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.”
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 . 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.
Click here to view original web page at www.dailymail.co.uk