About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rationally Speaking podcast: Ben Goldacre on Bad Pharma

"Medicine is broken," warns Ben Goldacre, the British physician, academic, author of the Guardian's Bad Science column.

In this live episode of Rationally Speaking, Massimo and Julia interview Ben about his new book, Bad Pharma, and how the evidence about pharmaceutical drugs gets distorted due to shoddy regulations, missing data, and the influence of drug companies.

About the book: We like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence and the results of fair tests. In reality, those tests are often profoundly flawed. We like to imagine that doctors are familiar with the research literature about a drug, when in reality much of the research is hidden from them by drug companies. We like to imagine that doctors are impartially educated, when in reality much of their education is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. We like to imagine that regulators let only effective drugs onto the market, when in reality they approve useless drugs, with data on side effects casually withheld from doctors and patients.

All these problems have been shielded from public scrutiny because they’re too complex to capture in a sound bite. But Ben Goldacre shows that the true scale of this murderous disaster fully reveals itself only when the details are untangled. He believes we should all be able to understand precisely how data manipulation works and how research misconduct on a global scale affects us.

With Goldacre’s characteristic flair and a forensic attention to detail, Bad Pharma reveals a shockingly broken system and calls for something to be done. This is the pharmaceutical industry as it has never been seen before.


  1. Hate to get on my soap-box again, but we really DO have a bad medical system. As I have written in previous posts, the patent system of medicine encourages fraud and abuse.

    See the series in the Washington Post, "Biased Research, Big Profits" by Peter Whoriskey.

  2. Always good to hear from Ben Goldacre. He's a thoroughly nice chap as well as someone with a lot of important things to say.

    Enjoyed the podcast, as always.

  3. This wouldn't happen to be the book's sell sheet or promo, would it?

    1. You mean the last paragraphs in the text above? Yes. But that's not the content of the podcast... ;-)

  4. The following quote is from a post by Ben Goldacre at Bad Science :

    "There is no serious defense for withholding information about clinical trials from doctors and patients. It is simply unethical, and it harms patients. The best that the ABPI, and less ethical corners of industry and medical academia can hope for, is distraction, obfuscation, and delay. That is why it is so important that this issue is kept firmly in the public domain.

    Please support www.alltrials.net in any way you can, sign the petition at alltrials.net, and encourage your organisation to sign up where appropriate."

  5. This was a fantastic episode. For all the nonsense that gets pushed by the alt med crowd about Big Pharma conspiracies, it's good to finally get a glimpse into some actual bad behavior. Bravo to Ben and the hosts for a challenging episode.


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