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Transparency call in British parliamentary inquiry

Media release

Transparency call in British parliamentary inquiry

A British Parliamentary Committee has called for more openness and transparency from groups and agencies linked to the pharmaceutical industry.

Former British Medical Journal editor Dr Richard Smith, writing in PHARMAC’s 2005 Annual Review, says the need for transparency was one of the issues identified by the health committee’s inquiry, which heard submissions from a wide range of groups.

Dr Smith says the links between the industry, doctors, regulators and patient-groups are multi-faceted, and points out that the industry has been, by and large, a force for good in the last half century.

However, the committee thought that the industry’s influence is too pervasive.

“Regulatory authorities, it says, are too close to the industry, meaning that they do not ensure that the industry works in the public interest,” Dr Smith writes.

“The clinical trials that are the essential evidence base for regulatory and clinical decisions are produced almost entirely by the industry, and the evidence that reaches authorities, doctors, and patients is biased. Guidelines for treating patients are distorted not only because they must be based on biased evidence but also because the organisations and people producing them will often be in hoc to the industry.”

Doctors, journalists and consumer groups are also influenced to varying degrees by the industry.

“The consequences of all of these incestuous relationships, says the committee, are bad decisions on the regulation and prescribing of drugs, over-reliance on drugs rather than other interventions (such as dietary change, exercise, or counselling), and “medicalisation” of life’s problems, including baldness, shyness, unhappiness, grief, and sexual difficulties.”

The committee made a number of recommendations, including a register of clinical trials, a review of the UK medicines regulator, and a register of clinicians’ links with the industry.

Dr Smith says the transparency issue was one area where the UK government’s response matched the view of the committee.


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