Battling Bad Science
The speaker says that epidemiology is the science of how people know the things that are good for them. Journalists and other self-proclaimed professionals have made various claims regarding human health that have no science backing. Some of these claims include housework reducing the instances of developing breast cancer and shopping causing impotence in men (TEDGlobal, 2011). An epidemiologist is tasked with investigating such assertions and determining whether they are genuine or not based on scientific evidence.
The problem with clinical trials that compare a new medicine to a placebo is that the results are typically positive in favor of the drug. They favor the drug because of its effectiveness notwithstanding, it is better than nothing, which is what the placebo group entails (Turner &Hoofwijk, 2013). Therefore, it is better to compare the effectiveness of a new drug with one that is already on the market for treating the same illness than a placebo.
One of the most common methods used to rig studies is the use of a placebo for comparison instead of the drug already in place to counter an illness. In the event of not using a placebo, pharmaceutical companies tend to used absurd doses of the existing drugs to render it ineffective or have its side effects amplified, which is achieved by either administering too low or extremely high doses of the competing drug (Singh, 2016). Another approach that is used to rig studies is the exclusion of the negative data from the final reports. The information is withheld from both the doctors and patients making them have a positive outlook with regards to the drug.
Publication bias occurs when a drug company only publishes the data that is positive to promote a drug while withholding the negative data. The activity puts the doctors and patients in a tricky position, as most of the adverse side effects or possible consequences of misuse of the drugs are not made public.
The biggest ethical problem facing medicine today is the withholding of adverse data by drug companies. They do so with the intention of making their drugs appear as the best in the market without accounting for the failures observed in the trial phase and the possible negative effects of the drug in the future. Additionally, their reluctance to reveal the negative data to interested parties even after it has been established that they have withheld it is even more disconcerting (TEDGlobal, 2011). Governments and other prominent organizations are unable to coerce the drug companies to release negative data from their trials. Despite the fact that some drug companies fail to publish a very significant chunk of the trial data, sometimes more than 50% of it, to have the drugs approved. Moreover, limited legal leeway to make the drug companies release the withheld data exist, which compounds the problem (Singh, 2016). Undoubtedly, the pharmaceutical companies withhold of negative data for commercial gain. I have not explicitly had anyone that I know affected by this problem, majorly because I have not been of its existence in the pharmaceutical industries. However, now I suspect that this issue might have been the causative factor of the illnesses of some people I know worsening after treatment, rather than them recovering.
Singh, R. (2016). Review on “Multiregional clinical trials for simultaneous global new drug development.” Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 100(5), 412-412. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cpt.412
TEDGlobal. (2011). Ben Goldacare: Battling Bad Science. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_battling_bad_science?language=en
Turner, J., &Hoofwijk, T. (2013).Clinical Trials in New Drug Development. The Journal Of Clinical Hypertension, 15(5), 306-309. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jch.12085