I wrote this editorial in the British Medical Journal with the magnificent Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford. It’s about the Public Accounts Committee, progress on publication bias, and a suggestion for routine ongoing audit to give actionable information for decision-makers on how much information is missing. Read the rest of this entry »
The GMC are focused mainly on the narrow issue of an individual doctor’s competence when seeing individual patients. But there are broader issues that have an equally important impact on patient care and public trust: failure to publish clinical trials, failure to participate in research, and imperfectly declared conflicts of interest, for example.
The Health Select Committee have an annual review with the GMC to discuss how they’re getting on. Here’s a letter I wrote to them, along with Iain Chalmers, Fiona Godlee and Trish Groves of the BMJ, and Ginny Barbour from PLoS. We suggest some actions the GMC could take to improve patient care on all these issues. Below that is the video of the committee raising our concerns with the GMC. Broadly speaking: the GMC said they’d have a think. This is forward movement, and there’s more to come next year, with the launch of something interesting, new, and fun (and currently a bit secret…). Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 13 August 2011
While the authorities are distracted by mass disorder, we can do some statistics. You’ll have seen plenty of news stories telling you that one part of the brain is bigger, or smaller, in people with a particular mental health problem, or even a specific job. These are generally based on real, published scientific research. But how reliable are the studies?
One way of critiquing a piece of research is to read the academic paper itself, in detail, looking for flaws. But that might not be enough, if some sources of bias might exist outside the paper, in the wider system of science.
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 21 May 2011
Here’s no surprise: beliefs which we imagine to be rational are bound up in all kinds of other stuff. Political stances, for example, correlate with various personality features. One major review in 2003 looked at 38 different studies, containing data on 20,000 participants, and found that overall, political conservatism was associated with things like death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure, and closure. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 26 March 2011
Every now and then, very occasionally, a government will do something awesomely good. The budget contains plans for a new unified Health Research Regulatory Agency to streamline the regulations on clinical trials, and so make them cheaper and easier to run. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 23 October 2010
This month it was revealed that US academics funded by NIH deliberately infected mentally incapacitated patients, prison inmates, sex workers, and soldiers from Guatemala with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid during the 1940s. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 18 September 2010
If I tell you that Katie Price did not, necessarily, write her own book, this is not a revelation. From academics I have slightly higher expectations, but now the legal system has spat out another skip full of documents: this time, we get a new insight into the strange phenomenon of medical ghost-writing. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 14 August 2010
This week the drug company AstraZeneca paid out £125m to settle a class action. Over 17,500 patients claim the company withheld information showing that schizophrenia drug quetiapine (tradename Seroquel) might cause diabetes. Why do companies pay out money before cases get to court?
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 24 July 2010
There is a pleasing symmetry in the ropey science you get from different players. When GlaxoSmithKline are confronted with an unflattering meta-analysis summarising the results of all 56 trials on one of their treatments, as we saw last week, their defense is to point at 7 positive trials, exactly as a homeopath would do. Politicians will often find a ray of positive sunshine in a failed policy’s appraisal, and promote that to the sky. Newspapers, similarly, will spin science to fit their political agenda, with surreal consequences (the Telegraph have claimed recently that shopping causes infertility in men, and the Daily Mail reckon housework prevents breast cancer in women).
But does the same thing happen in formal academic research?