It was quite a surprise to find out this morning that Dr Ben Goldacre had an article running in the Mail on Sunday. He is more usually found writing his column on Bad Science in the Guardian and certainly the quality of science reporting in papers like the Daily Mail has been a big subject of comment on his part, but it is indeed the same Dr Ben Goldacre writing for a tabloid!
The subject for his article is an important one, picking up themes from his latest book Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. In this case he is talking about Tamiflu, the drug that the UK government spent £500,000,000 on stockpiling in the wake of the bird-flu epidemic and which the manufacturers are surprisingly unwilling to publish any data on the success of. Essentially GP’s are prescribing this, and a number of other drugs on nothing more than sales patter, with no detailed evidence of whether the drug actually works. Shocking stuff…
Tamiflu is supposed to be the miracle flu drug. Patients across the UK rely on it. In medicine cupboards everywhere patients have eagerly stockpiled it, and in some winters there has even been talk of rationing.
The Government itself has spent £500?million on stockpiling the drug to keep the country from collapse in the wake of a bird-flu epidemic, since it’s supposed to reduce the risk of pneumonia and death.
And yet for all we know, Tamiflu might be no better than paracetamol: because
Roche, the company making it, still withholds vital information on the risks and benefits from researchers, doctors and patients.