“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17
Attended a talk by Professor Peter Gotzsche last night, and as expected it was excellent; Peter combines extraordinary expertise, incredible erudition, a palpable feeling towards the victims, and a visceral anger at the dangerous disgrace that the modern pharmaceutical business has become. Originally a Master of Chemistry and Biology working in the pharma trials business, he quickly realized the misleading nature of the enterprise, and decided to study medicine in parallel, thus effectively doing two full-time jobs for several years. He co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre the same year. He became professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis in 2010 at the University of Copenhagen. He has published more than 50 papers in “the big five” (BMJ, Lancet, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine and New England Journal of Medicine) and his scientific works have been cited over 10 000 times (and most deservedly so). Last year I came across his book, and what a read it was, with over 900 references recorded therein to back up what at first seem like incredible claims; sadly, all were unerringly accurate:
For anyone who has an interest in their own health, and a desire to have some control over their safety when requiring significant medication, it is required reading. For anyone numerically literate, who will be astounded at the simple but clever methods used to twist data, conjuring up effect out of noise, and generating countless billions in the process, this is required reading. Engineers particularly will love the chicanery, whilst loathing the societal cost that results from it (yes, engineers are mostly decent sorts, so should be appropriately horrified….)
I will do a more detailed review of this important work at some point when time permits; in the interim, I will just express the hope that the “Tangled Web” woven over the past few decades, will ultimately trap the perpetrators in the way that Scott intended, and in doing so shall free up enormous amounts of currently squandered public funds.
By the way, he’s a total gentleman too, possessed of a wry humor to offset the seriousness with which he takes this critical area; I was delighted to have actually met him afterwards – in my mind he has earned a stature far beyond the myriad of “celebrities” out there, whom people seem to natter inanely about: