from the introduction:
Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But these colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies–often undisclosed–and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are even owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all. These are ongoing problems, and although people have claimed to fix many of them, for the most part they have failed; so all these problems persist, but worse than ever, because now people can pretend that everything is fine after all.
. . . Some people will say that this book is an attack on the pharmaceutical industry, and of course it is. But it’s not only that, and it’s not unbounded. I suspect that most of the people who work in this industry are fundamentally good-hearted, and there is no medicine without medicines. Drug companies around the world have produced some of the most amazing innovations of the past fifty yeas, saving lives on an epic scale. But that does not allow them to hide data, mislead doctors and harm patients.
. . . More than anything, though, I don’t want you to lose sight of one thing: this is a pop science book. The tricks and distortions documented in these pages are beautiful, and intricate, and fascinating int heir details. The true scale of this murderous disaster only reveals itself when the details are untangled. Good science has been perverted on an industrial scale, but this has happened slowly, and evolved naturally, over time. This has all been perpetrated by ordinary people, but many of them may not even know what they’ve done.