“Publication bias” and “evidence-based” medicine…

Wow. It’s not easy to comment on this 13-minute TED talk given last year by Dr. Ben Goldacre, titled “What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe.” (I’d add: “…and what patients don’t know about the drugs they are taking!”) I’m not totally surprised, but I didn’t realize it was THIS bad. To watch the video, just click on this link: http://goo.gl/mshuh

Check out (seven and a half minutes into the talk, more or less) what he says about antidepressants…a staggering difference, indeed. 

Then, ten minutes into the talk, don’t miss the reference to Tamiflu, a drug that is familiar to many of us (I’m now glad I’ve never touched the stuff). Whoa.

And then this: 50% of ALL trials are buried. This affects ALL fields of medicine, Dr. Goldacre says. And positive trial results are about twice as likely to be published as negative findings.  😯

Even though in the past eight years I’ve read a lot about problems and hidden data concerning clinical trials and studies, I must admit that I had no idea…I just had no idea…

And what about cancer drug trial results? Can we possibly believe they are exempt from what Dr. Goldacre calls “publication bias”? Or “research fraud”? Or fake fixes? Or…? No, of course we can’t.  

Well, we need to push to have all the “negative data” published. We need to push our doctors to find out. We need to KNOW. I think it’s bloody outrageous that we, and our doctors, are left stumbling in the dark when our lives hang in the balance. No, it’s utterly UNACCEPTABLE!!!

I want to watch this video again, to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but I have some more work to do today, so I must be off…Anyway, do have a look. And let me know what you think…Thanks!

And many thanks to Linda for posting this TED talk on FB. 🙂


  1. Are you suggesting the revlimid, carfilzomib, velcade are not useful drugs? They are – and would probably reduce your disease burden and plasma-cell-rich bone marrow. by 75% percent in two months. Then you can go back to curcumin, operating from a much more healthy foundation.

    It’s not drugs that scare me anymore; it’s being on too high doses of drugs.

  2. No, that is not what I am suggesting. And that isn’t what Dr. Goldacre is suggesting, either. The main point of this talk, I think, is that we need to know the negative as well as the positive, and it appears clear now that in many (most? all?) cases the negative is hidden from us.
    When, in 2005, my hematologist suggested I go on two cycles of Velcade (which I never did because I began taking curcumin in Jan 2006), I asked him immediately about the death statistics. That was my first question, I mean. I’m the kind of patient that wants to know about this sort of thing…the risks, the good AND the bad.
    Without the hidden info (regarding ANYTHING, even curcumin and so on), how can I make an informed decision…about my own LIFE? Indeed, how can anyone else, including my doctor/s?
    My point is: publish the negative data. But of course that isn’t going to happen, because of the way the current system operates. And so I am grateful that there are doctors out there like Dr. Goldacre…

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