Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of Politics

Tamiflu: it's a bit more complicated than that

Tamiflu is in the news again today. You will no doubt have read about how the government wasted vast sums of money on stockpiling Tamiflu, which today's new research shows is completely ineffective.

Well, that's what the press release said, anyway. And journalists are pretty good at regurgitating press releases. Here are some examples (though to be fair, they do at least all include a very brief mention that Roche disagrees, if you read that far). The reality, however, is a bit more complicated than that.

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Student tuition fees and disadvantaged applicants

One of the most significant political events of the current Parliament has been the huge increase in student tuition fees, which mean that most university students now need to pay £9000 per year for their education.

One of the arguments against this rise used by its opponents was that it would put off young people from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university. Supporters of the new system argued that it would not, as students can borrow the money via a student loan to be paid back over a period of decades, so no-one would have to find the money up front.

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Minimum alcohol pricing

A lengthy article was published in the BMJ today about the decision the government made last year to abandon their previously-stated plans on minimum alcohol pricing. As you might expect from the BMJ, with their strident anti-industry agenda, the article claims this is all about a terrible conspiracy in which the evil drinks industry and the government collude together to put the interests of the evil drinks industry ahead of public health.

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NHS Choices puts special interest groups ahead of accurate information

This is going to be a very brief post, because this story has been told in full elsewhere. But it's an important story, and I wanted to draw your attention to it.

The NHS Choices website is supposed to give impartial information on health that consumers can trust. There is a real need for such a site: the internet is littered with downright dangerous health information from people pushing various quack remedies. Where is the average person supposed to go to get good quality, unbiased advice?

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Bad Pharma: Chapter 1

I recently wrote about some of my thoughts on Ben Goldacre's new book, Bad Pharma. As I mentioned in that post, I have quite a lot to say about that book, and today I'd like to share my thoughts on chapter 1 of the book.

Chapter 1 of Bad Pharma is entitled “missing data”, and tells us about the problem of incomplete publication of clinical trials. The overall message of this chapter could be summarised as follows: it is not possible for doctors to practice evidence based medicine if the evidence is not available to them, and the evidence is frequently not available.

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Average age of first-time house buyers

One of my favourite radio programmes is More or Less, presented by the excellent Tim Harford. If you are even remotely interested in statistics, then you should listen to it. It does a splendid job of unpicking some of the dodgy numbers we hear in the news.

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A bad day for whistleblowing

Whistleblowing is an important part of ensuring safety in medicine (and indeed many other areas), although sadly one which is often not handled well. In theory, reporting unsafe behaviour in a colleague can help to ensure unsafe behaviour is nipped in the bud. In practice, however, the person who blows the whistle often ends up doing very badly out of it.

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The Green Party and homeopathy

One criticism that has often been levelled at the Green Party is that they are anti-science. It's my understanding that they are aware of that criticism and are keen to embrace a more scientific mindset, so I was very interested to listen to James O'Malley's interview with the new Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, on today's Pod Delusion.

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Externalities in vaccination

As you may or may not know, I'm studying economics with the Open University in my spare time. It's a fascinating subject, and I'm enjoying it very much. The latest thing I've been reading about as part of the course is why free market mechanisms generally fail in healthcare, and one of the reasons is an interesting little economic feature of vaccinations that's never occurred to me before. So in case it hadn't occurred to you either, I thought I'd share it with you.

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Why the NHS reforms are like dangerous pseudoscience

This is supposed to be a blog about medical stuff, not about politics, so I hope you'll forgive me writing about the Health and Social Care Bill that's currently going through the UK Parliament on two posts in a row. The bill, if passed, will have a huge impact on the way medicine is practiced here in the UK.

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