The notes from the meetings have just been made public under Freedom of Information legislation - and it makes for interesting reading.
It reveals bully-boy tactics and threats from the drug company executives to get their drugs 'fast-tracked' for acceptance within the National Health Service.
At one meeting Pfizer executives suggested they could withdraw their investment in the UK unless NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence), the body that determines which drugs can be prescribed under the NHS, reconsidered its refusal of its Alzheimer's drug.
Government ministers were told that Pfizer has annual revenues of $52.5bn (lb28bn), and that the company might "take its business elsewhere" unless the government helped create a more "robust" environment for pharmaceuticals in the UK.
Richard Marsh, director of external affairs at Bristol-Myers Squibb, who also attended one of the government meetings, said drug companies wanted to invest in countries with a "favourable environment".
In other words, governments are being told to either just approve drugs, without all the time-consuming safety and efficacy checks, or lose substantial inward investment.
There is the small matter of the safety of the patient, we suppose, but if we're talking about the balance of payments, well. . .
(Source: The Guardian, 28 September 2006)
E-news broadcast 28 September 2006 No.296 [Subscribe]