Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 10 January 2014

Delighted that #WDDTY have reported on the #AllTrials campaign

In the past I've been a tiny bit(1) critical of both the content and editorial stance of the magazine 'What Doctors Don't Tell You'.

I am really pleased though that they've recently acknowledged (admittedly indirectly by not actually mentioning them by name) the work done by Ben Goldacre, Sense About Science and many others to put pressure on the pharmaceutical industry, via the Government, to make its full trial data available, not just the good bits.

Here's what's on WDDTY's website - UK government demands drugs industry comes clean on hidden data(2) (7 January 2014) What Doctors Don't Tell You 
The first paragraph mentions that the UK Government wants greater openness from pharmas after having spent £424m stockpiling Tamiflu without being able to be certain if it works.

The second para mentions that the Public Accounts Committee wants all trial data from all prescription drugs published.

Then it cuts off and the last bit is hidden behind a login but this is visible on cached copies, or from this copy. WDDTY highlights the source of the news is the BBC's website, from 3 January 2013.

From a search on the BBC's site I assume it's referring to this page - Lack of drug data 'extreme concern' (3 January 2014) BBC News which mentions all the stuff above (Tamiflu, £424m, Public Accts Cttee, concern at lack of data) and it also mentions the AllTrials campaign which WDDTY leaves out in a sort of reverse cherry-pick manoeuvre.

The AllTrials campaign has been running for over a year now and many organisations have signed it, though I don't believe WDDTY have done so yet. This is both expected and surprising. Expected because the campaign is organised by people and organisations that WDDTY is critical of and has been criticised by, and surprising because the campaign is aimed at the pharmaceutical industry. Given that WDDTY sets itself contra 'Big Pharma' it would seem they'd want to be involved with something that's allied to their goals, however I suspect it will be a while before there's any 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' type of rapprochement.

A number of people have posted information to WDDTY's Facebook page about the AllTrials campaign although all of these messages appear to have been promptly removed and those posting the information have also been blocked. I did try to post information there but had already been blocked (and yes, I was polite in my disagreements), so blogged about it instead back in October.

Still, it's good news that they've now decided to highlight the aims of the campaign even if they've been a smidge untransparent about its origins, it's a start I suppose.

(1) OK quite a lot
While there's some good sense in the magazine this is spoiled by an awful lot of very poor advice floating around in a marinade of ambiently bad advice. There's been a tendency also to overplay fairly small studies and not really put them into contex, which can be very misleading. On top of that several of the companies advertising in the magazine have made some claims that were not quite as they should be. Consequently there have been a number of complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority upheld and recorded as adjudications on their website.

The editors have also behaved quite unusually when people have asked for evidence or pointed out discrepancies.

They've also claimed that skeptics are trying to 'ban' the magazine (I'm not aware of anyone who's actually called for that, if they have it's certainly not been picked up and campaigned on). Everyone's perfectly happy that the magazine should be printed, it's been published for 20 years for subscribers after all, but doctors / scientists / skeptic bloggers etc are concerned at it being given a prominent place in supermarkets, a kind of endorsement. I don't want it banned, I just don't want it sold in supermarkets.

Annoyingly, and I think misleadingly, the promotional material that WDDTY have been putting out about their magazine uses this claim that people are trying to ban the magazine. I think that's a bit cheeky.

(2) This is a 'do not link' link. Amusingly WDDTY's editor, Lynne McTaggart, has claimed that skeptic bloggers use this form of linking to do SEO damage to the magazine. The link cannot do that, it merely doesn't add any extra 'google juice' to the link. Whenever a site links to another site that's recorded by search engines* as the first site recommending the second. Using a neutral link means there's no recommendation, but equally there's no damage.

*Or at least has been recorded in that way in the past, search engines are changeable beasts.


  1. Hi Jo

    Interesting that you say that the AllTrials campaign is "aimed at the pharmaceutical industry". Most of their rhetoric is indeed aimed at the pharma industry, but I'm pretty sure I've heard Goldacre claim that it's about all clinical researchers, and not just the pharmaceutical industry (though I'm not completely convinced that claim is concordant with the rhetoric).

    Just curious about how much thought you put into that sentence? And if you put a reasonable amount of thought into it, what made you conclude that AllTrials is aimed primarily at industry?


    1. In answer to 'how much thought' I think we'd all have to agree 'not as much as I could have'. I accept your point that the AllTrials campaign's remit is wider than I've given it credit for here. It does feel to me like there's a large aspect of it that's focusing on pill-related matters as opposed to other interventions, though I agree that the results from any health-related intervention should be available to anyone that needs to make appropriate use of them. Also I accept that doctors recommend / prescribe things other than simply 'pills'.

      However the rhetoricy bits that I've noticed most (bias alert!) have cued me into things like how the ABPI have responded, and companies like GSK etc. I know lots of patient groups / medical research charities have signed up too and many of them are pushing for greater transparency overall (and open access of publications too).

      My point, perhaps clumsily made then, is that whatever AllTrials covers, the bit that's been tackling drug trials is likely to be of particular interest to magazines like WDDTY that seem to spend a lot of time talking about treatments being ineffective or with problematic side-effects.



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