Medicalisation – don’t take it lying down.

September 29th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in acupuncture, bad science, medicalisation, placebo | 69 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
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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Acupuncture and back pain: some interesting background references

September 25th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in acupuncture, bad science, placebo | 97 Comments »

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 »

The fishy reckoning

September 22nd, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, cash-for-"stories", fish oil, mail, media, medicalisation, mirror, nutritionists | 29 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
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.

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The Joy of Ingelfingering

September 21st, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, media, references, scare stories | 25 Comments »

This is a response (as they say in Youtube) to a previous piece in the Times Higher by Bob Ward, which is pasted at the bottom. Hey, I’m in the THES. I am officially “old”.

Clinical cost of making headlines
Ben Goldacre
21 September 2007
Times Higher Education Supplement

Paul Broca was a French craniologist who measured brains. He was famous, and his name is given to Broca’s area, the part of the brain involved in generating speech, which is often damaged in strokes. But Broca had a problem: his German brain specimens were 100g heavier than his French ones, and by rights, the French should have been superior. Read the rest of this entry »

Clarion Communications respond on the rigged Jessica Alba wiggle…

September 20th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, cash-for-"stories" | 18 Comments »

There’s nothing I like better than people engaging in a discussion about ideas – and indeed criticising mine – but if there are two messages I’d really like to get out there, for general use, it’s these:

  1. ad hominem attacks are a bit pathetic
  2. you cannot make me go away simply by telling people my story was rubbish.

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A homeopath (inventor, visionary) responds

September 19th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in homeopathy | 55 Comments »

Okay, I’ve got a few interesting follow-ups to post, starting with Peter Chappell who you will remember from last week‘s Bad Science column in the Guardian.

As you know I am always keen to engage in discussion with people – see here for example – and particularly keen to hear my own ideas and criticisms themselves being critically appraised. Peter Chappell has responded on his website, and I am very happy to help open up his response to as wide an audience as possible: Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick Holford’s untruthful and unsubstantiated claims about pills

September 19th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, competing interests, medicalisation, patrick holford | 23 Comments »

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 »

Homeopathy gives you Aids

September 15th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in homeopathy, MMR, placebo | 49 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
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 »

“The Memory of Water?” – Journal Club roundup and submissions for publication

September 14th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in homeopathy, journal club | 20 Comments »

Many thanks to everyone who took part in the Homeopathy Journal Club. The standard of commentary was very high and I think a fair amount of this stuff deserves the chance to be published in the journal itself. I know a couple of people have already submitted their work as letters, but Read the rest of this entry »

Chatting to a homeopath

September 12th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in homeopathy, podcast | 43 Comments »

View in iTunes

Sorry there was no column last week. I have not been killed in bizarre sexual experiment that went horribly wrong, a problem came up and I was out of earshot on my way to a conference, no excitement this time. Anyway, on my way through Manchester yesterday I came across Prof David Colquhoun having a debate with Felicity Lee, the previous Chair of the Society of Homeopaths. The debate itself was the kind of thing you’d expect and there’s a recording here:

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