Himmelgarten Cafe has unearthed an interesting piece on the dubious methods of big pharma.
But what if you run six trials of which two show your drug working and four show it having no effect? If you just publish the two that show it working, it looks like you've got a fantastic product on your hands.
Those who seek to control every aspect of our lifestyle choices tend to similarly use scientific studies as proof for their daft claims. In most cases, these aren't scientific at all, merely epidemiological. They almost never prove causation, merely correlation, and they are cherry-picked to prove the point they wish to make.
That's just the ones which are published at all. Suppression of studies which don't fit the hypothesis are routinely 'killed' and those who dare to produce the evidence anyway are harangued, bullied, and hounded out of the inner circle. Scientists and epidemiologists have been known to have their funding cut and reputations destroyed.
So what's the answer? It looks like someone has had a great idea.
Ben Goldacre from Bad Science supports a register of trials. The idea is that all trials are registered before they start. If you didn't register, you can't publish. Then it's a lot more difficult to cover up inconvenient results.
Now that would be superb. Though I reckon many fake charities might be in disagreement with such a common sense approach. It would destroy their ability to lie (badly).
As HC explains, one pharma company have gone that extra yard in sleight of hand to manipulate the truth.
But Merck appear to have gone one step further. According to a report in The Scientist (free registration required), Merck had a magazine published that looked like a specialist peer-reviewed medical journal.
In fact, the journal - Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine - was a marketing exercise, stuffed with papers positive about Merck products. Not that a doctor reading it would have realised.
Just remember this when you read of some statistic being thrown at you by a snotty politician, based on a study by some highly-respected drugs company. Until such time as big pharma stop telling lies (and even Paul Flynn is able to notice such things), much of the orders cascading down from our healthist MPs should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Just as we should view claims of lies targeted at opposing industries, or supporters, as rather hypocritical.