GIJN Guide “Investigating Health & Medicine”

This guide focuses on medicines and medical devices.
It aims to provide journalists with the tools and knowledge to independently assess the evidence, critically appraise the risk-benefit ratio of any given product or policy, and expose corruption and malpractice.
It can be read as a textbook, one chapter at a time, or used selectively to support your work.
Authored by Catherine Riva and Serena Tinari (, it was commissioned by the GIJN.
Illustrations: Marcelle Louw

Available here online | Download as PDF

Also available in French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Hindi and Arabic

Why this Guide?

Health care and medicine, of course, affect each and every one of us. But contemporary public conversation is truly contradictory. On the one hand, medical triumphs are celebrated and even hyped; on the other hand, problems and conflicts of interest in healthcare and medicine have never been so obvious. Becoming knowledgeable about these critical issues is the first step to becoming a good medical investigative journalist.
Investigating health care behind-the-scenes is complex and consuming but rewarding. Although the learning curve can be steep, in this specialized area of investigative journalism you’ll never run out of stories.
Combining the methods and standards of muckraking and Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) can be highly effective.

EBM is about asking the right questions and using the best research evidence to answer those questions, an approach that matches the ethics and standards of investigative journalism.


Preface: The “COVID-19 Pandemic”


1. Regulating Drugs: Development and Approval
.: Dig Deeper into Development and Approval
.: Search for Red Flags
.: Get Unpublished Data

2. A Study Is Not Just a Study. Get Your Numbers Straight
.: Stick to Evidence-Based Medicine and Use PICO
.: A Study Is Not Just a Study
.: Absolute Values and Natural Frequencies
.: Be Aware of Flaws — and Read the Paper

3. The Scientific Basis of Influence
.: You Are Being Influenced
.: Beware of Key Opinion Leaders
.: Conflicts of Interests in Health Journalism
.: Connect the Dots

4. First, Do No Harm. Reporting About Safety
.: Assess the Evidence
.: Retrieve Data and Talk to the Victims
.: Expose Fraud, Scientific Misconduct, and Medical Malpractice

5. Tips on Traps, Hype, and Ethics

Glossary of Terms
Regulatory Agencies
About the Authors

The Global Investigative Journalism Network serves as the international association for the world’s investigative reporters, with 203 member groups in 80 countries.

GIJN provides training, resources, and networks, with a core mission to strengthen investigative and data journalism worldwide.

You can reach GIJN through its website or write us at hello[at]

Re-Check is a nonprofit organization specialized in investigating and mapping health affairs.

We dig deeper and share our methods through conferences, workshops and trainings.

Re-Check means looking behind the scene, assessing the evidence, and digging deeper in the key players’ strategies.