When Dr. Ben Goldacre was last on Sunday House Call, we were discussing his international bestseller, Bad Science. His recent book released on February 5, Bad Pharma, exposes the multitude of problems inherent in the drug approval process, the manner in which clinical studies are conducted, how negative outcomes in studies are hidden, the marketing of drugs, the influence upon academic institutions and publications to promote findings for particular drugs, and most importantly the potential harm and indeed real harm that has befallen many people because of the hidden data.
Sunday House Call, #404, July 8, 2012: Fizzy Sugar Water for the Masses
Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his intention to introduce a restriction on soda pop (sugary drinks) cup sizes to no greater than 16 ounces that would affect locales such as city restaurants, stadiums, food carts and movie theatres.
This proposal has generated commentary ranged from total support to outright rejection by some groups. The debate has been framed by some as a health issue and that there must be a starting point to reverse the tide of calorie glut; the opposite of a death by a thousand cuts to better health by a thousand changes.
Others frame it as an assault on the freedom to choose what we want to eat and the government has no place restricting individual food choices.
But we do have a serious problem in society. Our environment is obesogenic, that is, it is designed to promote overconsumption of food: The location of fast food restaurants to the design of food aisles in grocery stores to the fact that in 2009 a study conducted by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that we underestimate the extent of our exposure to junk food advertising and overestimate the degree to which health food is advertised.
The study reported in Timothy Caufield’s new book, The Cure for Everything: Untangling The Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness And Happiness that “carbonated beverages, fast food restaurants and breakfast cereals spent 18,182 times as much marketing to youth ($1.2 billion) compared to dairy, fruits and vegetables ($66,000 in total). Survey participants thought the average kid saw one to 3 junk food television advertisements a day. The actual number? Almost 15. That equals approximately 5500 yearly television messages about the yummy qualities of salt, sugar, and fat.
Joining us today is
Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen journalist and author of Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear and Future Babble Why Expert Predictions Fail – and Why We Believe Them Anyway
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa
Sunday House Call, #355, June 12, 2011 Increasingly through many media sources, health information and data from clinical studies and advisory panels among others has a tendency to be misrepresented, risk overinflated, and health scares oversold compared to what really can and does cause harm. This misinformation creates an incomplete picture of health risks and [...]
Since our last interview with Dr. Ben Goldacre in March of this year, he has written many a tale about the ongoing misrepresentations of science through agencies that wish to sell you a product or provide information through media sources.
Given that many applications of common alternative medical treatments are harmless in nature, there are times when the modes of thinking and claims made by the purveyors of these “health products” cause misery and death.
Such is the case of vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath who sued Dr. Goldacre, and the Guardian, for libel. Rath lost his case after a long and expensive court battle but the harm that befell the people of South Africa when his products were touted as a treatment for AIDS and supported by the South African Government was severe.
Dr. Goldacre now has published the chapter of his book Bad Science entitled The Doctor will Sue You Now now that he has won the court case. It is a sad illustration and a very serious story about the dangers of pseudoscience.
As Dr. Goldacre states,
Matthias Rath takes us rudely outside the contained, almost academic distance of this book. For the most part we’ve been interested in the intellectual and cultural consequences of bad science, the made-up facts in national newspapers, dubious academic practices in universities, some foolish pill-peddling, and so on. But what happens if we take these sleights of hand, these pill-marketing techniques, and transplant them out of our decadent Western context into a situation where things really matter?
Original broadcast date: March 1, 2009 What constitutes a good science story? That depends on what side of the fence you sit on. If you are in the news business, fear and sensationalism are all too commonly used to grab your audience’s attention. If you are a company extolling the virtues of a new treatment, [...]
What questions should we be asking when presented with the myriad of results from clinical studies? Are they presenting information that is important to patients? For example, in diabetes research, how often are quality of life outcomes and risk of death used as primary outcomes of the research? A report published in the June 4th [...]
Original broadcast date: April 20, 2008 We are the safest and healthiest human beings who ever lived, and yet irrational fear is growing, with deadly consequences — such as the 1,595 Americans killed when they made the mistake of switching from planes to cars after September 11. In part, this irrationality is caused by those [...]
Original broadcast date: August 28, 2005 In a June Rolling Stone article, and in subsequent appearances on Imus in the Morning, ABC News, and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Bobby Kennedy Jr accuses US government vaccine scientists and their academic advisers of covering up what for him is an uncontestable fact: the causal link [...]