I have written a few posts about Ben Goldace, Alltrials and David Healy on this blog, the most recent one- just yesterday- received yet another defensive response from Ben. Ben has responded to a few of my posts but to be honest I mostly find his responses do not address anything I raise in the posts themselves and they also quickly descend into a diatribe against David Healy. This is childish and serves no purpose considering the seriousness of what is happening. These kind of responses from Ben are not just inadequate, but often they are generic and have nothing to do with addressing the content or core of the points I am trying to get across. I did find this initially frustrating until I noticed that he doesn’t just ‘interact’ with me like that – he does it to most people- particularly those who differ with, or oppose, his views.
Take for example my post recently urging Ben to listen to David Healy’s warning about the possibility that GSK are misleading Alltrials, and thus also misleading Ben. David made some well researched, and very salient points, which also made a lot of sense. David is an extremely credible voice in this arena, he is a professor of psychiatry, a distinguished author and an expert in psycho-pharmacology- he also has extensive experience with how GSK operate- yet on my blog, on David Healy’s blog, and on another blog where David’s opinions were also being discussed, Ben posted the exact same generic response, literally copied and pasted, in the comments section of all 3 separate blogs. This is not a dialogue with Ben, this is glib diatribe. This is churlish defensiveness. If I didn’t know better, I could be mistaken for thinking that Ben is stonewalling me?
This is the comment he posted, repeatedly :
I am not going to go into the content of Ben’s comment because it has already been responded to on David Healy’s blog- by David Healy- and I have no idea why Ben posted it on my blog because it is a response to David Healy’s post, not mine- my posts have been questioning different aspects of this and they have had a different tone. It concerns me that Ben doesn’t seem to see that there are many informed, educated and wise opinions from many different people in this debate, his opinion is not the sole authority on data transparency, the ills of the industry or the direction we should all be headed to. Ben needs to listen to others and stop dictating generic responses which do not address the concerns and opinions of others but merely inflate his own sense of ego and self-importance. It would be nice to think that we can engage with Ben and those who have differing views on the same subjects without the fear of childish retorts. I won’t hold my breath for some proper adult engagement but I will always be open to it. We desperately need dialogue here…
I will finish this post with what i think was one of the most insightful- yet also humble and intelligent- comments in this debate that I have seen so far ( copied from David Healy’s blog):
May 29, 2014 at 12:14 am
Over recent years, there has been a growing awareness that the data in pharmaceutical clinical trials has been routinely manipulated, and that we often can’t trust what we read in our journals about either efficacy or adverse effects. There’s a building consensus that there’s a space between the actual raw results and the public presentation that has been a devil’s playground and that the only solution is make it totally transparent. Goldacre’s AllTrials Movement, Godlee’s BMJ, the Cochrane Collaboration with Chalmers and Goetche, Healy’s efforts and RxISK, Doshi and Jefferson’s RIAT project, and many others have come at the problem from different angles trying to set things right. And the decision of the European Medicines Agency to implement a broad data transparency policy was an exciting step in the right direction.
Throughout this process, the pharmaceutical industry has erected roadblocks to data transparency at every turn. The suit by AbbVie against the EMA, the current attack mounted against Dr. Godlee, the article posted right now on the PhRMA site on intellectual property rights [http://www.phrma.org/innovation/intellectual-property], are just a few examples of industry’s attempts to undermine full data transparency. Even the concessions they’ve made are suspect.
I’m on a RIAT team currently using the “remote desktop” interface provided by GSK for our project. The data is there, but the interface is so constricted that it severely limits anyone trying to do a thorough analysis of the information. I can’t see how it protects confidentiality or trade secrets. It just makes checking the data much harder than it needs to be. So I’ve come to see it as just another obstruction, nothing more. The recent turnaround in the EMA policy with a movement to view-on-screen-only access is a major setback – making the task of vetting clinical trials un-necessarily difficult.
I can see no reason for industry to have a seat at the table in the negotiations about data transparency at all.
The misuse of their current ownership of the data, the record of the level of corruption in reporting, the number of negative studies with-held, the soft-pedaling of adverse effects, all point to what happens when they are allowed to control the data. The only pertinent issues are the true efficacy of the drugs and an accurate reporting of the adverse effects. The economic health of the current pharmaceutical industry is, in my mind, an immaterial point, as is whether they join AllTrials or not.
If the standards required to guarantee the integrity of our pharmacopeia are prohibitive to our current system, then our system needs to change – not our standards. So as to the argument in the comments in this post above, I have nothing but respect for all parties represented and all of their efforts. But when it comes to the involvement of industry in deciding where we’re headed on this issue, I agree with BMJ editor Dr. Fiona Godlee who said that they have an “irreducible conflict.”
In my mind, their track record is ample proof that they aren’t responsible players and should be viewed with the highest index of suspicion they’ve earned.
This is closer to a war than a negotiation.
The task of evaluating the efficacy and safety of medications is an essential obligation of the medical scientific community to our patients – a bottom line. It’s irrational to move that line because of the economic needs of any commercial sector. If that impedes research into new treatments, that simply means we have to rethink how we do medical research.
– See more at: http://davidhealy.org/fucked/#comments