The Rise of Big Data in Healthcare—Ben Rubin

The biggest of big data is British data, because the National Health Service is huge. This one organisation, the largest employer in Europe and the largest employer of professionally trained people in the world, has access to more comprehensive data on a larger number of people than any other provider of medical care. The NHS, the British Government and UK-based life science innovators seek to leverage this leading position to build a new life science industry, one based on genomics.

Corporations and states combine in this system to maximise profit for a few firms—as well as to limit choice on the part of the public and to exclude innovative new entrants into the marketplace, who might have different ideas and offer real choice. In short, they see the genomic and health data of Britain as a resource to be exploited.

As compared with simple changes to diet and exercise to achieve better national health outcomes, Ben Rubin sees this approach as a path to increased reliance on pharmaceuticals with vast associated costs: all for little, if any, net benefit.

Disturbingly, the degraded regulators cannot, or will not, cope with the adverse effects of these pharmaceutical developments. Rather, the regulators see themselves as partners to the new life sciences industries and international pharmaceutical firms. Consequently, they become blind to unmistakable safety signals from their own data.

It was Covid–19 that played a vital part in all of this, as the "crisis" provided the route to mass acceptance of novel, untried and inadequately tested products that offer no reasonable prospect of benefits that outweigh the considerable risks. In the panic of 2020, none of this mattered, and the rollout was lauded as the saviour of civilisation.

Rubin considers that civilisation should find other paths, and simpler, more reliable solutions to bring about a healthier population. 

Ben Rubin blogs on Substack.

This interview should be considered in tandem with UK Column's interview of Dr Jobst Landgrebe and Professor Barry Smith on the poorly-understood limits to artificial intelligence.

During the interview, Rubin refers to Hedley Rees' article for UK Column on the MHRA's disturbing plans to depersonalise pharmaceutical regulation and Professor Norman Fenton's response to MHRA CEO Dr June Raine's appalling speech (first brought to attention by UK Column's Nursing Correspondent, Debi Evans) that showed that the British medicines regulator is not fit for purpose.