Observations Life and Death

The politics of drug industry sponsorship

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d6060 (Published 28 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6060
  1. Iona Heath, president, Royal College of General Practitioners
  1. iona.heath22{at}yahoo.co.uk

Politicians are increasingly moving from politics into business. Should they be thinking a little harder about the consequences of accepting drug company largesse, asks Iona Heath, writing in a personal capacity

Earlier this month I received a letter from a senior politician inviting me to attend a meeting on a public health topic. I have to confess that I was so distracted by being addressed as Dr Fiona Head that I failed to notice that the letter included the sentence: “The meeting is being supported by the healthcare company, Bristol-Myers Squibb.” However, when I arrived, the tabled agenda had a similar sentence across the bottom: “The logistical aspects of this meeting are being supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS).”

The usual round of introductions revealed that there were two representatives of the company in the room listening to everything that was being said. The main outcome of the meeting seemed to be a proposal to hold a conference later in the year, and it seems highly likely that this will provide further opportunities for “logistical support.” Although I welcome unreservedly the transparent disclosure, when I tried to express concern about the process, the said politician assured …

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