MPs launch inquiry into influence of drug industry

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 09 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:587
  1. Ray Moynihan
  1. London

    The House of Commons Health Committee held its first public hearing this week as part of a wide ranging inquiry into the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over the health system.

    The committee is investigating drug companies' influence on medical research, the education of doctors, health information, and drug evaluation. It will specifically look at the industry's influence on the NHS, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and other regulatory authorities, universities, professional societies, and the media.

    The inquiry has already sparked public attention, after the release of a strongly worded submission from the Royal College of General Practitioners describing “unhealthy” industry influence over drug testing, medical education, and information for patients. While stressing the value of the industry to the economy and the health of patients, the submission accused drug companies of “disease mongering”—inappropriately widening the boundaries of illness, leading to the over-consumption of drugs.

    “If current trends continue, publicly funded healthcare systems will be at risk of financial collapse, and the principle of inclusive health care may be lost, with huge costs to society as a whole,” the submission said. Dr Maureen Baker, the honorary secretary of the college, which represents almost 22 000 GPs, told the BMJ that her group had received a formal letter of complaint from the drug industry about the submission but that “at the moment there is nothing in it we want to back away from.”

    For its part the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has welcomed the parliamentary inquiry, but it strongly cautioned the committee against tougher restrictions on the industry's communications and marketing.

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