I love research about research

July 24th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, regulating research, spin, subgroup analysis, trial registers | 32 Comments »

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?

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By me in the BMJ: the dodginess of drug company trials

December 1st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, hiding data, regulating research, statistics, subgroup analysis, systematic reviews, trial registers | 73 Comments »

Here’s a piece by me in the British Medical Journal this week, published online already, and in the print edition this Friday. It’s a head to head with Vincent Lawton, who until recently was head of Merck in the UK. Briefly, I set out the quantitative evidence demonstrating the scale of the problem, and he says: “oh, we’ve fixed everything now, and anyway some academic trials are dodgy too, here’s one what I found”. That’s a paraphrase, you can read his response for free on the BMJ website here, since they’ve decided that this is an important issue which deserves open access. If you’ve got something really clever to say about these pieces then you might also want to comment in the “Rabid Response” section of the BMJ version of either article.

We were going to have a debate on the Today programme on Monday morning, and then tomorrow morning, but unfortunately it’s been ditched. If you work in mainstream media and would like to cover this issue I’m always keen, and amazingly easy to get hold of, ben@badscience.net. Although I realise that your idea of a meaningful critique of the crimes of big pharma is “chemotherapy hurt my grandma that’s why I love vitamin pills and hate teh vaxxines lol freedom”. Read the rest of this entry »

A frankly thin contrivance for writing on the fascinating issue of subgroup analysis

April 25th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, nutritionists, subgroup analysis | 53 Comments »

Welcome back to the only home-learning statistics and trial methodology course to feature villains. You will remember the comedy factory of the Equazen fish oil “trials”: those amazing capsules that make your child clever and well behaved. A new proper trial has now been published looking at whether these fish oil capsules work. They took 75 children with ADHD aged 8 to 18, split the group in half randomly, and gave each child either genuine fish oil capsules, or dummy capsules. They measured ratings scales, and a Clinical Global Impression scale, but there was no difference between the two groups. The fish oil pills did nothing, as in many previous studies, so this trial has not been press released by the company, nor has it been covered in the media.

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