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My last two books (“Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Major Medical Breakthroughs in the Twentieth Century” by M. A. Meyers, M. D. and “Bad Science” by B. Goldacre) are somewhat connected, although both are very much different.

The first tells the true story behind major medical breakthrough discoveries in last century. Almost all of them were a result of serendipity – a lucky connection of events, which have happened next to someone who was prepared and whose mind was open enough to grasp what luck gave him (or them). Answer came before the question, to quote the book. Author explained also why top down directed research and funding, with all bureaucracy, does not work and did not bring further discoveries. In his opinion – and I tend to agree – such “organized science” kills improvisation and limits greatly role of luck in research. Lastly, and this is the common thread with the second book, it tells us that big pharmaceutical companies instead of discovering new medicine, discover new diseases which can be cured with old pills. Marketing and rehashing of old stuff is what they do now, spending money on those two things. Marketing spending alone is much bigger than their research budget.

Second book confirms that point, but it takes a different approach – we, as society, are being led by our noses when it comes to medical research covered in various media. Those media dangerously hunt for sensation, not thinking about real life consequences. Such approach helps pharmaceutical companies sell its medicine, regardless if it is needed or not. It also explains how proper scientific coverage (and tests) look like and how to check them on your own, if you want to get first hand information. It does away with most scary stories about vaccines and explains what truly lies behind homeopathy and “nutritionists”. I like that book because in simple enough terms blows a lot of bullshit stories out of the water. It also has this great sentence about incompetence: “…They also noted that people who are incompetent suffer a dual burden: not only are they incompetent, but they may also be too incompetent to assay their own incompetence, because the skills which underlie an ability to make a correct judgement are the same as the skills required to recognize a correct judgement…” (Page 285) You can apply this to a lot of situations…

Want to get a better understanding of what is going on in health care? Read those two books.