Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 9 July 2011
Since I was a teenager, whenever I have a pivotal life event coming – an exam, or an interview – I perform a ritual. I sit cross-legged on the floor, and I imagine an enormous golden beam of energy coming out of my arse. Read the rest of this entry »
Hi, two quick videos… one on the mighty placebo effect, via NHS Choices, one on the nocebo effect from Nerdstock. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, Saturday 28 November 2009, The Guardian
This week the parliamentary science and technology select committee looked into the evidence behind the MHRA’s decision to allow homeopathy sugar pill labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy, and the funding of homeopathy on the NHS. There were some comedy highlights, as you might expect from any serious enquiry into an industry where sugar pills have healing powers conferred upon them by being shaken with one drop of the ingredient which has been diluted, so extremely, that it equates to one molecule of the substance in a sphere of water whose diameter is roughly the distance from the earth to the sun.
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So tonight at 9pm on BBC Radio 4 (Monday) you can hear the second episode of my two-part miniseries on the placebo effect, one of the most effective and neglected evidence based treatments known to man.
In this show we look at the ethical and practical implications of research into the placebo effect, and discuss whether it’s okay – or even necessary – to lie to patients. The answer, from me at any rate, is “no”. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday August 23 2008
What I particularly enjoy is the spectacle of fat people – ideally drinking beer – watching television, while somewhere on the other side of the world citizens of all nations are getting some nice exercise in the Olympics (throwing javelins, jumping over metal bars, climbing lamp posts with banners, and running away from the water cannon). These are the people I imagine paying for gyms they never visit, while I am cheerfully cycling to work and carrying the shopping up the stairs. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been so busy I completely failed to spot that this show went out earlier this evening. It’s a smashing programme I made with Matt Silver from the BBC Radio 4 Science Unit on the placebo effect.
We charge through some of the most fun experiments in the field, and in part two we get all philosophical about what it means for mankind. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday March 1 2008
It was fun to hear universal jubilation over the new meta-analysis showing once again that some antidepressants aren’t much cop in mild or moderate depression: most of all on the Today programme, where a newsreader said the industry was contesting the study on the basis that it was not in line “with patient experience”. I’ve always said that homeopaths mimic big pharma in their marketing spiel, but this is the first time I’ve seen it done the other way around, so bravo to pill peddlers of all shades. 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.
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I was just on Radio 4′s PM program talking about the acupuncture study that’s in the news today, you can listen to it here (37 minutes in to the programme):
Here are some references and background bits and bobs.
The paper itself was very interesting. It took 1200 people, with an average of 8 years back pain each: we can assume not been helped by biomedical treatments. They were split into three groups: one group had medical treatment; one group had proper, real, bells and whistles, needles in the “meridiens” acupuncture; and one group were treated with pretend acupuncture. Read the rest of this entry »
September 15th, 2007
Okay now look: there’s nothing wrong with the idea of homeopaths giving out sugar pills. The placebo effect can be very powerful, because it’s not just about the pill, it’s about the cultural meaning of the treatment: so we know from research that four placebo sugar pills a day are more effective than two for eradicating gastric ulcers (and that’s not subjective, you measure ulcers by putting a camera into your stomach); we know that salt water injections are a more effective treatment for pain than sugar pills, not because salt water injections are medically active, but because injections are a more dramatic intervention; we know that green sugar pills are a more effective anxiety treatment than red ones, not because of any biomechanical effect of the dyes, but because of the cultural meanings of the colours green and red. We even know that packaging can be beneficial. Read the rest of this entry »