Monday, December 7, 2009

"Big Helmet" - oh! the parallels with "Big Pharma"!

It seems to me that many of the helmet studies relied upon by our politicians have a) not been based on evidence, and b) been somewhat influenced by the helmet industry. In a parallel to the modus operandi of 'Big Pharma', 'Big Helmet' has been representative on many of the advisory boards and committees, and inevitably have pushed helmets as the first and last words on cycling safety. Whilst Ben Goldacre's journal article applies to the pharmaceutical industry, his cogent argument that the conflict of interest is unacceptable when any product company conducts its own trials on their own products and then advises the regulators accordingly, could equally apply to helmets. Unquestionably the basis of any industry's findings will always be biaised.

There is a plethora of the highest quality data in the public domain which our politicians continue to disregard. As far as they are concerned 'the matter' is solved, set in concrete, and the file is closed. Yet over and over again, systematic reviews and meta-analyses have demonstrated that pro-helmet studies have distorted political decision making, and, as a result, harmed Australia.

It is perhaps salutory to remember that every expert is a 'salesman' selling their products, and that independent 'Research & Development' can never be achieved, EVER EVER EVER, when an industry is sponsoring the trials.

Somewhat surprisingly, I have still not heard from the Prime Minister! No doubt he has been busy packing for Copenhagen - 'will I, won't I pack a helmet? Jeeeeze! what if there's a bicycle in the conference satchell?!!!' - but in the event that he has inadvertently mislaid my letter, I shall write another one...

...and while I'm at it, I probably also need to write a couple of extra ones to the new NSW premier and the new federal opposition leader, the latter of whom cycled through Scone once on his way to 'somewhere' - he's bound to be interested in my quest!


  1. Normally there is no direct link between the helmet industry and the articles. See the case of Thompson et al - they got the money from the Snell foundation. And Snell got the money from (i) taking money for the "Snell" sticker on the helmet and (ii) from Bell.

    I guess you already know ?

  2. so there is a link then!

    thanks for the cycle helmets url - it's a great site