Recommended Reading: Bad Pharma

As you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you have at least a passing interest in complementary and holistic forms of healing. You might, like me, also have some reservations about the way Western medicine is often practised, and a reluctance to take Western medication.

You might have an idea that big drug companies  don’t exactly play fair, and have too much clout. And you’d be right… but until you read ‘Bad Pharma’ you won’t know the half of it.

In this book, GP and science/health writer Ben Goldacre tackles the whole of the pharmaceutical industry, and proves beyond any doubt that it is at best broken, and at worst dishonest and deceitful. And worse, that countless patients (that’s you and me, potentially) are being exposed to un-necessary suffering, and even dying, because of the way the system works.

Just a few of the topics discussed:

– Drug trials which are funded by Big Pharma companies, who dabble extensively in their execution, and put ‘gagging clauses’ on the scientists involved in case the results are negative.

– Publication bias, so that trials that show a negative effect of a drug are never published, making it impossible for a doctor or patient to find out how effective any drug really is.

– Ineffective regulators, who hide the data that they obtain from the pharmaceutical companies not only from patients, but even from doctors.

– Deliberate ‘burying’ of data on unwanted side-effects, meaning drugs are prescribed by well-meaning and best-intentioned doctors who have no idea that they may make the patient worse.

– Badly designed trials that don’t prove what they say they do. Sometimes just bad planning and design, but other times because of spin or deliberately misleading conclusions and reporting.

I could go on.

In ‘Bad Pharma’ Goldacre gives us a thorough, detailed and thoroughly researched analysis of the many faults of the pharmaceutical industry, and the fields of drug regulation and prescription. It isn’t the lightest read, but he does a great job of making some of drier material (for instance, statistical analysis of trial results) interesting and understandable. He also provides suggestions for how to remedy most of the problems, for those working in the field.

Whatever you thought you knew about this subject, you’ll be shocked and disgusted with the actuality. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in healthcare provision, and absolutely ESSENTIAL for anyone working in the field.

You can get it from and