You and Yours Radio 4 Friday

December 15th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, bbc, homeopathy, onanism, references, statistics | 94 Comments »

I just said this on Radio 4, Homeopath David Spence responds on the show afterwards.

You’ll be able to listen to it again over the internet from 3pm:

Homeopathy is certainly popular, and I have no problem with Read the rest of this entry »

Excluding Bias

November 26th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, homeopathy, references, statistics, telegraph | 67 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday November 26, 2005
The Guardian

The moment I saw the press release for the new Bristol Homeopathy study, I knew I was in for a treat. This was a fabulously flawed “survey”, no more, in which some doctors asked their patients whether they thought they’d got better a while after having some homeopathy. Not meaningless data in itself, but the action, as ever, is in the interpretation, and the interpretation was Read the rest of this entry »

Spot The Difference?

November 21st, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, homeopathy, media | 108 Comments »

Here’s an interesting exercise. For once, the actual academic paper behind a news story is available for free online…

Which means you can see for yourself whether Read the rest of this entry »

Bad Science piece sneaks undetected into Time Out’s “Alternative Health Special Issue”

November 18th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, homeopathy, statistics | 62 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Time Out, London
November 16-23 2005

I feel a bit mean, since you’re all having so much fun here, but let me quickly point out a couple of things about homeopathy. First, it doesn’t work. Second, it’s old fashioned and paternalistic. And third, that’s what they say about us: how weird is that?

We’ll do them in order. Stick with me here: at least if you disagree, you’ll disagree with a whole lot more panache by the end. So how do we know homeopathy doesn’t Read the rest of this entry »

A tonic for sceptics

August 29th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, homeopathy, placebo, statistics | 40 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Monday August 29, 2005
Comment, The Guardian

Sceptics, and the placebo effect, are easily misunderstood. Since I’ve made a modest second career out of rubbishing alternative therapies (or rather the pseudoscience of the claims behind them), you might expect me to be pleased with a new analysis of 110 placebo-controlled randomised trials of homoeopathy, published Read the rest of this entry »

Hard to swallow

August 18th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, bbc, homeopathy, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, placebo | 4 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 18, 2005
The Guardian

· Pity the sensible alternative therapist, for they are in a unique and impossible position. On the one hand, they want to be scientific, evidence-based and conservative in what they say. On the other, they have to talk up the myths around their Read the rest of this entry »

Supplementary benefits

August 11th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, herbal remedies, scare stories, times | 16 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 11, 2005
The Guardian

· OK, it’s me and Susan Clarke from the Sunday Times, on the floor, mano a mano. This week someone is asking for Read the rest of this entry »

Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit

December 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, celebs, channel 4, channel five, cosmetics, dna, express, gillian mckeith, herbal remedies, independent, letters, mail, MMR, nutritionists, oxygen, penises, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, quantum physics, references, space, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, water | 9 Comments »

This article is a rough transcript of the most excellent Bad Science Awards 2004 that were held in the Asylum Club on Rathbone St W1, a tiny basement club with a fire safety license for 150. We were expecting 20 people but to general astonishment there were queues down the street, and an unruly crowd who were drunkenly, loudly, and at one point quite violently baying for Gillian McKeith’s blood. Also performing were the excellently frightening and dangerous Disinformation presents “National Grid”, performance terrorism with victorian electrical equipment and rubber gloves, featuring Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Guardian Far Out fame.

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Ben Goldacre on the gongs nobody wants to win…

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any Read the rest of this entry »


May 27th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 1 Comment »

Alternative body

Thursday May 27, 2004
The Guardian

I was interested to read that Richard Brook, chief executive of Mind, thinks St John’s Wort is a homeopathic remedy, and that it is, according to Ben Goldacre, “pretty close to pure water” (Bad Science, May 20). It is, in fact, a very old herbal remedy, which has long been used for the treatment of depressive conditions.

It is true that there does not seem to be a reliable source of information regarding the interaction of conventional drugs with alternative treatments. Most doctors scoff when asked and claim to know nothing outside the world of “real medicine”. Herbalists and homeopaths are more helpful but cannot possibly keep abreast of current drug development.

Would it not be possible to form some kind of official body to set out guidelines for the more popular alternative remedies that we use?
Lyn Faulkner
Bartlow, Cambridge


I didn’t say that blood SJW was a homeopathic remedy, I was writing about somebody else who did and pointing out that they were purveying bad science:

The chaps at the Guardian themselves were apparently unable to understand this, and so published this rather odd letter.

Wort warning

May 20th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dangers, herbal remedies | 2 Comments »

Wort warning

Ben Goldacre
Thursday May 20, 2004
The Guardian

Talk about bad science here

· People often ask why I get so grumpy about the lack of intellectual rigour in alternative medicine. “What’s so bad,” they say, “about people believing whatever they want, if it makes them feel better?” What’s so bad is that sometimes, when people mix and match ideas, and believe that “natural” means “safe”, they can concoct some pretty dangerous suggestions.

Over to Richard Brook, chief executive of mental health charity Mind. “Prozac or cognitive behavioural therapy?” the Independent asked him last week. “CBT every time,” he replied, and fair enough. “I’m a strong supporter of non-medicated approaches, which also include exercise, improving social contacts, diet” he said. Excellent advice so far. “And possibly homeopathic remedies such as St John’s Wort.”

Now, homeopathic remedies are pretty close to pure water, and that’s not going to do you any good or any harm. But St John’s Wort contains a drug that is very similar to Prozac, which can interact dangerously with many antidepressants and numerous other medications. And unfortunately, as they say, not a lot of people know that. Researchers at King’s College London questioned 929 people, visiting four pharmacies in London, and found that when they asked people which medicines they were taking, 41% did not mention herbal remedies, because they did not think of them as medicines. Seven per cent were taking potentially dangerous combinations of herbal remedies and prescription medicines, and the most common was taking St John’s Wort at the same time as SSRIs, the class of antidepressants that includes Prozac. What’s more, taking St John’s Wort with the oral contraceptive pill can cause side effects and stop the pill working. Even pharmacists can believe the hype. In 21 visits to buy St John’s Wort, five Which? researchers were given unsatisfactory advice, twice they didn’t need to see a pharmacist, and one pharmacist said it was “fine to take with the pill”.

· About a quarter of prescription drugs are derived from plant sources and just because something comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s safe. Aspirin comes from willow bark, but it will still make your haemorrhoids bleed. Diamorphine was made from opium poppy extract, in the same lab as aspirin, by the same bloke, two weeks later, using the same process (acetylation), 107 years ago this summer, since you ask. Diamorphine is also known as heroin, and although it’s undoubtedly effective, it has a few side effects that might worry you.

This slightly odd letter was printed the following week.