EU Drug Safety Disaster – AllTrials Campaign – Dr Ben Goldacre Intervenes But Fails To Explain Why AllTrials is Achieving The Opposite of His Promises Of Greater Drug Safety

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Age of Autism is currently running a story on this:  Goldacre’s Munich Agreement – Publishing Data on the Pharma’s Terms

CHS commented, including to say we don’t trust Dr Goldacre.  Then Dr Ben Goldacre dropped by to comment.   The debate is looking interesting.  You could do yourself a favour by taking a look: Comments.

CHS has recently reported this issue:

Martin Walker’s book on Dr Ben Goldacre can be found here:  Cultural Dwarfs and Junk Journalism: Ben Goldacre, Quackbusting and Corporate Science

Meanwhile we cherrypick:

This is what CHS first wrote:

Dr Ben Goldacre then posted this:

CHS then wrote this:

 

 

 

US Bill [Albany, NY] To Allow US 4 Year Olds To Opt Into Anti-Sexually Transmitted Disease Vaccines – Blocked Temporarily

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Amy Paulin’s bill A497a in Albany NY appears temporarily blocked according to The Autism Action Network. New Yorkers contacted their representatives yesterday to complain, suggesting that perhaps letting four-year olds decide that they want to get vaccines for sexually-transmitted diseases without their parents’ consent is not a good idea.

The result was that Amy Paulin’s bill A497a was pulled from the agenda of the Health Committee meeting. That doesn’t mean this bill is dead. Another pending bill requires meningitis shots for all seventh graders and new college students. Another bill that will change the law so that healthcare professionals can add New York adults’ vaccine records to the statewide database of vaccine records with only “oral” approval, rather than the current written approval. This may likely result in all records ending up in the database because there will be no mechanism to prevent that from happening.

The temporarily blocked STD vaccine bill is based on the bizarre notion that a child of any age is competent to make a rational decision about whether to get a vaccine, but a parent cannot. Parents can only opt out of vaccines in New York for religious reasons, not reasons of safety or efficacy.

This bill is a backdoor way to increase sales of Gardasil and Cervarix, the HPV vaccines. And more importantly to begin the destruction of parents rights’ to make vaccine choices for our children. When Gardasil was first rolled out on the market a very aggressive and well-funded effort was made to make this new and poorly-tested vaccine mandatory to attend school in every state. Fortunately, this unprecedented effort failed in every state. But Paulin keeps trying.

According to the federal Vaccine Event Reporting System there have been 34,700 reported incidents with HPV vaccines including 165 deaths, 11,562 emergency room visits, 3614 hospitalizations, and 1129 permanent disabilities. And according to former head of the FDA Dr. David Kessler these injuries are probably less than 10% of the actual number. The safety record for HPV vaccines is so dismal that Japan no longer recommends it for their citizens.

A recent poll by the National Consumer’s League and Harris Interactive showed that 76% of all parents think they should have the final say on what vaccines their children receive. Only 1% believe state government should have the final say. It is absurd to assume that a child of any age knows enough about their own medical history and the medical history of their family to provide informed consent. They must know if they had earlier adverse reactions to vaccines given to them as infants, and they need to know whether they have allergies or sensitivities to vaccine ingredients. And they need to know whether there is a family medical history that would contra-indicate a shot.

A person giving the shot, who may have a financial incentive to do so, is allowed to use whatever reasons they want to determine if a minor is capable of giving consent.

This bill also provides protection to pedophiles by subverting New York’s law that requires licensed professionals to report suspected sexual abuse of children. What rational person would not suspect something was very wrong if a nine year old requested an injection that purports to prevent a sexually-transmitted disease.

There is nothing in the law that prevents children from consenting to experimental vaccines.

There are more than 200 school-based clinics in the state of NY that could give a child vaccine without a parent’s knowledge.

And the US thinks other countries have problems with Human Rights!!!!  Look in the mirror.

 

Counties sue narcotics makers, alleging ‘campaign of deception’ – Los Angeles Times

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5888752_sTwo California counties sued five of the world’s largest narcotics manufacturers on Wednesday, accusing the companies of causing the nation’s prescription drug epidemic by waging a “campaign of deception” aimed at boosting sales of potent painkillers such as OxyContin.

Officials from Orange and Santa Clara counties — both hit hard by overdose deaths, emergency room visits and escalating medical costs associated with prescription narcotics — contend the drug makers violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.

In sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry, the lawsuit alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary.” The effort “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic,” the lawsuit contends.

Click below to read the full story:

Counties sue narcotics makers, alleging ‘campaign of deception’ – Los Angeles Times.

We are constantly being told that vaccines are approved by governments who have thoroughly tested them for both safety and effectiveness. Yet the same government regulators who approve vaccinations have also approved these drugs which are now the basis of a lawsuit in Los Angeles. How much can we trust what these officials tell us? Are vaccine safety and efficacy trials just more ‘tobacco science’? When will we see lawsuits by counties in the US and elsewhere due to the terrible toll caused by vaccine injuries and deaths? The answer is, we believe – it’s only a matter of time.

EU Draft Drug Safety Laws A “Disaster” – Congratulations To Dr Ben Goldacre & AllTrials On Undermining Drug Safety Worldwide

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Dr Ben Goldacre’s involving himself in drug safety regulation looks like turning into a nightmare for everyone except the drug industry.  When we look at who is really behind his AllTrials Campaign, there is good reason to be worried.

Dr Ben Goldacre, as a seeming new convert to drug safety regulation, published a book “Bad Pharma” last August about the drug industry.  He also took it seemingly upon himself to found the AllTrials campaign with great public fanfare to get drug industry clinical trial data opened up to scientific scrutiny.

The most recent outcomes have been described as a “disaster” by internationally respected expert Dr David HealyMaking Medicine More Dangerous for You and Your Children – Drug Industry Wins System Which Hides Drug Hazards  

Others also are concerned about the fallout and effects of Dr Goldacre’s meddling.  CHS reports on some of those further concerns here. We specifically quote below Trudo Lemmens of the University of Toronto.  Trudo Lemmens is Associate Professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, with cross appointments in the Faculty of Medicine and the Joint Centre for Bioethics.

Trudo Lemmens observations are most revealing about the disaster Dr Ben Goldacre and his playmates have been instrumental in unfolding.  In short Dr Goldacre has been instrumental in building a platform of political pressure for change of drug regulation with the drug industry taking over the impetus to manipulate regulation favourable to it and get its own way to the detriment of you, your family and children.

Well done Dr Ben Goldacre.

Dr Ben Goldacre’s response to criticism is to use his extensive BadScience Forum network and social media to stir up bullying, abuse and harassment on the internet of anyone who dares criticise him: Dr Ben Goldacre Forced By CHS to Answer Criticism Over Drug Safety – But Not Before Goldacre’s Usual Response – Bullying, Abuse & Harassment.

But first CHS directs your attention to The AllTrials Campaign.  Who is really behind it? 

It is run for Dr Ben Goldacre by lobby front group Sense About Science. That Sense About Science are behind Dr Goldacre’s campaigning is more than a little troubling. 

Sense About Science were first exposed by journalist George Monbiot writing in the UK’s Guardian newspaper in 2003: Invasion of the entryists How did a cultish political network become the public face of the scientific establishment? 9 December 2003 The Guardian.

Sense About Science were also exposed by Lobby Watch as having strong links to the GMO industry, the Living Marxism group and Spiked.

Sense About Science are listed under “Contact Info” buried at the end of a very long page as the only contact point for AllTrials on the AllTrials website:

c/o Sense About Science, 14A Clerkenwell Green, London, UK, EC1R 0DP. Phone: +44 (0) 20 7490 9590 Email: alltrials@senseaboutscience.org  Web: Contact form

Quite why a bunch of British Marxists should also suddenly espouse capitalistic ideals of industrial and commercial science after the Berlin Wall came down following “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” in the former Sovier Union is something which defies belief.  It is almost as if whatever their old job was as Cold War Warriors, there was a new job to do and they just jumped from their Marxist horses mid gallop for capitalist ones to ride off in a completely different direction.

Here are some of the entries on Lobby Watch’s website under the heading “LIVING MARXISM LINKS”

Living Marxism

Sense About Science

Genetic Interest Group

Science Media Centre

Fiona Fox

Spiked-online

Frank Furedi (Click & then see Living Marxism profile)

Getting drug trial data opened up for scientific scrutiny is something many many others have been working at for decades, having to counter the manipulations of the drug industry to avoid that happening.

So how come no-longer-so-fresh-baby-faced Dr Ben Goldacre with his new friends thought he could succeed in a few months where others have toiled for decades and continue to do so against the well greased wheels of the drug industry in political life?  Or was that ever a  serious consideration?  Is it all smoke and mirrors? 

The involvement of Sense About Science and its history suggests it is and always was.  On the most favourable view we at CHS can take, at the very least Dr Goldacre has been unwise in his choice of friends.  And at the most one can only speculate. 

Dr Goldacre also enlisted the help of Dr Fiona Godlee, the editor of a leading medical journal, the British Medical Journal.  The BMJ has close ties to the drug industry.  It makes millions of dollars annually from drug industry advertising and promotion worldwide.

And was it wise of British Prime Minister David Cameron to let Dr Ben Goldacre be appointed to advise in the British Cabinet Office on using randomised controlled trials in “Evidence-Based Policy.  If the drug industry can get away with manipulation of the systems of clinical trials over decades, and still do it with great success, just imagine what damage could be done in the UK and across the European Union by Dr Goldacre’s promotion of such harmful practices.  We will get political policies “proven” by controlled trials just like killer drugs like VIOXX and useless drugs like Tamiflu have been proven.  If Dr Goldacre did not foresee the issues identified by Trudo Lemmens as noted here below, then Dr Goldacre had no business advising anyone.  When we have people like Dr Ben Goldacre looking out for the public interest in Europe, we at CHS suggest the Taliban or Al Qaeda are the least of our worries. 

Dr David Healy is a serious longstanding academic and medical practitioner who is an expert in clinical trials in psychopharmacology, the history of psychopharmacology, and the impact of both trials and psychotropic drugs on our culture.  Dr Healy’s interests in and concerns for drug safety are far longer and deeper than Dr Ben Goldacre’s seemingly sudden, recent and superficial conversion to such a worthy cause.  Dr Healy’s book “Pharmageddon” is about how pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare with life-threatening results set out in a riveting story that affects us all: University of California Press (2012) – available on Amazon.com.

And here are the concerns of expert Trudo Lemmens of the University of Toronto. Trudo Lemmens has just critiqued the recently distributed draft European Medicines Agency Clinical Trials Data Release Policy regarding the release and use of drug trial data:  EMA’s Proposed Data Release Policy: Promoting Transparency or Expanding Pharma Control over Data? PLOS Guest Blogger Trudo Lemmens

Trudo Lemmens is Associate Professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, with cross appointments in the Faculty of Medicine and the Joint Centre for Bioethics.

To quote extracts of Trudo Lemmens critique, this is where – and predictably where with warnings from experts like Dr Healy – that Dr Ben Goldacre’s meddling has led.  There were clear warnings.  Surely Dr Goldacre and Dr Godlee must have been aware of these issues?

Trudo Lemmens comments are also relevant to the rise of right wing anti-European Union nationalist groups in the EU.  There is considerable public disquiet about the corrupt EU political system.  It is clearly a system which cannot be fixed and is a big driver for the recent election successes in the UK and across the EU of right-wing politics.

Trudo Lemmens wrote:

In short, EMA’s approach is strengthening industry’s legal control over data, making it more difficult and legally risky for independent scientists to use them. These are in essence regulatory data, created for public interest use. For the EMA, a key public institution, to now support the privatizing of pharmaceutical knowledge through contractual affirmations of companies’ rights over these data is truly astounding. Dr. Rasi’s recent response to the Ombudsman, that EMA’s new policy is a ‘reasonable compromise’, and does not prevent researchers from asking for access to specific data sets on the basis of the existing access to information policy, does not reassure. His response does not recognize the legal concerns raised by the draft TOU and Redaction Principles, let alone justify the approach taken. And Abbvie’s withdrawal of the legal challenge of the Humira data release notwithstanding, EMA appears back in the business of imposing more extensive limits on what it gives access to in response to specific access requests.

This troubling development is not entirely surprising. Even if the transparency movement had some major victories, including the adoption of transparency requirements in the recent European Clinical Trials Regulation, opposition has been mounting. Industry may now employ other regulatory initiatives to fight transparency. The European commission recently released a draft directive aimed at streamlining and strengthening Trade Secret protection in Europe. The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) jumped already enthusiastically on the occasion, emphasizing the need to protect the “proprietary know-how” of drug development, including in the “clinical trials phase”. In the context of ongoing and largely secret transatlantic trade negotiations between Europe and the United States and Canada, the pharmaceutical industry has also been lobbying hard to strengthen data and IP protection and to include better data protection in the package. EMA now appears to be lending a helping hand.

Extracts from:

EMA’s Proposed Data Release Policy: Promoting Transparency or Expanding Pharma Control over Data?  By PLOS Guest Blogger Trudo Lemmens

Dr Ben Goldacre Forced By CHS to Answer Criticism Over Drug Safety – But Not Before Goldacre’s Usual Response – Bullying, Abuse & Harassment

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[See also recent closely related post:

Congratulations Dr Ben Goldacre On Undermining Drug Safety Worldwide]

It is rare to see Dr Ben Goldacre embarrassed into answering serious criticisms.  This follows a blog post here on CHS.  This blog post in fact:  Making Medicine More Dangerous for You and Your Children – Drug Industry Wins System Which Hides Drug Hazards. 

Although rare, you will also see, this was only after Dr Goldacre’s usual much less than rare response of engaging in bullying, abuse and harassment failed.  CHS has reported previously on bullying abuse and harassment meted out from Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum: Dr Ben Goldacre’s Grovelling Apology For Sexual Abuse, Bullying & Harassment of Female Doctor & Medical Journalist By His BadScience Forum Trolls and Bullies

People like Dr Ben Goldacre and another with a role in this, Simon Singh, seem to be hypocrites in claiming to espouse and endorse the role of science in taking knowledge forward, only when it suits them. Here you can see what happens when others subject people like them to scrutiny and call them to account. 

A chain of events leading to the current situation was triggered when The London Review of Books invited and then rejected Dr David Healy’s careful, thorough but critical review of Dr Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Pharma“. The rejection of Dr Healy’s review is bizarre and especially from The London Review of Books.  Dr Healy writes about that here: Not So Bad Pharma March 28, 2013.

Do note in the context of Dr Ben Goldacre answering criticisms now, that was posted by Dr Healy over a year ago.

Dr David Healy is a serious academic and medical practitioner who is an expert in clinical trials in psychopharmacology, the history of psychopharmacology, and the impact of both trials and psychotropic drugs on our culture.  Dr Healy’s interests in and concerns for drug safety are far longer and deeper than Dr Ben Goldacre’s seemingly sudden, recent and superficial conversion to such a worthy cause.  It is also worth noting that Dr Healy’s book “Pharmageddon” is a better account than Goldacre’s populist pulp paperback.  “Pharmageddon” is about how pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare with life-threatening results set out in a riveting story that affects us all: University of California Press (2012) – available on Amazon.com.

Dr Ben Goldacre cultivates an irresponsible unkempt slightly weird geeky image which seems intended to and it seems it also does appeal to “trendy” social media savvy young “turks” [and a number of the not so “trendy” who seem to like to think they are].  “Cool” may be a more common term but 1970s ageing hippy term “trendy” seems more appropriate in this context.  

Simon Singh is a physicist turned broadcaster turned “science” author who managed single-handedly with just one word “bogus” in a “science” article to end up being sued in a defamation law suit in the English courts which it seems was avoidable in quite a number of different ways.  The defamation case was followed by a high profile campaign supposedly about scientific freedom of speech depicting himself as a martyr to it. 

It cost him personally £50,000 [he claims].  He subjected his family to two years of avoidable stress, with a figure of around ten times that hanging over them had his appeal not saved him [and them]. 

Singh could have apologised over the complained about meaning of the term “bogus” – with its overtones of dishonesty – whilst still saying the same sort of thing in another way and still making his point.  That this is the case appears confirmed by video coverage supporting his legal fight which is posted on YouTube.

Singh’s claim to a “victorious” end result included a change to English defamation law which some defamation lawyers consider makes very little difference.  It appears a valid perspective that his efforts may have in the long term a chilling effect on science journalism which his martyrdom it was claimed would avoid.  To us on CHS Singh looks selfish and publicity hungry whilst wittingly or not serving commercial interests which remain faceless. 

The rejection of Dr Healy’s review of Dr Ben Goldacre’s book is so bizarre that Dr Healy then followed up his initial blog post with a series of articles again last year addressing the issues factually and in detail.  So the main criticisms go back starting over a year ago.

This chain of events led to Dr Healy’s 21st May blog post this year upon which CHS commented.

And there we see the outcome.  It was that post by CHS which in turn led to the bullying, abusive and harassing responses directly by Dr Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh and some of their camp followers.  This demonstrates it is not just a few of their followers who engage in this conduct.  It was also that post which, as will be seen below, drew direct attention to Dr Ben Goldacre’s role in bringing about a situation in which drug safety worldwide appears to be being undermined by the drug industry.  You will also see Dr Ben Goldacre admitting his hand was forced to answer the criticisms against his will.

Internet bullying, abuse and harassment is a modern scourge and people like Dr Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh are examples of those leading its spread.   Goldacre has over 325,000 “followers” just on Twitter and Singh has over 50,000.  And Twitter allows only a few words, so it is a perfect medium for one-line, soundbite abuse, bullying and harassment.

This is nothing short of ensuring if any individuals criticise the likes of Goldacre and Singh, instead of the criticisms being answered, they get their names blackened on the internet by the hordes of bullies and hangers-on who do it for Goldacre. 

This has a very damaging effect on science and public comment and free speech.  It is not responsible behaviour and people of such ilk should be shunned and rejected just in the same way those who espouse violence rather than persuasion and argument to get their own way are.  Violence is just another form of bullying, abuse and harassment.

You can see a rare example of Dr Ben Goldacre himself asking his hordes to stop bullying, harassing and abusing another journalist – of course well after the damage was done and no doubt because the example made clear to UK radio station LBC’s management just what Goldacre’s BadScience Forum engage in: Sigh. Do not abuse Jeni Barnett personally February 11th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre.  Ironically a point radio presenter Jeni Barnett was making was that she did not know much about issues of vaccines causing autistic conditions but that there seemed to be a lot of bullying going on about it.  

In short, it seems to us on CHS that Goldacre had to act in the Jeni Barnett case because he had to limit the damage to himself from the behaviour of his camp followers. If it was not so public we on CHS have little doubt Goldacre would do nothing.  And that is evidenced by the fact his BadScience Forum still exists doing what it does on a daily basis.  These examples show Dr Ben Goldacre knows what goes on.  He is not ignorant of it.

So here CHS focusses on what seems, on a critical analysis, the less than responsible behaviour of Dr Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh and others like them.  There are informal international networks of people like Dr Goldacre, Simon Singh and their camp followers.

Here is a specific recent example of a leading distinguished scientist being silenced by bullying because he had the temerity to question what appears to be an odd position that there has been no global warming so far this century: Climate change science has become ‘blind’ to green bias Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent The Telegraph 16 May 2014.  It seems the bullying led Professor Bengtsson to cease engaging in the issue – and we link to a bullying blog on this to make the point about how widespread this kind of bullying, abuse and harassment is and how damaging and irresponsible it is.

CHS is fortunate in now being able to cite specific examples of Dr Goldacre, Simon Singh and others engaging directly in online bullying, harassment and abuse. Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum is set up and run in a way which encourages online bullying, abuse and harassment.  It is routine for one too many of its members.

CHS’ post was published 21st May.  A week later at 2pm 27 May this is what Simon Singh “tweeted” to his 50,000+ Twitter followers:

Simon Singh@SLSingh

I seldom swear, but here’s fuckwittery of the highest order RT @lecanardnoir Quacks still have it in for @bengoldacre

Now firstly note this is a response to serious criticisms of Ben Goldacre made first by Dr David Healy on serious issues of drug safety.  So Singh is quite deliberately engaging in bullying, abuse and harassment and publishing it to his camp followers.

Within 15 minutes this is how Dr Ben Goldacre replied to Singh copied to Goldacre’s 325,000+ “followers” and Singh’s 50,000+:

ben goldacre@bengoldacre

@SLSingh @lecanardnoir yeah, channeled directly from the fevered imagination of @DrDavidHealy

So here we can see the bully Dr Ben Goldacre engaging directly himself in bullying, abuse and harassment of an internationally respected medical professional and academic and doing so in response to serious criticism made of Goldacre. It was the normal Goldacre response – bully.

There were in total over 40 replies and numerous “re-tweets” of the exchanges mostly involving more bullying, abusive and harassing comments from Goldacre and Singh camp followers. 

However, notably Goldacre later admits to having to reply grudgingly to Dr Healy’s criticisms – with the intervention no doubt of others behind the scenes like the industry lobby front organisation Sense About Science, pointing out how damaging it might be not to.  Rather than being pleased to have the opportunity to showcase his perspective to a critical academic Goldacre moaned on Twitter:

Sadly driven by @DrDavidHealy A real shame to have to stop productive work and reply to him

This was of course only after well over a year of Dr Healy’s criticisms, as a leading expert on these issues, being online.  And Goldacre did not post his responses on his own blog.

The exchanges between Goldacre and Healy can be read starting here with Dr Goldacre’s response in which Goldacre opens [surprise!] abusively with disparagement and [according to Dr Healy’s reply] misrepresenting the position:

This blog post by David Healy is absurd.”

And this is how Dr Healy started with his response to Goldacre [our emphasis]:

The first point to make is this post isn’t about AllTrials. AllTrials is a footnote.

It’s about the dismay that many felt at EMA backsliding. It’s about how it was obvious that something like this was on the cards. Against this background uncritical endorsement of industry looked like a bad idea. There was a desperate need to stay awake. It looks like too many of us have been asleep.

Ben offers an outline of the AllTrials strategy here. It’s helpful to have this.

His accusation that these posts misrepresent campaigns, smear people, shout abuse, and hector from the sidelines looks like a description of posts by others elsewhere. With very few exceptions any comments to the various posts on this blog that in any way fail to support Ben or AllTrials have been deleted.

The post repeated an alternate analysis – that the main thing industry wants to hide are adverse event data.

Now that CHS has provoked the dialogue, you can have the benefit of reading and making your own mind up about how absurd Dr Ben Goldacre might or might not now be looking.  That is a position you would not have been in before.

What we probably will never have an answer to which all will find satisfying are answers to these questions made in CHS’ prior post on this issue:

Dr Ben Goldacre founded the AllTrials campaign.  Why did he found the AllTrials campaign? What was in it for him?  Who suggested it?  Who funded it? Who supported it? And why have we ended up with what Dr Healy describes as a disaster for us all and a victory for the drug industry, all successfully fronted by Dr Ben Goldacre?

Other information regarding Dr Goldacre’s connections and interests directly and indirectly to drug maker GlaxoSmithKline can be read here What’s Behind Ben Goldacre?

And this appeared here:

Dr Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science’ column began in the Guardian in 2003 and he rapidly rose to prominence receiving the Association of British Science Writer’s award for that year for an article on the MMR issue ‘MMR: Never mind the facts’. It may be noted that the ABSW awards were at the time sponsored by MMR manufacturers and defendants GlaxoSmithKline [1]. It was also not disclosed at any time, though Dr Goldacre’s column dealt heavily in issues of epidemiology and public health policy that his father, Michael Goldacre, was a professor public health at Oxford and a leading government epidemiologist [2, 3, 4] whose work had included papers on MMR (notably GSK’s Pluserix vaccine after it was withdrawn by the manufacturers in 1992) [5].  In the case of Pluserix it should also be taken into consideration that the NHS had apparently indemnified the manufacturers for the use of what was known to be a faulty vaccine (already being removed from use in Canada in 1988 and its license revoked there in 1990) [6, 7]. Despite the growing public celebrity of the younger Goldacre, and the professional prominence of the older, no authoritative information for their familial relationship came to light before 2009, although it is the sort of matter that might normally be in the area of public comment.

It is evident that had this been generally known from the beginning Ben Goldacre’s column would have been seen in quite a different light. Also, if this had been known and Ben Goldacre had wished to assert that he was nevertheless an independent voice, the public would still have been better informed. Moreover, there must have been a huge circle of people “in the know” who never commented in the public domain until Ian Fairlie did in 2009 [2], which is in itself a remarkable circumstance.

Ben Goldacre repeatedly ducked answering questions about the shortcomings of the epidemiology of the safety of MMR both in his Guardian blog and in British Medical Journal over an extended period [1,8]. Typically he would engage in ad hominem attacks against his critics on the issue (never mentioned by name) but not answering their specific questions. For a long time his website carried the intimidatory message “…personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety” [9] and he has an on-line shop which sells novelty merchandise declaring the safety of MMR, including at various times t-shirts, thongs, mugs and baby-bibs, as well as characteristically abusive items about nutritionists and homeopaths [10]. Another problem was that though Goldacre styled himself as a junior doctor he was coy about which institutions he was affiliated to, which at one point included the Institute of Psychiatry [11]. This not only disguised potential conflicts over MMR because of the Institute’s relations with pharmaceutical manufacturers, but also mobile phone radiation. At one point Goldacre was involved in making a personalised attack on a fellow journalist Julia Stephenson while not disclosing that his institution included the industry funded Mobile Phones Research Unit [11]. Of course, if you personally attack those people who may have suffered ill effects from the products you are defending this is taking the debate to somewhere else than science (and perhaps to somewhere not very pleasant).