Books Read in 2015: 7. Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients – Ben Goldacre

Genre: Science, medicine

Narrative Style: Scientific discourse but with a conversational, informal tone at times. bad pharma

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2013

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Goldacre explains the problems with modern medicine and posits ways to improve it. He looks at the issue of missing data, biased trials, drug companies concerned with profit not health and suggests ways in which the situation can be changed. 

I went to see Goldacre speak when he was promoting this book back in 2013 so it really is quite disgraceful that it has taken me until now to read it. I got distracted into reading Bad Science first. It had been in the back of my mind for a while so it was good to finally get round to it.

Reading this book was a lot like seeing Goldacre speak. Although some of the concepts he explains are difficult, his clear style and enthusiasm for the subject make it easier to take in. Goldacre is extremely passionate about what he believes needs to be done in medicine – in fact, so much so, I felt a little worried for his sanity if none of the changes he longs for came to pass. It really is refreshing to read the point of view of someone so open and honest about what he believes.

This book didn’t really surprise me – that in itself is a depressing comment on the state of medicine currently – but reading all the different problems that Goldacre outlines made me realise the scale of the problem and the difficulties that are faced when trying to sort it all out. As a patient, you assume that your doctor has the best information at their fingertips. You trust them. It is extremely worrying to think that between them and knowledge, sit the drug companies, hoarding the information like gold hungry dragons. As with so many other areas of modern life, the drug companies are running medicine and the NHS like they are profit making organisations not the means to avoid pain, suffering and death.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Bad Science. The main reason for this was that it was so focused. Of course, I knew it would be but I think I possibly didn’t need all the information that the book contained and I actually felt exhausted at the end. It was pleasing to see that some progress has been made by Goldacre and his supporters although it is impossible to say at this stage what effect these changes might have. Here’s hoping they go some way to fixing the problem.

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