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This is a scary thought, but sometimes even doctors don't have all the information they need to say that a prescription drug is safe. Unfortunately, big pharma may like it that way and purposefully hide information about dangerous drugs to get their product "onto the shelves", so to speak.

When new drugs are being tested, they go through clinical trials to determine their effectiveness and safety. However, scientific studies can have flaws–including blatant manipulation of data or fudging of the facts. Dr. Ben Goldacre, a doctor in the U.K. and author of the column "Bad Science" in the Guardian newspaper, says that even he, someone who holds himself in high regard for being able to spot bad data on drugs, has been fooled. For example, Dr. Goldacre prescribed the anti-depressant reboxetine for years to his patients based on insufficient data. Reboxetine is actually largely ineffective based on clinical trials, but was able to pass Europe's drug approval process because the drug manufacturer simply did not publish the negative outcomes of some of its trials. In contrast, the U.S. has required all drug manufacturers to register clinical trials with the government since 2007, whether or not those studies were published.

Nevertheless, even bad drugs get onto the market in the U.S. The problem there are many pharmaceutical industry-funded studies, which are overwhelmingly positive. In comparison, the fewer numbers of government-funded studies don't find as positive of results. Goldacre also describes how pharmaceutical companies hide medication risks to children, intimidate researchers who publish negative results and withhold safety data that shows when drugs are harmful to patients. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go to ensure patient safety.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Jessica Hoerman

    Totally agree, David and just wanted to add that if you have not seen the TED talk that Ben Goldacre did last year, it is totally worth a watch!

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