Dr Ben Goldacre writes a weekly column in the Guardian called Bad Science, which pokes fun at various amusements presented as rigorous science.
He’s just released a book called Bad Pharma, which digs into the slightly suspicious world of drugs manufacturers. Ben’s arguments are laid out in his first chapter, which is available here, whilst the rest of the book goes about presenting evidence in defence of his claims.
It’s certainly pretty disturbing, and well worth a read through even if you don’t then go on to buy the book. In short:
- Drug Company develops a drug.
- Drug Company tests a drug in various different ways until it gets the results it wants.
- Drug Company publishes the favourable results in a medical journal, which is owned by the Drug Company. The unfavourable results where the subject grew seven extra arms are hidden.
- Drug Company pours huge amounts of cash into advertising and doctor ‘training’, to make the favourable results seem even more magical.
- Regulator rolls over and accepts results, which now positively sparkle. Drug released, even though it’s considerably less effective than existing options.
- Drug Company recovers the costs of all the above through a massive markup on the product, which you then pay for (directly, or through taxes and the NHS)
I haven’t read the rest yet, so can’t comment on the evidence presented in favour of these claims. However, something to think about, certainly!