■ REVIEW: Bad Pharma
Drug companies’ tactics in spotlight

This latest book by British doctor and science writer Ben Goldacre takes an often uncomfortably close look at what is happening in the global pharmaceutical industry.

I’m not anti-medication by any means – without the heart, blood pressure and diabetes drugs I swallow every day I have no doubt I wouldn’t be feeling anywhere near as well as I do these days – but there’s no way you can read this book without being left with a sense of unease.

Goldacre’s Bad Science column (published by British newspaper The Guardian since 2003) makes an art of unravelling the evidence behind misleading claims from journalists, the pharaceutical industry, alternative therapists and government reports, and his bestselling book of the same name (published in 2008), exposed the good, the bad and the ugly (and sometimes just downright ridiculous) of pseudo-scientific remedies.

Bad Pharma put the spotlight squarely on the $600 billion pharmaceutical industry and it is often quite scary reading.

That more money is spent on marketing these drugs than on research and development is a startling revelation but is is as the author gets in to the tweaking and “massaging” of clinical results that it gets really scary.

Then there are the new diseases invented in order to boost profits, patients’ pressure groups being covertly sponsored by pill manufacturers and papers, supposedly by respected academics, are actually ghost-written by drugs companies.

This is equal parts fascinating and frightening.

Bad Pharma, by Ben Goldacre (Fourth Estate, RRP $35)

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