhunting of Benveniste just a few years back by the science establishment mafia in France. And a closer inspection of Newton’s so-called Laws of Motion reveals they are no more than a circular self-referential description posing as an explanation. So who’s kidding who here? How about getting a grown up science writer? Nothing personal, but there’s truth and there’s lies. There’s knowing and there’s ignorance. There’s real science and there’s prejudiced dogma. From a truth-seeking scientist.” Bravo!