Intended for healthcare professionals

Investigations

Medical investigative journalism from The BMJ

Please contact investigations@bmj.com if you have a story for our team to investigate

 

2019

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Leading ophthalmologist vows to stamp out “unjustified” screening for cataract surgery
NHS commissioners are ignoring clinical guidelines by rationing access to cataract surgery, an investigation by The BMJ finds


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Big tobacco, the new politics, and the threat to public health
Jonathan Gornall reveals how The Institute of Economic Affairs is funded by British American Tobacco and has links with senior conservative ministers. After orchestrating a series of attacks on public health initiatives, the IEA may now hold the key to No 10


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Questions over future of global diabetes group as founding members resign
While the numbers of people with diabetes worldwide soar, the organisation at the forefront of the global fight against the disease is tearing itself apart


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Making China safe for Coke: how Coca-Cola shaped obesity science and policy in China
Susan Greenhalgh investigates how, faced with shrinking Western markets, the soft drink giant sought to secure sales and build its image in China


2018

 

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How cow’s milk protein allergy is extending the reach of infant formula manufacturers
The condition may be helping the baby milk industry to form relationships with the paediatric profession, finds Chris van Tulleken—with potential for harm to mothers and children


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What happens when the world’s biggest medical device maker becomes a “health services provider”?
A new cardiac suite with state-of-the-art equipment is developed for a cash strapped hospital in Mexico by the world’s leading medical device maker. What’s not to like? Jeanne Lenzer reports


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How lobbying blocked European safety checks for dangerous medical implants
Industry lobbyists have wrecked plans to overhaul safety regulations for medical devices in Europe


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Patients with type 1 diabetes are missing out on flash glucose devices
Tens of thousands of UK patients with type 1 diabetes are being denied the potential benefits of glucose monitoring devices because of a postcode lottery


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How mesh became a four letter word
Jonathan Gornall charts the rapid rise and precipitous fall of vaginal mesh

 


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The trial that launched millions of mesh implant procedures: did money compromise the outcome?
Jonathan Gornall uncovers how the original evidence on mesh was mired in a multimillion pound deal, industry funded research, and undisclosed conflicts of interest


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Pandemrix vaccine: why was the public not told of early warning signs?
Eight years after the "swine flu" outbreak, a lawsuit has unearthed internal reports suggesting problems with the safety of GSK’s Pandemrix vaccine


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Oxford TB vaccine study calls into question selective use of animal data
Researchers were disappointed when a clinical trial of a new tuberculosis vaccine failed to show benefit, but should it have gone ahead when animal studies had already raised doubts?


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The pharma deals that CCGs fail to declare
GP commissioning groups have accepted hundreds of payments from drug companies that they have not disclosed to patients and the public


2017

 

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The unofficial vaccine educators: are CDC funded non-profits sufficiently independent?
Peter Doshi investigates the semi-transparent world of vaccine advocacy organization


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Are the odds shifting against pharma in the fight for cheaper treatment for macular degeneration?
Doctors plan to prescribe bevacizumab despite legal threats from drug companies, and against GMC and NICE guidance. Yet Deborah Cohen reports the tide may be turning


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Big data’s big bias: bringing noise and conflicts to US drug regulation
A little known private foundation to support FDA’s “regulatory science” takes money out of the FDA’s coffers to support analyses using levels of evidence recommended by industry; many of the foundation’s directors have financial links to the drug and device makers that the FDA regulates. Jeanne Lenzer investigates


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Coca-Cola’s secret influence on medical and science journalists
A series of journalism conferences on obesity received covert funding from Coca-Cola. Paul Thacker investigates


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Is the United States Preventive Services Task Force still a voice of caution?
Recent recommendations issued by the USPSTF have surprised some experts who say they may lead to overtesting and overtreatment


2016

 

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Manufacturer failed to disclose faulty device in rivaroxaban trial
An investigation by The BMJ finds that companies were aware of concerns about a faulty device in a regulatory trial and reveals data that suggests participants were put at unnecessary risk


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A pill too hard to swallow: how the NHS is limiting access to high priced drugs
How NHS England tried to limit access to expensive new drugs for hepatitis C

 


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Data too important to share: do those who control the data control the message?
Hydroxyethyl starch solutions for fluid resuscitation fell from grace after severe warnings about their safety. But the academic investigators that led a landmark trial that helped precipitate this downfall are refusing to share their data


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Rivaroxaban: can we trust the evidence?
An investigation by The BMJ has uncovered the use of a faulty device in a regulatory drug trial, potentially putting patients at unnecessary risk


2015

 

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India’s “health camps”: the drug rep will see you now
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are screening people in India in return for prescriptions for their products while calling it corporate social responsibility


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General practice commissioning: in whose interests?
An investigation into England’s clinical commissioning groups shows that many are commissioning from organisations in which board members are involved


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Public Health England’s troubled trail
The handling of evidence for its controversial report on e-cigarettes adds to questions about the credibility of the organisation’s advice


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Tickets to Glyndebourne or the Oval? Big tobacco’s bid to woo parliamentarians
To what extent is the tobacco industry able to reach out and influence parliamentarians? Jonathan Gornall reports


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: protecting the private good?
After revelations that the CDC is receiving some funding from industry, Jeanne Lenzer investigates how it might have affected the organisation’s decisions


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Attacks on publicly funded trials: what happens when industry does not want to know the answer
Deborah Cohen reveals the challenges facing those conducting publicly funded clinical trials into the use of intravitreal bevacizumab


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Why have UK doctors been deterred from prescribing Avastin?
Doctors in England’s NHS have been left seemingly unable to prescribe a cheap, safe, and effective drug despite its flourishing use elsewhere in Europe and the US


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Sugar: spinning a web of influence
Public health scientists are involved with the food companies being blamed for the obesity crisis, reports Jonathan Gornall


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Why aren’t the US Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration speaking with one voice on flu?
The CDC's claim that Tamiflu could "save lives" is at the center of a heated controversy


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The truth about cash for referrals
Private hospital chains have been “buying” referrals by offering clinicians lucrative packages, including free facilities in sought after locations. And the doctors’ regulator is turning a blind eye to those who are tempted


2014

 

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A third of NHS contracts awarded since health act have gone to private sector
In the run up to the UK general election, accusations are flying about the alleged privatisation of the NHS in England


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Dabigatran: how the drug company withheld important analyses
Deborah Cohen finds that recommendations for use of new generation oral anticoagulants may be flawed because regulators did not see evidence showing that monitoring drug plasma levels could improve safety


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GPs’ workload climbs as government austerity agenda bites
Since 2010 the UK government has brought in a raft of changes to the welfare system in a bid to reduce the national deficit


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Under the influence
Jonathan Gornall discovers that the government consultation into introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in England and Wales was a sham and that politicians ignored the strong health evidence in favour of protecting the interests of industry


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The battle for NHS 111: who should run it now?
It all sounded so simple: a new phone number for urgent medical advice. But from its implementation the idea began to unravel


2013

 

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Majority of panelists on controversial new cholesterol guideline have current or recent ties to drug manufacturers
Panelists of the working panel that wrote the controversial cholesterol guidelines on reducing cardiovascular risk had ties to the drug industry


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A sixth of hospitals in England have expanded private patient options this year, the BMJ finds
As hospitals look for ways to boost their income, Gareth Iacobucci discovers that some are taking advantage of the rationing decisions being made by hard pressed clinical commissioning groups


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Has pancreatic damage from glucagon suppressing diabetes drugs been underplayed?
A BMJ investigation has found growing safety concerns linked to incretin mimetics' mechanism of action


2012

 

How a fake hip showed up failings in European device regulation
Deborah Cohen investigates how EU authorities would be prepared to allow a fake hip prosthesis with dangerous design flaws onto the market


The truth about sports drinks
Deborah Cohen investigates the links between the sports drinks industry and academia that have helped market the science of hydration


How safe are metal-on-metal hip implants?
Deborah Cohen examines the evidence of risk from metal-on-metal hips, the manufacturers’ inadequate response, and how the regulatory bodies failed to give doctors and patients the information they need to make informed decisions


Search for evidence goes on
In the UK, general practitioners can now prescribe Oseltamivir it to anyone with flu and the drug is the mainstay of influenza treatment in critical care. How has this happened?


US advisory panellists on drug’s safety had ties to manufacturers
At least four members of a key committee advising the US Food and Drug Administration on the safety of a top selling drug have had financial ties to its manufacturers


2011

 

The Lancet’s two days to bury bad news
Brian Deer reveals what happened when he reported misconduct in Andrew Wakefield’s MMR research to the medical journal that published it


How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money
Brian Deer reveals a secret scheme to raise huge sums from a campaign, launched at a London medical school, that claimed links between MMR, autism, and bowel disease


How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed
Brian Deer reveals a secret scheme to raise huge sums from a campaign, launched at a London medical school, that claimed links between MMR, autism, and bowel disease


2010

 

How small changes led to big profits for insulin manufacturers
Deborah Cohen and Philip Carter discover why more expensive analogue insulins are increasingly prescribed instead of cheaper human insulin despite lack of evidence of benefit for patients with type 2 diabetes


Rosiglitazone: what went wrong?
Over 10 years after the diabetes drug rosiglitazone was approved by regulators, and despite studies on tens of thousands of people, questions remain about its cardiovascular safety


WHO and the pandemic flu “conspiracies”
Key scientists advising the World Health Organization on planning for an influenza pandemic had done paid work for pharmaceutical firms that stood to gain from the guidance they were preparing


2004

 

FDA to review “missing” drug company documents
The US Food and Drug Administration has agreed to review confidential drug company documents that went missing during a controversial product liability suit more than 10 years ago


Documents missing from a 10 year old murder case sent to the BMJ
The BMJ has been given a set of documents that mysteriously went missing from a US mass murder case 10 years ago