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Lancet withdraws its support of document on collaboration between doctors and drug industry

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f770 (Published 05 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f770

Re: Lancet withdraws its support of document on collaboration between doctors and drug industry

We are encouraged by The Lancet’s withdrawal of support from the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group’s “Guidance on collaboration between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry” [1]. This document makes claims that are demonstrably wrong. The document claims that data from industry sponsored trials are publicly available. This is an issue that has taken centre stage recently due to the pressure from the Alltrials.net and the UK Government’s Committee to inquire into clinical trials and disclosure of data. It is clear that data from industry sponsored trials are not currently publicly available. The document also claims that drug reps are a useful source of information for healthcare professionals , although best evidence suggests that seeing drug reps can lead to higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality [2].

The process for developing this document and collaborating with signatories is unclear. Although the subtitle for the document is “Ethics, transparency, partnership”, the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group (ESHLSG) is far from transparent. There is no publicly available information on the structure or process for the group and no explanation of the process for collaboration with partners.

We welcome The Lancet’s withdrawal from this document and yesterday the announcement from The Medical Schools Council that it intends to work with the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group to improve the “Guidance on collaboration between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry”. However, while the document remains to be factually incorrect, we call upon the remaining signatories, including the Royal Colleges and the BMA, to withdraw their support.

[1] Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group. Guidance on collaboration between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry. 29 Mar 2012. Available from www.abpi.org.uk/our-work/library/guidelines/Pages/collaboration-guidance...
[2] Spurling GK, Mansfield PR, Montgomery BD, Lexchin J, Doust J, Othman N, et al. Information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians’ prescribing: a systematic review.

Competing interests: MK is the chairperson of Healthy Skepticism UK, an organisation working on the Bad Guidelines campaign (www.badguidelines.org)

12 February 2013
Merav Kliner
Chairperson
Healthy Skepticism UK
Liverpool, L18
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