An explanation of why pharmaceutical companies have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.
As both a physician and medical correspondent (Bad Science, 2010), Goldacre has been in the catbird seat in regard to the detection of medical fraud. Here, he discusses the gray area in which drug companies can legally manipulate data in order to package experimental results in the most attractive way. Although Goldacre practices medicine in the U.K., his book is applicable to the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. He explains what should be an obvious flaw in the system: The majority of experiments validating the safety and benefits of new drugs are funded by the pharmaceutical industry, either directly or indirectly, through grants to universities and other methods. Because of this, writes Goldacre, “industry-sponsored studies are more likely to produce results that flatter the sponsor's drug.” The author cites the conclusion by three researchers from Harvard and Toronto, who conducted a meta-analysis of data on antidepressants and other drugs in 2010. They found major discrepancies in results related to reported effectiveness between research conducted by industry-funded and government-funded trials. Goldacre believes that such reviews should be conducted routinely, backdated and made easily available to the public. Currently, pharmaceutical companies are not obligated to publish results that are unfavorable to their product. Another shady tactic is touting the short-term performance of drugs that become less effective over time. The author supports enforceable government regulation.
A useful guide for policymakers, doctors and the patients who need protection against deliberate disinformation.