Intended for healthcare professionals


The influence of big pharma

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 14 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:855
  1. R E Ferner, director (
  1. West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting, City Hospital, Birmingham B18 7QH

Wide ranging report identifies many areas of influence and distortion

…he would have us believe that his drug has been discovered by chemical research of alchemical profundity, and is produced by a process so costly and elaborate that it can only be sold at a very high price.1

A report published last week on “the influence of the pharmaceutical industry” describes a strong United Kingdom pharmaceutical industry, whose net exports are worth over £3bn ($5.6bn; €4.3bn) annually.2 The industry's declared goal is “to bring patients life-enhancing medicines,” a goal “not only necessary but noble.” The House of Commons health committee examined the means used to achieve this noble end. They found an industry that buys influence over doctors, charities, patient groups, journalists, and politicians, and whose regulation is sometimes weak or ambiguous. For example, the Department of Health, responsible for a national health service that spends £7.5bn on drugs annually, is also responsible for representing the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

The committee described how the industry taints doctors. Over half of all postgraduate medical education in the UK, and much education of nurses, is funded by …

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