In Ben Goldacre’s TED Talk, “What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe”, we are presented with a scary evaluation of medical research, filled systemically with bias and fraud. He states, “Positive findings are around twice as likely to be published as negative findings. This is a cancer at the core of evidence-based medicine.”
Bias, bias, everywhere. The system is being gamed, giving ammunition to purveyors of unregulated health-improvement or healing claims that are far more precarious.
But whether it’s homeopathic naivete and snake oil, or the FDA’s approval of poisons and banning of cures, scientific integrity and industry transparency are lacking. Hundreds of thousands — likely millions — of people have unnecessarily died in our lifetime. Why? In the “miracle cure” field it’s lack of rational thinking and outright con men. In the more “formal” circles of pharmacology, it’s big business influence on the political process, and rigged science to defraud both doctors and consumers.
The regulated and unregulated spheres are very different in the way such things are presented and defended in the marketplace, but the results are the same. The intellectually untrained masses accept anecdotal evidence (bias) with gusto, but when we can’t even trust a world of mechanisms that are designed to prevent it, everyone’s consumption choices become uninformed and arbitrary. It’s roulette with our very lives.