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Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It [Paperback]

Ben Goldacre
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Aug 2013

Ben Goldacre puts the $600bn global pharmaceutical industry under the microscope. What he reveals is a fascinating, terrifying mess. ***Now updated with the latest government responses to the book***

Doctors and patients need good scientific evidence to make informed decisions. But instead, companies run bad trials on their own drugs, which distort and exaggerate the benefits by design. When these trials produce unflattering results, the data is simply buried. All of this is perfectly legal. In fact, even government regulators withhold vitally important data from the people who need it most. Doctors and patient groups have stood by too, and failed to protect us. Instead, they take money and favours, in a world so fractured that medics and nurses are now educated by the drugs industry.

The result: patients are harmed in huge numbers.

Ben Goldacre is Britain’s finest writer on the science behind medicine, and ‘Bad Pharma’ is the book that finally prompted Parliament to ask why all trial results aren’t made publicly available – this edition has been updated with the latest news from the select committee hearings. Let the witty and indefatigable Goldacre show you how medicine went wrong, and what you can do to mend it.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000749808X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007498086
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Goldacre is a doctor and science writer who has written the ' Bad Science ' column in the Guardian since 2003. His work focuses on unpicking the evidence behind misleading claims from journalists, the pharmaceutical industry, alternative therapists, and government reports. He has made a number of documentaries for BBC Radio 4, and his book Bad Science reached Number One in the nonfiction charts, has sold over 500,000 copies, and is available in 22 countries.

Product Description

Review

‘This is a book to make you enraged – properly, bone-shakingly furious – because it’s about how big business puts profits over patient welfare, allows people to die because they don’t want to disclose damning research evidence, and the tricks they play to make sure doctors do not have all the evidence when it comes to appraising whether a drug really works or not. A work of brilliance.’ Max Pemberton, Daily Telegraph

‘This is a brilliant piece of work’ Evening Standard, William Leith

‘This is an important book. Ben Goldacre is angry, and by the time you put ‘Bad Pharma’ down, you should be too.’ New Statesman

‘Nailing the compromise between too much detail and too little, Goldacre’s brilliantly enraging study unpeels how the pharmaceutical giants routinely misrepresent science in their quest for profit.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘What keeps you turning its pages is the accessibility of Goldacre's writing … his genuine, indignant passion, his careful gathering of evidence and his use of stories, some of them personal, which bring the book to life.’ Luisia Dilner, Guardian

‘This is a book that deserves to be widely read, because anyone who does read it cannot help feeling both uncomfortable and angry.’ Economist

‘’Bad Pharma’ will confirm his status as a thorn in the side of the medical Establishment – Goldacre’s detailed research would be hard for any drug-company executive to contradict’ Lois Rogers, Sunday Times

About the Author

Ben Goldacre is a doctor, writer, broadcaster and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims from drug companies, newspapers, government reports, PR people and quacks. His first book, Bad Science, reached Number One in the non-fiction charts, sold over 400,000 copies in the UK alone, and has been translated into 25 languages. He is 38 and lives in London.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
By andrewp
Format:Paperback
This is an impressive book on a serious subject which at times really is a matter of life and death. It can be read by anyone interested in the pharmaceutical industry, and doesn't require any previous knowledge of medicine or even science in general.

The tone is chatty enough to keep you interested, while remaining relatively well structured. I think you will get an idea of whether you would enjoy this book by first watching either of Ben Goldacre's TED talks: if you finish watching them and think "I want to know more" then this book is going to be just the thing for you.

There is no hint of conspiracy theory in this book. Goldacre sticks to a sober recounting of the problems, and he is meticulous about backing up what he says with references, with particular emphasis on systematic reviews, which is important given the subject matter of the book. He never gets into politics, but concentrates on actual, proven real-world harms and benefits.

I also appreciate that despite the massive size of the problems he's describing, he manages to avoid despair and gives recommendations appropriate for the different sections of his readership. I thought the section on conflicts of interest was subtly thought-out and proves that Goldacre is not simply "anti-pharma" and has considered carefully how things could actually be changed in practice.

It's by no means an uplifting and easy read, but it is a fantastic book and fully worth the effort. And who knows, even if you're not a healthcare professional, you may be able to contribute to solving these problems by raising awareness.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a magnificent and brave book. It demands full support, and I am bold enough to express this. It brings together knowledge which many of us in medicine have known for some time, but it makes clear that the problem is worse than we have realised.

This book strikes a fundamental blow to medical epistemology. We used to joke that "Half of what you learn in medical school will be of no use to you in practice- the problem is just that we don't yet know which half; After reading this book you realise the problem is deeper- too much medical knowledge is suppressed from the start- and so as doctors we do not even know what we don't know. It just never crosses our consciousness. We don't even know the half of it.

The flaws in medical knowledge Goldacre describes run wide and deep.

Too much medicine is simply never published or recorded.

Negative results "This does not work" are just as important to medical practice as "this does work." Yet routinely negative studies are ignored, filed away, unpublished, maybe never even written up. There is no journal of failed treatments and other false starts. Authors and researchers don't get promoted for showing such results. Share prices don't rise on such news.

Too much pre-selection and pre-editing goes on so that what reaches large journals and is then available to be incorporated into guidelines is rather over-optimistic, and based on a biased sample. (Most of the times a drug hasn't worked in a clinical trial the information simply vanishes into "internal company files") Goldacre points out how unethical this is- patients have been taking part in clinical trials to advance medical knowledge- and then the trial goes unpublished so no one can learn from it.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. P. J. A. Wicks VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Disclosure: I do patient reported outcomes research for top 20 pharma companies

I love science, and I love medicine. Truly, some of the most incredible inventions of our species have been the successful development of amazing compounds from antibiotics and antiretrovirals to insulin and levodopa to modern biologic drugs which help us to lead better lives despite illness. And yet, somewhere along the way, the industry that has arguably done the most to improve life for human beings (in the developed world at least) has taken a curious deviation away from science, and lost its way. As it turns out, marketing is more effective than science in persuading doctors to write prescriptions, and it's cheaper too. Full scale clinical trials are expensive, career-making (or ending), difficult, and time-consuming, and often fail to deliver anything like the transformational benefits that older (now cheap and generic) pills once did.

In this thoroughly researched, engaging, and intensely catalytic account, psychiatrist and truth-seeker Dr Ben Goldacre systematically diagnoses the faults not just with pharma, but with the entire system of evidence based medicine, in which none of us are blameless.

The broad brush strokes are that:

* Pharma builds clinical trials with what can kindly be described as "gamesmanship", systematically biases the literature by with-holding data, drags its feet to comply with transparency measures, ensures its message is heard clearer and louder than anyone else's, and on occasion gets caught doing things it knows it shouldn't.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Really interesting
Published 1 day ago by Alice Castle
5.0 out of 5 stars Important
This should be compulsory reading for everyone.
Published 1 day ago by Greg Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars A vital read.
Heavy going, but worthwhile read. Explains the tricks and links between government, the drug companies and lobbyists.
Well recommended.
Published 5 days ago by Krafty2014
4.0 out of 5 stars The wonders of deception!
Good book looking at the underbelly of the pharmaceutical industry. Also, gives you an insight into the way drug companies play tricks on the unsuspecting patients in their... Read more
Published 6 days ago by ProgrammerWhizz
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
This book goes through the flaws in our current medicine licensing systems, and how large companies exploit them to make money rather than actually helping the patients. Read more
Published 7 days ago by P. K. Wike
4.0 out of 5 stars Read Bad Science instead
Good up but not much more insightful than Bad Science
Published 13 days ago by J Lye
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book.
Everybody should read this! A great book ... and it clearly demonstrates that we live in a vey distorted (even for experts) world where money ensures that the good gets published... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Luc Hondeghem
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book. every medic should read it
Published 1 month ago by Ros Coles
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great thhanks
Published 1 month ago by martin underwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well written.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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