Below is an extract from the introduction to Ben Goldacre’s new book Bad Pharma.
But first, just in case you weren’t aware, Goldacre is a medical doctor and science writer. He is best known as an outspoken critic of all things alternative, and this was the main focus of his first book, Bad Science.
It is a credit to him that he has now turned his attention to orthodox medicine – the flaws and failings of which are responsible for human suffering that is orders of magnitude greater.
My copy arrived yesterday. I look forward to diving in, and I’ll be back soon with my review.
For now, the following extract gives an idea of just how important a book this may turn out to be.
“Medicine is broken. And I genuinely believe that if patients and the public ever fully understand what has been done to them – what doctors, academics and regulators have permitted – they will be angry.
We like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence, and the results of fair tests. In reality, those tests are often profoundly flawed. We like to imagine that doctors are well-educated, when in reality much of their education is funded by industry. […] We like to imagine that regulators only let effective drugs onto the market, when in reality they approve hopeless drugs, with data on side effects casually withheld from doctors and patients.
Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects.”
As if all that were not depressing enough, Goldacre also confirms what advocates of holistic medicine have been pointing out for years:
“Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all.”