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Recent rapid responses
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1 August 2012
We write in response to the article, ‘Don’t just blame big pharma’ (BMJ 2012;345:e4825). We agree that significant issues exist in the relationships between health professionals and industry, which must be addressed. We also agree that strong medical leadership is fundamental to any solution, and this we are providing. In the UK the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group (ESHLSG) is delivering this leadership in partnership with industry. This group brings together a wide range of representatives from the UK medical community, patient organisations and the life sciences industry. We believe that rather than working independently, the best solutions will be underpinned by effective and transparent relationships between health professionals and industry.
The government has made significant commitments to health and life sciences research, for example through the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the 2011 NHS innovation review ; the prime minister himself made a speech on the life sciences last November, which was accompanied by a new ‘Strategy for UK Life Sciences’. We believe that these important ambitions will be met most effectively by working in partnership to see the efficient translation of new therapies and approaches into benefits for patients.
We have already published our ‘Guidelines on collaboration between health professionals and the pharmaceutical industry and a set of ‘Clinical Trials Transparency Principles and Facts’ to support best practice in the publication of data. Over the coming months, we will embark on two further projects to address some of the issues that Dr Spence raises.
The first is a survey on commercially-supported medical education, a practice valued by many clinicians, but which must be underpinned by transparency and public trust. We will be gathering and analysing the views of health professionals and other stakeholders to identify areas of concern and accordingly consider how to shape this practice in the future.
The second is an open consultation across the healthcare professional community and the life sciences industry that aims to understand better its views on the public disclosure of payments to health professionals, and to establish whether there is support for the introduction of such a system in the UK.
We hope that health professionals across the country will support our efforts to address these important issues through participation in our work. Our vision is that medical leadership should be taken forward in partnership with industry, on which we all depend for the introduction of new therapies, to establish more effective and transparent relationships that facilitate the effective translation of medical advances into practice.
Competing interests: Sir Richard Thompson is president of the Royal College of Physicians. Deepak Khanna is President of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry.
President of the Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, NW1 4LE
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