Ben Goldacre: Bad Pharma

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. On this, only you can judge.


What this book makes you do

The first thing you do after starting to read this book is try and tell other people about it. You can’t help it; it’s too interesting and well-written and outrage-inducing. Problem is, the conversations I tried to start tended to go like this:
‘I’m reading this book called Bad Pharma -‘
‘Bad Karma?’
‘No, Bad Pharma.’
‘Oh, you mean about the agriculture industry?’
‘No, Pharma with a PH. Like the pharmaceutical industry.’
‘Oh – those fuckers. So anyway let’s talk about what I did on the weekend instead.’

We all know the pharmaceutical industry are about as sweet and trustworthy as the mining conglomerates. So why bother with this book? It’s all because of Ben Goldacre and his magical talents.

How Ben Goldacre makes you feel

He’s talented, conversational, insightful, clear, moral, forthright, young, and funny. That’s why I hate the guy with an itching, white-hot envy. It’s also why this book is great and why I love it and him. Yes, I am aware I have problems and I am working through them.

You know the pharmaceutical industry are evil. Why read this book?

Because it’s only after being taken through the whole chain of the industry, from the registration of a new trial through to the moment a sexy drug rep offers a doctor a beer (and then logs it in their secret file on that doctor and their personality type) that you realise how easy it would be to fix the major problem with medical data. This is Goldacre’s main thesis and it goes like this: even the most dilligent doctor will never be able to prescribe accurately, as long as researchers are able to cherry pick which trials they publish. The solution (which I just read Goldacre is implementing himself – what a sickening tall poppy awesome dude) is to make sure each trial is logged in a publically searchable database, along with its principal hypothesis, before the trial starts. This means that if data gets ignored you can tell it’s gone missing. It also means you can pull researchers up for changing their hypotheses half way through if they’ve peeked at the data and noticed an unexpected pattern.

In summary

If you’re interested in science and its process, read this book. If you’re taking medication and you’re interested in it, read the book. If you are in the medical profession, read it. If you like getting angry about social issues like supposed act-for-the-people regulatory bodies being corrupted away from their real purpose, read the book. If you want to actually be Ben Goldacre then read the book, but if you have envy issues, maybe do it in the bath or another relaxing environment, and breathe deeply and remember your cognitive behaviour techniques for managing destructive thoughts.

This book was read in several places but not the bath.


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