Big Pharma Naughtiness

May 20, 2010 at 7:55 pm (Big Pharma, Business, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , )

From time to time, I have referred to instances of the promoters of Alternative Medicine falling foul of regulators (for example the ASA). I thought it time to take a look at pharmaceutical slapdowns. Read the rest of this entry »

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Boosting Your Serotonin or Exploiting Your Depression?

February 1, 2010 at 9:11 pm (Bad Science, Big Pharma, Homeopathy, Patrick Holford) (, , , , , , , , )

What do Big Pharma, Patrick Holford, and Homeopaths all have in common? Well, apart from any other similarities, they all claim to be able to “boost your serotonin”, “remedy your neurotransmitter imbalance”, or help you to “overcome depression.” Read the rest of this entry »

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What are Big Pharma doing about it?

January 30, 2009 at 8:35 pm (Bad Science, Big Pharma, Code of Ethics, Dangerously Wrong, Homeopathy, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This was (roughly) a question asked on Gimpy’s blog by a supporter of homeopathy regarding Aids in Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

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Five-a-day to keep the blues away – midweek ramblings on depression

October 29, 2008 at 4:26 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Big Pharma, Nutritionism, Remedies, Supplements) (, , , , )

Via the Holford Watch miniblog: Guardian story on The Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing. I’ve even stolen HW’s idea for a campaign name. Apparently, a “five-a-day”-style campaign to boost the mental health of the nation is needed to combat rising rates of depression, anxiety and drug abuse. The five actions recommended Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy Pills and Happy Hormones? If Only It Were That Simple

October 10, 2008 at 12:24 pm (Bad Science, Big Pharma, Recreational Drugs) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Simply checking on Google or Google News will bring up lots of examples of the use of the term “happy hormone”. There are several points of interest for me. One is that there seems to be no agreement on which hormone is the happy one. Read the rest of this entry »

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Heal All Illness – By Thinking. Why do people assume AltMed is safe?

October 10, 2008 at 11:48 am (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Big Pharma, Dangerously Wrong, Placebo, Woo) (, , , , , , , )

Here’s the story, via Ben Goldacre’s miniblog, and it’s about a new therapy that professes to heal all disease, including AIDS and advanced forms of cancer. By thinking. Dr Claude Sabbah teaches that cancer and other diseases are formed in the brain first, and must be deprogrammed. He also claims that up to 90 per cent of all illnesses are caused by messages from the medical community. The mind-body link is fascinating, particularly in terms of how the placebo effect can aid recovery, but this is going way too far. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why We Need Less Research – in Alternative and Conventional Medicine

August 22, 2008 at 9:00 pm (Alternative Medicine, Big Pharma) (, , , , , )

This is intended to be a sort of a patchwork layman’s guide as to why less medical research might be a good idea. I’ll be interested to see whether I manage to stay focussed for long enough to manage a post that vaguely fits that description. I’ve been alerted via the Holford Watch and Bad Science blogs to many interesting books, academic papers and websites and a couple of those prompted this post. Read the rest of this entry »

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MMR Scare – Will We Learn From It?

July 25, 2008 at 8:57 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Big Pharma, government, Media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Measles is endemic, Wakefield is up before the GMC and the media are walking away nonchalantly, pretending they were never involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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This Post is Dedicated to…

June 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Big Pharma, Conspiracy, Fun, Miscellaneous, Trivial) (, , , )

Everyone who has been slated by John Scudamore on The pharma gang and shill pages are my favourites. Frankly, I’m a bit gutted that I don’t get a mention – I’ll have to be more vocal in my criticism of JABS and Whale in future. Richard Doll is a shill (as are Ernst and Goldacre) so I don’t think it would be appropriate for someone of my limited talents to be listed on that page, but how about a mention on the ‘pharma gang’ page John? Honestly – it would be like a badge of honour for me. The really interesting thing is that one name on the pharma gang page is John Stone. Is it a mistake or are there ideological differences (and perhaps even ‘trust issues’) in the JABS camp? Just in case it is a mistake and John Scudamore realises his error, I’ve JKN’d the page here.

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OK, Just a Little Bit More Briffa

May 30, 2008 at 8:46 pm (Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Big Pharma, Briffa, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , , )



Someone named Lex commented on Dr Briffa’s statistical significance post and made this remark: “when it comes to homeopathy and food supplements they always do include the placebo effect- they would run a mile from a double-blind trial” and Briffa responded with this:

I entirely understand the need of some people to perform randomised, placebo controlled trials (chiefly, in an effort to discern whether what is being tested has a ‘real’ effect or not). However, in the real world (that’s real people, with real problems) the fact that the placebo response may account for a lot of even the whole of a clinical response is not generally important for those the treatment is intended to help (those real people with real problems, again).

And this:

You tell us that ‘they’ (whoever ‘they’ are) in homeopathy and food supplements would ‘run a mile from a double-blind trial’. I can’t speak for homeopathy (as I don’t know much about it), but you are simply incorrect with regard to double-blind studies on nutritional agents.

I tried to point out that while Briffa had posted a link (to just one double-blind study on fish oil), the general point that Lex made was valid – most food supplement and homeopathy firms do not do double-blind trials on their products. After all, they aren’t required by regulation to do so and if they took the chance and conducted a study, then the results might well be, shall we say, ‘not to their liking’ and the money they have spent on this scientific study would be considered to have been wasted. I also pointed out that there were other issues surrounding CAM research such as poorly designed [non-] trials and companies wanting control over data. Briffa responded by claiming that Lex’s point was absolute and that Lex had claimed all supplement/homeopathy firms would run a mile from double-blind tests. Briffa seems to have a habit of making everything absolute rather than relative in order to make a point. He complains that I use qualifying terms when making my claims (‘Lex wrote ‘they would run a mile from a double-blind trial’. This is stated in absolute terms, no? Lex did not use words such as ‘generally’, or ‘usually’ or ‘tend to’. No, they – all of them – would not engage in double-blind research is the assertion’) and then tries to claim that his single example proves Lex’s point to be false – believing that he does so in the manner of Karl Popper pointing out that “if the hypothesis is that there are only white swans, I only need to show the existence of one black swan (not two, or 10 or 100) to disprove the hypothesis” – and that I have fallen into some cleverly constructed trap. The trap is that by citing one study, Briffa could lure some unsuspecting ‘scientist’ or ‘academic’ [sorry – the pejorative ‘scare quote’ thing seems to be contagious] into complaining that he had only cited one study. Unfortunately for John, I used appropriate qualifiers in my remarks about supplement/homeopathy firms so I don’t think I did fall into his ‘cleverly-constructed trap’. I simply pointed out that Lex’s argument had some validity – I never claimed that all supplement/homeopathy firms ran from double-blind tests. Also unfortunate for John is that in his crowing about getting the scalp of a ‘scientist’ or ‘academic’, he forgot to ask if I actually was either of these things. Assumption may be good enough for Dr John, but in actual fact I am neither an academic nor a scientist – he’s caught a layman [it must be a bit like going big-game hunting and shooting a ferret]. I’ll let John show just how clever he is – he can have the final say in this blog post:

Lex wrote ‘they would run a mile from a double-blind trial’. This is stated in absolute terms, no? Lex did not use words such as ‘generally’, or ‘usually’ or ‘tend to’. No, they – all of them – would not engage in double-blind research is the assertion.

Now, as I said, there is a significant body of double-blind research in the area (some of which is industry-funded, of course). I actually started out with a list of studies to rebut Lex’s claim. But then I remembered something I think Karl Popper said about swans: If the hypothesis is that there are only white swans, I only need to show the existence of one black swan (not two, or 10 or 100) to disprove the hypothesis.

And then I wondered if someone with a very pro-science stance would ‘take the bait’, focus on the fact that I only presented one study, and in so doing would betray ‘good science’ (and even logic) and demonstrate the subjectivity and prejudice that is so often found in science and academia.

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