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Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  7,186 ratings  ·  672 reviews
Medicine is broken. We like to imagine that it’s 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 surrounding a drug, when in reality much of the research is hidden from them by drug companies. We like to imagine that doctors are impartially educat ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 25th 2012)
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Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Stop Press: this should be compulsory reading for anyone…with a pulse, really. I can’t think of a single person who should be excused from the reading rota here.

This is the MOST appalling, horrific, mind-numbing expose on the current state of medicine I had never hoped to see, or know, or be a part of. Ever.

You ever go to the doctor? You a doctor? No? Maybe you expect the doctor, as the specialist, to be able to diagnose and treat you accordingly. I know I do: I go in with my ailments and I lik
Dec 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
Currently reading this but not so sure how much more I can take. There is some decent information here. The title is absolutely true. Drug companies are businesses and multibillion dollar corporations are not ethical paragons. They do not publish studies that make their drug look bad or even "as good as." There are sponsored journals that are sponsor biased. Sometimes legit journals want the most interesting "this changes everything" articles rather than another "dog bites man" article to boost ...more
I read Goldacre's book Bad Science very recently, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to not go for my usual buffer period between very similar books and just jump right into Bad Pharma. And they are very similar books, though this one is actually longer, for all that it is more specialized in one area of badness.

There was a lot of overlap between the two, which is to be expected, I guess, because Goldacre IS a doctor, and lives in this world. I didn't really mind the rehash though, because
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I appreciate how Ben Goldacre is trying to open the eyes of the people to many of the issues relating to science reporting. I check his blog every now and then, but this is the first time I've read his books. As background, I'm a GP in NZ, British by birth and training, closer to the start of my career than the end and I don't see drug reps or attend drug sponsored CME (consciously at least; sometimes it can be difficult to tell). I'm also fairly clued up on the issues he presents here so in som ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2014
Goldacre has a way of making complex science subjects accessible to the wider public. His first book, Bad Science, highlighted the way that the media dealt with reporting science, and in this book he concentrates his ire onto the $600 billion global pharmacy industry, now dominated by a handful of behemoths.

And what he reveals is frankly terrifying. He details the way that the industry hides a large majority of the trial data, the way that the legislation requiring data to be published is ignore
Kaelan Ratcliffe▪Κάϊλαν Ράτκλιφ▪كايِلان راتكِليف
This Affects You

I'm glad I stopped and read the short (no less impactful) essay The Corporation by Joel Bakan midway through this book, it definitely helped in coping with the subject. I feel like Ben Goldacre has simply stumbled across a more specific problem in a larger mess our world faces today.

What the reader will have introduced to themselves during the 400+ pages of Bad Pharma, is a consistently horrifying expose of the corruption and bad practices that have taken place in a deregula
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Okay, somehow Goodreads didn't save the last review I tried to write. So I'll try again:

If I only had read this book a day earlier I could have flagged it as the most depressing read of 2012. It made me cry out loud and swear a lot (just ask my girlfriend who had to listen to it for the most time).

Bad Pharma gives a great overview on how medicine is failing patients (aka each of us) all the time. Publication bias, missing access to raw data and all the other nuisances which might be familiar t
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding book and everyone should read it. It took me about 3 sittings to get through it as I found rage slowly building as I read it and had to get up and pace around the house a bit.

The book systematically works through all the ways in which the practice of evidence based medicine is being distorted by the big pharmaceutical companies. It identifies all of the perverse incentives that make those distortions an unavoidable part of doing business, and then helpfully identifies ways
The flesh-and-bones of Big Pharma’s R&D and marketing...

The Good:
--While there may be some unsettling notions of Big Pharma, such feelings can easily be diverted to anti-vax and other media sensationalism given the liberal black-hole in critical analysis of political economy. Unlike his previous books that deal with broader topics like media manipulation (Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks, I Think You'll Find it's a Bit More Complicated Than That), in this book Goldacre picks th
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Here Ben Goldacre follows up on his previous book, Bad Science, by turning his spotlight solely on the pharmaceuticals industry. This is a terrifying book because it argues in great detail that our understanding of the efficacy of many drugs and the extent of their side effects is fundamentally flawed.

Goldacre starts with the criticism he finds most damning: namely, when drug companies conduct a trial and the results don't support their own medecine, they frequently fail to publish the results -
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked another book by Goldacre, Bad Science, & his web site so I read this even though I'm not much for taking any medications. Woah, what a mess. Between this & Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions, I'm really discouraged by the state of affairs.

I've heard a lot of people denigrate Big Pharma for a variety of reasons. A lot of it sounds like a conspiracy theory, so I discounted it. The truth isn't somewhere in between as I'd thoug
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"The story of the serotonin hypothesis for depression, and its enthusiastic promotion by drug companies, is part of a wide process that has been called 'disease-mongering' or 'medicalisation', where diagnostic categories are widened, whole new diagnoses are invented, and normal variants of human experience are pathologised, so they can be treated with pills."

Ben Goldacre touched on the evils of the pharmaceutical industry in his previous book, Bad Science, and this book greatly expands upon thos
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing you need to know about this book is Goldacre doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is an attack on the pharmaceutical industry, he’s here to tell the reader some home truths: problems, fixes, and suggestions on what we can do. The issues Goldacre is addressing have evolved over time, and now it’s fair to say:

“Medicine is broken.”

Medicine is one of those topics that you may know bits and pieces about, may have heard rumours and chatter, but, unless you’re in the field of medicine
Mohamed al-Jamri
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Medicine is broken.

"We are going to see that the whole edifice of medicine is broken, because the evidence we use to make decisions is hopelessly and systematically distorted. And this is no small thing. Because in medicine doctors and patients use abstract data to make decisions in the very real world of flesh and blood. If those decisions are misguided they can result in death and suffering and pain."

The whole book is written to defend the following paragraph:
Drugs are tested by the people who
Tanja Berg
A very interesting read about how medicine is developed, released and distributed. It suffers mostly from being dry and detailed. This is not a conspiracy book. It's about facts, some of them quite complicated, particularly if you are unfamiliar with scientific methodolgy.

One of the problems is missing data. Most of the trials that are negative, that do not have the result the sponsor (the pharmaceutical industry, usually) hoped for, are never published. The data is extremely difficult to get a
I didn't quite know what to expect with this book. After I read the title, I wondered if it might be driven by conspiracy theory. It was anything but. Goldacre focuses mainly on missing data-- how it gets lost, how its absence affects how trustworthy the findings are, and what that means for the subsequent care recommendations made from incomplete data. I remember learning about the file drawer affect in which papers that do not include a strong finding are never published, and thus kept out of ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is not unbiased, but it is largely fair. The "bad" examples really happened, and some of the behaviors are still widespread - like failure to publish clinical trial results even years after the trial has been completed. As someone who's worked for two of the biggest firms, I'm still unhappy by the lack of transparency. But I do see signs of improvement. No company wants to have a reputation of being the lowest of the low. More people should read this book, and demand better accountabil ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academia
This is a great instance of science not standing up to scrutiny by its own methods.

One of the great crimes of health care is that it is dominated by companies whose primary concern is profit, not necessarily our health; these are not the private health providers but drug companies. I have been around this area for years, from my days as a trade union campaign organiser in the public health sector and now in a university School of Sport and Exercise with a strong strand dealing with public health
Donna Brown
Bad Pharma is actually a fairly scary book to pick up when you’ve just collected a prescription from the chemist but I’d heard a lot about Bad Science (which I’ve since read) and thought Bad Pharma would be incredibly interesting. I certainly wasn’t wrong.

This is pretty much a damaging expose of the pharmaceutical industry’s involvement in modern medicine. Not necessarily their manufacture and distribution of tablets that do improve people’s lives every day but more the unnecessary peddling of d
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great overview into one of the largest health and economic problems today. As someone with experience in both the world of research and clinical medicine, I can say that the information in this book is accurate. The information is presented in a surprisingly non-biased and non 'conspiracy theory' way. The organization is such that there is wonderful flow and each idea builds on itself. I appreciate the fact that there are proposed solutions to the problems, many of which have the poten ...more
Feb 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: demagoguery
Had to add a new shelf -- demagoguery -- for this one. Good God. But then again, his website says he frequently gives speeches in rock venues, so what do you expect.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
At first sight this might be seen as another piece of new-age anti-pharma ranting: Big Pharma is Bad and therefore we should not trust it or use its products, turning our backs on the knowledge that has extended life-spans and improved our health during our lives.

To make such an assumption would be to do this book a grave injustice; Ben Goldacre is himself a doctor and believes whole-heartedly in the benefits that modern medicine has brought to humankind. What he objects to is, as shown in his c
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very well researched muckraking about the corruption of medical information. This is what serious non-fiction/journalism is supposed to do.

Some negative reviews here of this book implied that the author is making this stuff up or exaggerating, because even if Big Pharma lies that doesn't have any impact on doctors, who are trained to see through those lies. Goldacre goes over some of the research showing how that's not true: most doctors believe what they're told by experts, or even drug reps.
Stewart Tame
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent book that people need to read. It will make you angry about the pharmaceutical industry, which is rather the point. Goldacre's style is calm and rational leavened with just a touch of humor. He provides plenty of data to support his arguments. He points out the flaws in the current system and suggests some reasonable changes. This book should really be more of a topic for discussion than it currently is.
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
From the introduction:
'Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in a such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don't like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, s
Carlos Martinez
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A very useful, important book, explaining (in gritty detail) how pharmaceutical companies - sometimes in collaboration with regulators, governments and doctors - take shortcuts and sometimes engage in outright fraud in order to get their medicines on the market and into patients throughout the world. Thankfully the book isn't anti-science or anti-medicine, and is therefore not a nutty vitalist rant about the entire pharmaceutical industry being a scam; it correctly notes that drug development ha ...more
Thomas Edmund
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Bad Pharma is a sequel of sorts from the author of Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks an original piece about poor scientific process, across a variety of fields.

Pharma on the other hand lampoons the pharmaceutical industry (I bet you didn't guess from the name) targeting biased publishing trends, dodgy marketing tactics, and misinformed regulators (amongst other concerns) including his own ideas on solutions and prevention.

Unlike many polemics Goldacre's solutions are well thoug
McGrouchpants, Ltd.
Almost essential, this book prescribes a mode of relief not only for the pharmaceutical industr[ies], but for many high-level corporations which have problems with public promotion vs. due diligence. As always, the question is one of transparency, and of rigor, as opposed to the forces — including human lethargy, neglect, honest oversight, and outright seduction — mitigating against doing Good Work.

Goldacre's point-of-view (and voice) is warm, empathetic, and realistic without being discouraging
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not a treatise against medicine. This is not a conspiracy theorist attack on vaccines. It's a doctor's thoroughly researched and heartfelt expose of the systemic problems in the drugs industry - problems that expose us to potentially dangerous new medicines, or at the very least worthless medicines that cost us millions. You won't find any stories about evil corporate execs laughing as they poison children in Africa for fat medicine contracts. You will find real and shocking stories of h ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ben Goldacre documents how drug companies are able to get doctors to prescribe drugs of marginal effectiveness and undetermined safety. By understanding how new drugs are tested, approved, and marketed, you increase your chances of avoiding damage to your health and pocketbook. Big Pharma does develop useful medicines that save lives, but the main goal is to make money. Read this book to learn how to better avoid dangerous and not-worth-the-money drugs.

I had read most of this book before the li
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Ben Goldacre is a British science writer and psychiatrist, born in 1974. He is the author of The Guardian newspaper's weekly Bad Science column and a book of the same title, published by Fourth Estate in September 2008.

Goldacre is the son of Michael Goldacre, professor of public health at the University of Oxford, the nephew of science journalist Robyn Williams, and the great-great-grandson of Sir

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