Washing the numbers, selling the model

January 26th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, big pharma, medicalisation, neurostuff, regulating research | 57 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday January 26 2008

If there’s one thing I love, it’s academics who take on the work of investigative journalism, because they are dogged. This has been a bad week for the SSRI antidepressants. Read the rest of this entry »

The Huff

January 19th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, religion, statistics, telegraph | 42 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday January 19 2008

In 1954 a man called Darrell Huff published a book called “How to lie with statistics“. Chapter one is called “the sample with built in bias” and it reads exactly like this column, which I’m about to write, on a Daily Telegraph story in 2008.

Huff sets up his headline: “The average Yaleman, Class of 1924, makes $25,111 a year!” said Time magazine, half a century ago. That figure sounded pretty high: Huff chases it, and points out the flaws. How did they find all these people they asked? Who did they miss? Losers tend to drop off the alma mater radar, whereas successful people are in Who’s Who and the College Record. Did this introduce “selection bias” into the sample? And how did they pose the question? Can that really be salary rather than investment income? Can you trust people when they self-declare their income? Is the figure spuriously precise? And so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Screen test

January 12th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in regulating research, statistics | 38 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday January 12 2008

So we’re all going to get screened for our health problems, by some geezers who’ve bought a CT scanner and put an advert in the paper maybe, or perhaps off Gordon Brown: because screening saves lives, and it’s always good to do something rather than nothing. I think you’ll find – and I fancy having this on a t-shirt – that it’s a tiny bit more complicated than that. Read the rest of this entry »

The data belongs to the patients who gave it to you.

January 5th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, regulating research, statistics, systematic reviews, trial registers | 19 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday January 5 2008

It is rare that a bad pharma story is left untouched by the British media, but this one unfolded while everyone was drunk in December, and perhaps it was just too geeky. Luckily, you share my taste for details. Ezetimibe is a best-selling cholesterol drug with sales of more than £2bn last year. It can modify cholesterol levels but no one knows whether it cuts the incidence of real outcomes such as heart attacks, or, you know, death. Is that the bad thing? Read the rest of this entry »

More than molecules – how pill pushers and the media medicalise social problems [mp3 lecture]

January 2nd, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, medicalisation, podcast, regulating research | 22 Comments »

View in iTunes

I’ve got a whole bunch of mp3’s to post from last year, which I’ll start doing in dribs and drabs. Here’s a talk I gave in Brighton, or rather, here is a recording of my invited “President’s Lecture” at the British Pharmacology Society’s annual conference, which I suspect is a bit of an honour.

The title was “More than molecules – how pill pushers and the media medicalise social problems”, and it’s a romp through tricks and traps which big pharma, quacks, and the media all share. More than that it’s about how attractive we all find it, as a society, to dodge important social, political and personal problems by reducing them to mechanical and sciencey-sounding explanations involving serotonin or fish oils. Read the rest of this entry »