How do you regulate Wu?

February 20th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, herbal remedies, regulating nonsense | 80 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 20 February 2010

You might have read the case of Ying Wu this week: a fully qualified traditional chinese medicine doctor operating out of a shop in Chelmsford who for several years prescribed high doses of a dangerous banned substance to treat the acne of senior civil servant Patricia Booth, 58, reassuring her that the pills were as safe as Coca-Cola. Following this her patient has lost both kidneys, developed urinary tract cancer, had a heart attack, and is now on dialysis three times a week. Judge Jeremy Roberts gave Wu a two-year conditional discharge, saying she did not know the pills were dangerous and could not be blamed, because the practise of traditional Chinese medicine is totally unregulated in Britain, a situation which he suggests should be remedied. Read the rest of this entry »

Roger Coghill and the Aids test

June 28th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, competing interests, electrosensitivity, express, herbal remedies, magnets, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, roger coghill, statistics | 72 Comments »

imageBen Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday June 28, 2008

It’s the big stories I enjoy the most. “Suicides linked to phone masts” roared the Sunday Express front-page headline this week. “The spate of deaths among young people in Britain’s suicide capital could be linked to radio waves from dozens of mobile phone transmitter masts near the victims’ homes.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Aids Quackery International Tour

December 1st, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, herbal remedies, homeopathy | 97 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday December 1 2007

If you were going to be actuarial about media coverage – an eighth of a column inch for each premature death perhaps – then this paper would be filled with diarrhoea and Aids. Today is World Aids Day: so come with me on a world tour of Aids quackery.

South Africa is traditionally where we would start such a voyage, headed as it is by President Thabo Mbeki, a man who remains an HIV denialist and recently told a biographer that he regrets withdrawing from publicly discussing his beliefs. He has compared Aids scientists to Nazi concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted orthodox Aids science as “self-repressed” victims of a slave mentality. Read the rest of this entry »

The trouble with herbals

October 6th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, herbal remedies | 103 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday October 6 2007

The news this week that herbal remedies can be ineffective or dangerous is boring: but come with me on a journey through time (time… time…) to the origins of medicine.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Now Look What You’ve Made Me Do”

June 12th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, africa, bad science, dangers, herbal remedies, homeopathy, times | 27 Comments »

Poor old Susan Clark, previously a regular Bad Science target when she was writing “What’s The Alternative” in the Sunday Times, she is now in a position of total safety at The Observer.

Apparently in the past the poor thing has had such a hammering for her advice on malaria medication, that now her readers have to suffer. Actually it’s all my fault. No hang on. It’s your fault for encouraging Read the rest of this entry »

Resistance is worse than useless

February 11th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, africa, alternative medicine, bad science, dangers, herbal remedies, times | 63 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday February 11, 2006
The Guardian

Let me take you back to 2005, and one of several Bad Science stories about Susan Clark and her What’s The Alternative column in the Sunday Times. She’s no longer in that post – if you’re lucky we’ll have room to talk about her successor soon – but she stood out on account of her Read the rest of this entry »

Supplementary benefits

August 11th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, herbal remedies, scare stories, times | 16 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 11, 2005
The Guardian

· OK, it’s me and Susan Clarke from the Sunday Times, on the floor, mano a mano. This week someone is asking for Read the rest of this entry »

Funnel vision

July 7th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, herbal remedies, penises, references, statistics | 5 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday July 7, 2005
The Guardian

· There I was two weeks ago, making sarcastic jokes about how Bad Science was just a cover for the [coughs] popular statistics lecture series I secretly yearned to give, and now I’m about to try to explain funnel plots to you, in a national newspaper, and without any diagrams. Here we go. Publication bias makes the Read the rest of this entry »

Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit

December 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, celebs, channel 4, channel five, cosmetics, dna, express, gillian mckeith, herbal remedies, independent, letters, mail, MMR, nutritionists, oxygen, penises, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, quantum physics, references, space, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, water | 9 Comments »

This article is a rough transcript of the most excellent Bad Science Awards 2004 that were held in the Asylum Club on Rathbone St W1, a tiny basement club with a fire safety license for 150. We were expecting 20 people but to general astonishment there were queues down the street, and an unruly crowd who were drunkenly, loudly, and at one point quite violently baying for Gillian McKeith’s blood. Also performing were the excellently frightening and dangerous Disinformation presents “National Grid”, performance terrorism with victorian electrical equipment and rubber gloves, featuring Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Guardian Far Out fame.

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Ben Goldacre on the gongs nobody wants to win…

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any Read the rest of this entry »

Mixing medicines

November 11th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dangers, death, herbal remedies, times | 3 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday November 11, 2004
The Guardian

· Ah, Susan Clark of the Sunday Times (What’s the Alternative?), how I love her. This time she’s giving advice about which natural substances are safe to take with warfarin. First, she bemoans the dearth of research on the subject. Then she ignores the useful stuff in what we do know. “As a simple guideline, patients who are taking warfarin should avoid any natural remedies that have an action on the cardiovascular system.” I have no idea where that idea came from: but warfarin is famous for being interfered with by other drugs. St John’s Wort, for example, is a very popular drug – herb, collection of drugs in a plant, whatever – that reduces the plasma concentration of warfarin, along with phenytoin and rifampicin: that’s not because they’re active on the cardiovascular system, that’s probably because they interfere with liver enzymes, which means it makes them work harder. Those enzymes also break down warfarin, so if they’re working harder, they break down the warfarin more too, so there’s less of it around in your blood, and you’re more likely to have another nasty clot and die. Likewise, ginseng reduces the plasma levels of warfarin, so they shouldn’t be mixed either. And lots of others.

· So: stand by for the kind of nerdy, and usefully boring science story you’ll see in a paper when I am prime minister of the world government. In a recent study, 2,600 patients on warfarin were sent a questionnaire on what alternative therapies they took: 1,360 responded (believe me, that’s a high response rate) and a whole 19.2% of those responders were, it turned out, taking one or more complementary therapies. Ninety-two per cent of them hadn’t thought to mention this to their doctor. Only 28.3% of all respondents had even thought that herbal medicines could interfere with prescription drugs. Because hardly anybody’s telling them. And, the patients who were taking the complementary therapies – the ones you’d hope would be aware of the risks – were even less likely to think they might interfere with prescription drugs (at a statistical significance of P<0.001, which means there’s a one in 1,000 possibility of that finding occurring by chance).

· Now, doctors have a responsibility to ask about alternative therapies. Patients have a responsibility to themselves to volunteer the information. And the PR arm of the alternative therapy industry, the ones who write articles in national newspapers, have a responsibility to know their onions, and share their knowledge.