Ben Goldacre on more bad data: this time from drug companies

By Carl Zimmer | September 30, 2012 10:47 am

This morning I was accused of writing “corporate sponsored blogs whoring themselves out to all and sundry.” Actually, I was arguing that science writers have a duty to call out weak science and press manipulation rather than cave into it. That applies to any kind of research. I happened to be talking about research on genetically modified foods and their health risks. But it applies just as well to pharmaceutical corporations that deep-six drug trials that don’t support their drugs. The most eloquent critic of this bad behavior is Ben Goldacre. You can watch this video of a TED talk he recently gave on the subject, read this essay in the Guardian, or pre-order his new book, Bad Pharma.

If highlighting Goldacre’s vital work means I have to return my gold-plated corporate-whore Corvette, so be it.

[Update: Guardian link fixed, book title fixed]


Comments (5)

  1. Thanny

    If you don’t support every single anti-GMO statement ever made, regardless of evidentiary support, you are a corporate whore, in the eyes of anti-GMO fanatics. It’s one of those groups that wouldn’t exist if the members could be reasoned with (immunity to reason being an entrance requirement), so you’ll just have to don the asbestos and stick to your guns.

  2. gaddeswarup

    Yours is one of the blogs I read for informed comment on these topics about which I have meagre background. About these alleged accusations, I can only refer to your article “How to Make a Superweed”
    About the current topic, you were justifiably upset by the behaviour of the French scientists. But I did wonder whether some of the authors you referred to actually read their paper.I browsed through the paper but I do not have the background to actually understand it well. It is confusingly written, may be because they are writing in a foreign language. It is difficult to distinguish between suggestions and assertions. But I did get the impression that it is more about roundup than GM maize, though there are some speculations about GM maize too. My overall impression is that it is a preliminary study which suggests more long term studies.
    In any case, I still look to your blog for informed comment.

    [CZ: The authors of the paper themselves in their remarks to the press did not treat the study as preliminary, but rather as an indictment of GMOs and Roundup. As for the scientists who commented on the quality of the paper, they displayed a familiarity with the details of the study. I agree that it is confusingly written, and the figures are dismal. But they argued that both GM maize and Roundup produced tumors, not Roundup alone.]

  3. Nathaniel

    This is exactly why I do my own research. Yes, it means taking a lot of drugs, (most of which you shouldn’t interact), and eating all sorts of undigestible food stuffs, but the truth beckons!

    “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

  4. Rich

    This is awesome! Thanks for posting this. My students will be watching this.

  5. Paper publishing should be more like a facebook/quora environment, where anyone could read, discuss and aggregate data in one place. Just imagine how much of we are missing by ignoring the power of internet on science …


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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