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What reporters need to know about the side effects reported in drug studies

Brenda Goodman
Brenda Goodman

Recently, Dr. Ben Goldacre, a prominent critic of drug studies, embarked on a research project of his own. He wanted to find out how often side effects reported by users of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins were genuinely caused by the medications.

The study he co-authored concluded that most reported side effects of statins aren't often due to the drugs themselves, but to other causes—perhaps an unhealthy lifestyle that contributes to heart disease in the first place, or even the nocebo effect, which occurs when people experience side effects because they expect a drug will cause them.  Brenda Goodman reports on Goldacre's study, and gives health reporters some helpful hints on covering drug side effects.

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