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THE SUNDAY TIMES 4 April 1999
DRUG-SAFETY DOCTORS HOLD SHARES IN THE MAKERS.
by Lois Rogers and Mark Macaskill.
Senior doctors who advise the government on whether
new drugs should be approved for use in
Britain have investments worth tens of thousands of
in the companies manufacturing them, a Sunday Times investigation
revealed. Many of the doctors have direct
shareholdings in the drug companies.
who sits on the committee that advises the
government on drugs to be used
treatments, has shares worth 130,000 pounds in two of
drug companies. Others receive substantial
perks such as research and equipment
free air travel to conferences and money to cover
salaries of extra research staff.
extent of the link raises questions about the objectivity of some
of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee 9SMAC0 and the
on Safety of Medicines (CSM). They are drawn from medical royal
universities and hospitals across the country to give
advice on which treatments should be licensed for use in
David Hinchliffe, Labor chair of the Commons health
committee, said he would investigate the
apparent conflict of interest "It is wrong for
advisers to have financial interests in companies whose
they are advising on. It is something that concerns me very much"
said. Professor Robert Kendall president of
the Royal College of Psychiatrists
a m ember of SMAC,did not believe potential profits from drug sales to
National Health Service would influence the value of his 130,000
holdings in SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Welcome. Kendall who has
his interests, said "Any profit would be utterly trivial,
only a couple of quid" Committee members
are supposed to declare such interests in a register
is, in theory, a public document. But it was only made available to
Sunday Times by the Department of Health after several requests and is
easily accessible to the public.
At least one
committee has, however, failed to make any declaration at
Professor Roderick MacSween, president of the Royal College of
and a SMAC member, admitted that he might have been
in not revealing his drug company shares worth 15,000 pounds.
have ne ver been conscious of a conflict arising. I don't think I was
asked about my interest in drug companies" he said.
reacted angrily to questions about their financial interests.
Evans, a senior pharmacist on the CSM who has declared his
in Scotia, Glaxo, Boots and SmithKline Beecham, refused to
the potential conflict of interest. "I have done everything by the
and I don't see that it is anyone else's business." he said.
are not obliged to disclose shares held by their spouses or
close family members. Sheila Williams, a consultant
anesthetist in Bristol and a SMAC member,
admitted that her husband had shares in Glaxo
said "I haven't declared them on the register of interests because
are not mine". It is well known among
doctors and civil servants at the Department of
that the committee members are targeted by drug companies.
committee members believe that seeking funds from drug companies
ethically acceptable if the money is used to boost
their research and so encourage medical
advances.(advances like the thousands killed or maimed
year by their approved drugs.ZL) Members who have drug company links
who have drug company links are also adamant that such connections
no way influence their CSM and SMAC decisions.
specialist in an area invariably has research collaborations with
you just can't avoid it" said Gordon Duff, professor of
medicine at Sheffield University. He also sits on the CSM and
declared his interests in eight pharmaceutical companies.
links are, however, being increasingly questioned within the
profession. Richard Nicholson, editor of the
Bulletin of Medical Ethics called for the
committees to be governed by much stricter regulations of the kind that cover
MPs. The CMS's 34 members are paid 160 pounds
plus expenses to prepare for and
the fortnightly meetings in London. SMAC's members are not paid.
week, however, the health department warned members of both
not to speak to the media about their drug company links.
if the health dept's relatives have shares?ZL) In an effort to
accusations that the committees are exclusive cliques and that the
may (may?ZL) be too closely involved with the drug companies, in
it appointed two lay members to the CSM.
one of them has now declared that she has shareholdings in
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