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Friday, 8 November 2013

Drugs and Pharma: a matter of trust?

Medicines have significant costs, both financial and in terms of serious adverse effects. Treatment
should therefore only be prescribed and continued when the benefit outweighs the risk. This presupposes that health professionals, patients, and policymakers have trustworthy evidence to support clinical use of medicines.

It is vital that research on medicines is objective in order to show whether proposed treatments are effective for improving clinically meaningful outcomes for patients, how they compare to existing remedies, and the relative and absolute cost implications of adopting the treatment.

In his seductive polemic Bad Pharma, psychiatrist and 'Bad Science' Guardian columnist Ben Goldacre raises major concerns about the quality of evidence on the efficacy and safety of specific drugs and classes of treatment in clinical use. His book has added to recent public concern about medicines, their safety, and the probity of pharmaceutical companies.

This background concern for the public has been inspired both by works of fiction, for example the film Side Effects, set within a corrupted psychotherapeutic sector, and John Le Carre's African novel The Constant Gardener, which raises important questions about the ethics of clinical research on anti-infective agents in developing countries.

And by a series of very large fines imposed on major pharmaceutical companies for a wide range of reported major errors of omission and commission, including concealed data on safety, and encouragement of doctors to prescribe off-licence, i.e. to patient groups for whom there is no or insufficient evidence on effectiveness or safety of medicines.

See more in reviews in the Reinvention Journal

Ben Goldacre Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients.
London: Fourth Estate. Reprinted with edits: February 5, 2013 0865478007 978-0865478008

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