Medical research is one of those areas where everyone thinks they know a little. Images of lab rats, miraculous cures and money grabbing pharmaceutical companies compete with the day to day reality of patients and doctors trying to tackle illness. A new edition has been published of a book that tries to shed a bit of light on to the subject.
Testing Treatments, by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton, Iain Chalmers and Paul Glasziou, is aimed at the informed patient and explains how new medical treatments are researched, and how that relates to the experience of the patient being treated. The book strikes a tone that is halfway between academic text and pop science, and might seem intimidating to some, but the regular summaries of key points and personal stories mean that the reader will soon find themselves gripped.
The book takes a long view over history, covering scurvy treatments in 1747 right up to cancer trials of the present day, advocating a partnership approach between patient and doctor, and includes calls to action for professionals, patients and policy makers to ensure that questions are asked and information is shared. The reader is encouraged to look sceptically at the need for treatments and screening, and to try to see through marketing and media hype.
Ben Goldacre provided the forward to this edition, and the book continues in the spirit of his work – accessible without being over simplistic. I would have liked to have more detail, but I’m not sure how that could have been achieved without losing the ease of understanding. There is an extensive list of further reading and references at the back of the book for the reader who would like to know more, and I didn’t personally feel that the scientific knowledge was shied away from in the text. Perhaps a scientist would disagree, but I went away feeling that I knew much more about the subject and that I would be a more informed patient.