New BMJ editorial: “How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It”

June 23rd, 2015 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 1 Comment »

Screenshot 2015-06-23 16.51.17There are some big problems in medicine, and the public are right to be concerned about our shortcomings. Last week we found out that the Chief Medical Officer has written to the Academy of Medical Sciences, asking for an authoritative review into problems in the evidence we use to choose treatments, focusing especially on concerns around statins and tamiflu.

Will the Academy’s review be a whitewash? We hope not. But we are concerned that they may suffer from a lack of vision, and ambition, in trying to fix the problems in medicine.

So here is our call to arms, in a BMJ editorial. Like everything, I hope it is accessible to a general audience as well as doctors and researchers, because we need everyone’s help to fix these problems. We demonstrably cannot move forward on our own, because we have not.

And now, in whispering tones: this list of fixes is taken from a longer list in the last chapter of my super secret new book on statins, out in six months, which I am “not yet talking about” in public (you heard it here first). In that book I set out the evidence on statins, what we know, what we don’t know, and how we can get better data. Then, I set out a Better Medicine Manifesto: clear, deliverable fixes, that will make medicine better, to a soft metal soundtrack.

This link will get you free access to the BMJ piece:



WHO announcement on withheld clinical trials, and my commentary in PLoS Medicine

April 16th, 2015 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 1 Comment »

As you’ll hopefully know by now from reading Bad Science, Bad Pharma, and my endless columns on the subject, medicine has a problem: the results of clinical trials are routinely and legally withheld from doctors, researchers, and patients. We started the campaign two years ago to build a global campaign on this issue, and we’ll be publishing a big roundup of what we’ve done soon, along with (crucially, I think) our tactics and methods, in a spirit of pooling knowledge on how to achieve policy change for problems in science. Please do get your professional body to sign up.

Screenshot 2015-04-16 15.13.21This week there was an amazing landmark announcement from the World Health Organisation: they have come out and said that everyone must share the results of their clinical trials, within 12 months of completion, including old trials (since those are the trials conducted on currently used treatments). This is great news, but it’s not enough. The WHO announcement was in PLoS Medicine, with a commentary from WHO staff explaining their reasoning (it’s very good) and a commentary from me, explaining why we need to audit missing data, and act on that audit data.

This, I think, is the only way forward. We have seen that the FDA are unwilling to implement the laws they have available to them, and that other countries such as the UK are unwilling even to consider such legislation. In the absence of serious engagement on this issue from the policy community, now doctors, payers (such as the NHS), and enlightened funders need to take action themselves. If we fail to do so, we may be judged harshly by our patients. Read the rest of this entry »

My BMJ editorial: how can we stop academic press releases misleading the public?

December 10th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 9 Comments »

Screenshot 2014-12-10 14.47.53There is an excellent research paper published today in the BMJ, showing that academic press releases routinely exaggerate scientific findings and mislead the public.

This is something I’ve often covered. In this story, for example, the BMJ’s own press release about their own paper was hopelessly and entirely misleading. And after this story, featuring a misleading press release from Great Ormond Street Hospital, the head of that institution wrote a paranoid and misguided defense (which I have proudly reprinted, in my new book, in full). Read the rest of this entry »

That YouGov parlour game is wrong. This annoys me.

November 19th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 93 Comments »

YouGov have produced a fun, popular new parlour game. You give the site the name of a celebrity, author, TV show, pet, activity, or anything; and it gives you a lot more information in return. Essentially: “other things that such a person typically does and likes”. So, the “favourite dishes” of people who read Ben Goldacre books are Vegetarian Thali, Gravlax (whatever that is), and Pork Gyoza. Fans of comedian Richard Herring report that their favourite TV show is Stewart Lee (insensitive, given the *bitter* rivalry). Newsnight profiled their viewers at the end of their show on Tuesday (self-absorbed and listen to New Order). It’s fun to play around with.

But these statistics have been misinterpreted, because they have been mis-presented by YouGov.
Read the rest of this entry »

Some London talks and events coming up

November 14th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 2 Comments »

There are a few London talks and events coming up over the next few weeks, all very different, and more to come around the country soon:

Monday 17th Nov – Richard Herring Leicester Square Podcast

This show is a great institution: comedian Richard Herring interviews comedians and the occasional nerd in front of a live audience, there are tickets for the live recording, and then a free podcast online which has won Sony awards and stuff. Lots of previous episodes available online here, including Steve Coogan, Mary Beard, Stephen Fry, etc. Tickets online here, I’m up the same night as Sue Perkins who is awesome.

Monday 1st December – Conway Hall Nerd Night

Conway hall is a great institution, with lots of good events, worth a trip and worth joining. At this and the Foyles event below I think I’ll do a brand new lecture/show I’ve just written. Tickets online here, massive discount for students and members.

Monday December 8th – Foyles Bookshop, W1

Foyles has moved, I’ve not seen the new shop yet but genuinely looking forward to it as they’re an institution and bookshops are good. The talk is in their new events space at 7pm, tickets online here: smaller room, so I might do a more meandering talk, depending on what people seem to want on the night.

Books and signing at each of them if that’s your thing (definitely for the last two). For an easy Christmas you could surprise everyone by doggedly giving them my canon with a stern smile: this is especially useful shopping advice for families with ideological rifts around quackery, vaccines, science etc.

If you want to know what my talks are like there are some videos below, and more around the site. See you out!

What should Cochrane do next?

November 5th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, data, structured data, systematic reviews, video | 7 Comments »

Here’s a talk I did last year that’s just popped up online. The Cochrane Collaboration is a fabulous organisation, producing gold standard “systematic reviews” summarising all the data that’s ever been collected on important questions in medicine. Cochrane have become great by inviting criticism: for example, they run the Silverman Prize, for the best essay or paper pointing out stuff that they’ve got wrong. At their 21st birthday conference, they asked me to do a talk on what they should do next. I said they should get better at talking to patients; better at talking to policy makers; and better at talking to machines. Here’s the talk: Read the rest of this entry »

Weirdly long and fun Absolute FM radio interview

October 20th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 1 Comment »

whooo wil buuuuy my loverly neeeew boooook whooo wil buuuuy my loverly boooook Taking epidemiology to the streets: here’s a long, long interview I did last week on Absolute FM (lovely Geoff Lloyd’s lovely Hometime Show).

Posting here because it’s unusually good and long for pop media. In between the rock classics, we talk about screening, Ebola, government statistics, and good quality sperm.

My lovely new book – I Think You’ll Find It’s A Bit More Complicated Than That – is out in two days. It’s a collection of short pieces, an epidemiology and research methods toilet book, if you will. More here and here. You should buy it for everyone you know, to make your squabbles more interesting.

Podcast link here.

Statins have no side effects? What our study really found, its fixable flaws, and why trials transparency matters (again).

March 13th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in alltrials campaign, bad science, placebo | 23 Comments »

telesillyHi there, sorry to be absent (dayjob!). I was surprised to see a study I’m a co-author on getting some front page media play today, under the headline “Statins ‘have no side effects'”. That’s not what our paper found. But it was an interesting piece of work, with an odd result, looking at side effects in randomised trials of statins: specifically, and unusually, it compares the reports of side effects among people on statins in trials, against the reports of side effects from trial participants who were only getting a dummy placebo sugar pill.  Read the rest of this entry »

I wrote this in the Guardian: denialism over clinical trial results being withheld

January 6th, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 11 Comments »

I wrote this piece in the Guardian on clinical trial results being withheld, and the staggering denialism from diverse players including industry, the Royal Colleges, the MHRA, David Cameron, and more. This denialism has slowed progress on the issue, and cost lives. It’s my view, frankly, that people should be sacked – and presidents dismissed – over the appalling ESHLSG debacle, which gave false reassurance on vitally important matters of patient safety. The public, quite reasonably, expect better of medical leaders, especially when technical matters are entrusted to their care. Perhaps I’m wrong. In any case: the tide has turned, the public are watching, the professions are finally fully on side. We must celebrate that and move forward: now is the time to act. Here is a link to my piece, and here is the final two paragraphs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s my… foreword to the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway guidebook

December 20th, 2013 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 3 Comments »

I often tweet about my love for the RH&D narrow gauge railway, and this year they asked me to write an introduction for their guidebook. Some of the staff were worried by what I sent. But they were wrong. I love this railway. Here’s the piece. Read the rest of this entry »