I posted a link to a Daily Mail article by Dr Ben Goldacre a couple of days ago. A couple of months ago the TED Blog published this
post with more comment on the issue of selective publishing of medical trials, along with a video of Goldacre’s talk to TEDMed 2012.
It is well worth watching, but at the same time is pretty terrifying when you consider the implications of what is going on. Most people wouldn’t buy a car for example purely on the sales patter of the car salesman, or the information in the brochure – we know it is going to be biased and selective, we look for independent tests, maybe in the motoring press. That’s not what happens with drugs. Drugs are tested by the manufacturers, and they choose whether or not to publish the results. If the results are positive they publish, negative they’re less likely to. Medical practitioners therefore do not have a full picture when prescribing drugs that could potentially be life or death to a patient…
“People will do lots and lots of studies and on the occasions that it works, they’ll publish. On the ones it doesn’t, they won’t,” says Goldacre in his talk. “This is a problem because it sends us all down blind alleys.”