Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 9 October 2010
What does it mean to say that a psychological or behavioural condition has a biological cause? Over the past week more battles have been raging over ADHD, after a paper published by a group of Cardiff researchers found evidence that there is a genetic association with the condition. Their study looked for chromosomal deletions and duplications known as “copy number variants” (CNV) and found that these were present in 16% of the children with ADHD.
What many reports did not tell you – including the Guardian – is that this same pattern of CNV was also found in 8% of the children without ADHD. So that’s not a massive difference.
But more interesting were the moral and cultural interpretations heaped onto this finding, Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday April 18, 2009
Is it somehow possible – and I know I’m going out on a limb here – that journalists wilfully misinterpret and ignore scientific evidence, simply in order to generate stories that reflect their own political and cultural prejudices? Because my friend Martin, from the excellent layscience blog, has made a pretty excellent discovery. Read the rest of this entry »
As the pace of medical innovation slows to a crawl, how do drug companies stay in profit? By ‘discovering’ new illnesses to fit existing products. But, says Ben Goldacre, in the second extract from his new book, for many problems the cure will never be found in a pill.
Monday September 1 2008
When you’ve been working with bullshit for as long as I have, you start to spot recurring themes: quacks and the pharmaceutical industry use the exact same tricks to sell their pills, everybody loves a “science bit” – even if it’s wrong – and when people introduce pseudoscience into any explanation, it’s usually because there’s something else they’re trying desperately not to talk about. But my favourite is this: alternative therapists, the media, and the drug industry all conspire to sell us reductionist, bio-medical explanations for problems that might more sensibly and constructively be thought of as social, political, or personal. And this medicalisation of everyday life isn’t done to us; in fact, we eat it up. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday March 15 2008
Doctors love pills: so do the public, and the media, and of course so do pill companies. When one pill dies, another must take its place. Are you feeling tired? Demotivated? I bet you are. But there is a solution – a pill – pushed by no less than Dr Thomas Stuttaford of the Times. Just two days ago in an article about “office tiredness” he cheerfully rehashed a press release on Boots’ exciting new pep pills. He opines at length on how tired we all feel in the office. So tired.
Why not try Coenzyme Q10, Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
How doctors describe the many interactions between a person, their illness, and society has little purchase in the crudely dualistic world of popular culture. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday September 29 2007
One thing that always fascinates me, as I tug on my pipe in this armchair, is how reductionist, how mechanical, how sciencey and medical we like our stories about the body to be. This week a major new study was published on acupuncture. Many newspapers said it showed acupuncture performing better than medical treatment: in fact it was 8 million times more interesting than that.
Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday September 22 2007
So you will remember the fish oil pill stories of last year. For the new kids: pill company Equazen and Durham Council said they were doing a trial on them with their GCSE year, but it wasn’t really a proper trial, for example there was no control group, and they had lots of similarly dodgy “trials” dotted about, which were being pimped successfully to the media as “positive”. When asked, Durham refused to release the detailed information you would expect from a proper piece of research. Even now, for all this pretending, there still has never been a single controlled trial, even a cheap one, of omega-3 fish oil supplements in normal children. Ridiculously.
Read the rest of this entry »
Okay, you lot are seriously on a roll. Following a complaint from a badscience reader, the ASA have found that Patrick Holford made untruthful, unsubstantiated claims in a leaflet he was sending out. Pasted below is the full adjudication and also the original advert in question, so that you can decide for yourself about the content, and I’ve also pasted my brief guide to making ASA complaints about dodgy adverts for a rainy afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »