The year in nonsense

December 19th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in annual roundup, bad science, big pharma | 27 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 19 December 2009

It’s been a vintage year for dodgy science in government. We saw reports on cocaine that were disappeared, dodgy evidence to justify DNA retention, and some government advisors who estimated the cost of piracy at 10% of GDP, to media applause, and then failed to tell everyone they’d got the figure wrong by 1000%.

Read the rest of this entry »

By me in the BMJ: the dodginess of drug company trials

December 1st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, hiding data, regulating research, statistics, subgroup analysis, systematic reviews, trial registers | 73 Comments »

Here’s a piece by me in the British Medical Journal this week, published online already, and in the print edition this Friday. It’s a head to head with Vincent Lawton, who until recently was head of Merck in the UK. Briefly, I set out the quantitative evidence demonstrating the scale of the problem, and he says: “oh, we’ve fixed everything now, and anyway some academic trials are dodgy too, here’s one what I found”. That’s a paraphrase, you can read his response for free on the BMJ website here, since they’ve decided that this is an important issue which deserves open access. If you’ve got something really clever to say about these pieces then you might also want to comment in the “Rabid Response” section of the BMJ version of either article.

We were going to have a debate on the Today programme on Monday morning, and then tomorrow morning, but unfortunately it’s been ditched. If you work in mainstream media and would like to cover this issue I’m always keen, and amazingly easy to get hold of, ben@badscience.net. Although I realise that your idea of a meaningful critique of the crimes of big pharma is “chemotherapy hurt my grandma that’s why I love vitamin pills and hate teh vaxxines lol freedom”. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, that was quick

November 21st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, regulating research | 62 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 21 November 2009, The Guardian

Once your medicines regulator decides it should change the side effects warnings on the patient information of a drug taken by millions of people, how long do you think it would take for that change to be implemented?

Read the rest of this entry »

And now, nerd news

October 3rd, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, hiding data, regulating research, systematic reviews, trial registers, vaccines | 34 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 3 October 2009, The Guardian.

There are some very obvious problems that never seem to go away. Right now I can see 1,592 articles on Google News about one poor girl who died unexpectedly after receiving the cervical vaccine, and only 363 explaining that the post mortem found a massive and previously undiagnosed tumour in her chest. Meanwhile the Daily Mail this week continue their oncological ontology project with the magnificent headline: “Daily dose of housework could cut risk of breast cancer”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Please give us all your money

September 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, aids, bad science, big pharma, patents | 90 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 5 September 2009, The Guardian

How do patents affect science? This week in India, US drug company Gilead lost their appeal to stop local companies making cheap copies of their Aids drug Tenofovir. They are not alone: in 2007 Novartis lost a lengthy case trying to force the Indian government into strengthening their weak patent laws. India remains the free pharmacy of the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

How myths are made

August 8th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, ghostwriters, publication bias, references, structured data, systematic reviews | 41 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 8 August 2009, The Guardian.

Much of what we cover in this column revolves around the idea of a “systematic review”, where the literature is surveyed methodically, following a predetermined protocol, to find all the evidence on a given question. As we saw last week, for example, the Soil Association would rather have the freedom to selectively reference only research which supports their case, rather than the totality of the evidence.

Two disturbing news stories demonstrate how this rejection of best practice can also cut to the core of academia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Elsevier get into fanzines

May 8th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in academic publishing, bad science, big pharma, ghostwriters | 36 Comments »

Ben Goldacre

The Guardian

Saturday 8 May 2009

In Australia a fascinating court case has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck have paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America, although they deny any fault. British users of the drug have had their application for legal aid rejected, incidentally: health minister Ivan Lewis promised to help them, but FOI documents obtained by The Guardian last week showed that within hours, Merck launched an expensive lobbying effort that convinced him to back off.

Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t really get why people are chatting about Tamiflu as if it’s all that

May 1st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, evidence, systematic reviews | 53 Comments »

By-the-by I don’t really understand why the Guardian subs gave this piece, about how Tamiflu isn’t so great, a headline saying “the drugs do work”. I mean they kind of do work a bit, and we don’t know if they do in a pandemic since they’ve not been tested in those circumstances (which probably won’t come to pass) but we hope they will and so they’re recommended.

Ben Goldacre

The Guardian

Saturday 2 May 2009

Look I don’t want to freak you out, since Tamiflu is the one thing which everyone believes will save us from Parmageddon, but I’ve been reading through the published trial data on the drug, and I’m not sure it’s all that great. Read the rest of this entry »

A frankly thin contrivance for writing on the fascinating issue of subgroup analysis

April 25th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, nutritionists, subgroup analysis | 53 Comments »

Welcome back to the only home-learning statistics and trial methodology course to feature villains. You will remember the comedy factory of the Equazen fish oil “trials”: those amazing capsules that make your child clever and well behaved. A new proper trial has now been published looking at whether these fish oil capsules work. They took 75 children with ADHD aged 8 to 18, split the group in half randomly, and gave each child either genuine fish oil capsules, or dummy capsules. They measured ratings scales, and a Clinical Global Impression scale, but there was no difference between the two groups. The fish oil pills did nothing, as in many previous studies, so this trial has not been press released by the company, nor has it been covered in the media.

Read the rest of this entry »

Listen carefully, I shall say this only once

October 26th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in academic publishing, badscience, big pharma, duplicate publication, regulating research | 16 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday October 25 2008

Welcome to nerds’ corner, and yet another small print criticism of a trivial act of borderline dubiousness which will ultimately lead to distorted evidence, irrational decisions, and bad outcomes in what I like to call “the real world”.

So the ClinPsyc blog (clinpsyc.blogspot.com ) has spotted that the drug company Lilly have published identical data on duloxetine – a new-ish antidepressant drug – twice over, in two entirely separate scientific papers. Read the rest of this entry »