Facebook causes syphilis, says Prof Peter Kelly, Director of Public Health, NHS Tees?

March 26th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, media, secret data | 14 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 27 March 2010

After the Mail’s definitive headline of last year “How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer” (in the same week as a story about a radioactive paedophile, no less) comes a competitor. “Facebook spreads syphilis” was the front page headline in the Sun on Wednesday: “sex diseases soaring due to facebook romps”. The Mail was quick to follow, with “Facebook ‘sex encounters’ linked to rise in syphilis”, while the Telegraph had “Facebook ‘linked to rise in syphilis’: Facebook has been linked to a resurgence in the sexually-transmitted disease syphilis, according to health experts.” It even made the Star.

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Doing nothing

March 19th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, competing interests, conflict of interest, doing nothing, evidence | 54 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 20 March 2010

I don’t write about stories where someone has a conflict of interest, in general, because there are no interesting scientific ideas in them: such stories are a way for people who don’t understand the technicalities of science to give the illusion of critiquing it. But it’s still disappointing to see companies being so much better at getting media coverage for their ideas than everyday folk. Read the rest of this entry »

Last chance for libel reform: mass lobby of MPs next Tuesday

March 19th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, legal chill, libel | 4 Comments »

This is your last chance to convince your MP that libel reform is a good idea before parliament dissolves. Politicians can feel like a dispiritingly disengaged shower of till-dippers, but here is one issue that you can care about, and it’s worth one final stab at making them see sense. Our libel laws stifle critical discussion of ideas and practices in science and medicine, and when you see cases like Matthias Rath, Simon Singh, and in particular Dr Peter Wilmshurst, a cardiologist, sued for raising concerns about a trial of a surgical device in which he was the primary investigator, it seems to me that these laws present a significant risk to public health, by restricting the public’s access to information. Please come if you can, details below. Read the rest of this entry »

Caroline Pidgeon (lib dem) falls for bogus Rentokil story, in the London Assembly… UPDATED for un-fail

March 18th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science | 33 Comments »

Briefly. Read the rest of this entry »

Rentokil make dodgy claims about imaginary bugs

March 12th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, churnalism, models, numerical context | 38 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 13 March 2010

2,000 bugs taking a ride in every train compartment” said the Daily Mail. “Cockroaches cluster on trains“, scuttled the Telegraph. “Commuters share trains with 1,000 cockroaches, 200 bedbugs and 200 fleas” said the Evening Standard. The figures were all very specific and very frightening.

“Rentokil say they also discovered that a bus was home to 500 cockroaches, along with dozens of fleas and bedbugs,” explained the Standard. Those disgusting trains are even worse. “Research by pest controllers Rentokil shows that, on average, a single train compartment houses a staggering 1,000 cockroaches, 200 bed bugs, 200 fleas, 500 dust mites and 100 carpet beetles,” said the Mail. Read the rest of this entry »

Is it okay to ignore results from people you don’t trust?

March 6th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, media, media research, tobacco | 39 Comments »

Ben goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 6 March 2010

If the media were actuarial about drawing our attention to the causes of avoidable death, your newspapers would be filled with diarrhoea, Aids, and cigarettes every day. In reality we know this is an absurd idea. For those interested in the scale of our fascination with rarity, one piece of research looked at a 3 month period in 2002 and found that 8,571 people had to die from smoking to generate one story on the subject from the BBC, while there were 3 stories for every death from vCJD. Read the rest of this entry »