Pharmaceuticals: tricks of the trade

December 28, 2012

I’m sure many readers of BioethicsBytes are already familiar with the TED Talks phenomenon but, as far as I’m aware this is the first time we’ve directly recommended one of their videos on this site. TED events, and later online videos, involve invited participants in giving “the talk of their lives” in 18 minutes or less. The result is a collection of pithy and thought-provoking presentations on a variety of topics.

Ben Goldacre's 2012 book Bad Pharma shines a spotlight on poor, and dangerous, practice in the pharmaceutical industry

Ben Goldacre shines a spotlight on poor and dangerous practice in the pharmaceutical industry

Ben Goldacre is a medically-qualified writer who has devoted much of his time drawing the public’s attention to examples of pseudoscience and inappropriate uses of science, originally via his regular Bad Science column in the Guardian newspaper and later in his first book, of the same name (see here for a review of the book Bad Science).

In 2012, Goldacre has turned his penetrating gaze on the pharmaceutical industry and the results, now available in his second book Bad Pharma, have brought to a wider audience concerns about the ‘tricks’ that are played by drug companies to make their products seem more successful than is warranted. Read the rest of this entry »

Some (in)famous cases of research misconduct

May 19, 2011

I gave a presentation at a recent meeting of the UK Centre for Bioscience day conference on Some (in)famous cases of research conduct. I’ve uploaded both the slides (below, and on Slideshare) as well as a table summarising who, what, when and my classification of what category or categories of research misconduct they represent. Some of the discussion at the session was of the “why haven’t you included Dr So-and-so?” variety. One of two of these were new to me, but mostly I had made a conscious decision to exclude the person named, either because they have since been exonerated or because the jury is still out. I’d welcome suggestions for other examples to include in a revised version.

Other presentations from the Teaching Research Ethics to Bioscience Students day conference are available via this link.

Science Betrayed: Reflections on research misconduct

April 4, 2011

Dr Adam Rutherford looks into misconduct in scientific research

A pair of 30 minute documentaries Science Betrayed have recently aired on Radio 4 (UK). In these programmes, Dr Adam Rutherford, Nature journalist and science interpreter for the broader public, investigates the murky world of scientific misconduct.

In the first episode, Rutherford looks at some historical and recent examples of misconduct ranging from the Piltdown Man hoax through to the case of South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-Suk. He and his interviewees reflect on some of the pressures that lead researchers to fabricate data.

The second episode focuses more specifically on the case of Andrew Wakefield and the alleged link between MMR and autism. The programme includes an interview with Wakefield himself as well as investigative journalist Brian Deer who was pivotal in uncovering evidence of malpractice.

The episodes can both be accessed via the BBC website. At the time of writing the BBC iPlayer gives no mention of expiry date so I am hopeful these are resources that will be directly available for some while. It appears that there is also an abbreviated version (18 mins) of episode 1 (and presumably episode 2, once broadcast) on the Discovery site where it is actually downloadable as an mp3 podcast – thanks to Joe (comments, below) for this tip-off.


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