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Big pharma's dirty marketing tricks not just in us

MagazineJanuary 2005 (Vol. 15 Issue 10)Big pharma's dirty marketing tricks not just in us

The UK's drugs regulations industry is finally facing a long-overdue overhaul

The UK's drugs regulations industry is finally facing a long-overdue overhaul. It has often been entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry, and its committees are known to be made up of or include individuals who have close - or very close - contacts with drug companies.

So, it has finally occurred to the UK government that this may not be an ideal state of affairs. But then, they've also had to apologise and make amends too many times when the regulator has overlooked some problem or other - such as a drug that kills people.

The most recent calamity concerns the antidepressant Seroxat and the way in which the drugs regulator overlooked vital evidence of its dangers. The BBC television programme Panorama discovered that the drug could cause self-harm, aggression and even suicide, a claim that the regulator has constantly denied. However, the programme's reporters say that the regulator has been sitting on the incriminating data for 13 years and, yet, has never issued a warning to the public.

WDDTY first alerted its readers to the dangers of Seroxat seven years ago. We pointed out at the time that the drugs regulator had received documentation of 54 serious adverse reactions associated with the drug.

Now, the government has decided to do something about it. Government officials have drawn up a code of conduct for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, which licenses the Commission for the Safety of Medicines. The new code recommends that Authority members should not hold any interests in the pharmaceutical industry, and that the group should include two lay members.

In a remarkable understatement, Dr Ian Gibson, chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, said that the MHPRA was suffering from an image problem.

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