Letters Overtreatment

Fashionable to criticise the drug industry?

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7089 (Published 24 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7089
  1. Stephen Whitehead, chief executive
  1. 1Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, London SW1E 6QT, UK
  1. press{at}abpi.org.uk

McCartney makes several disparate claims about the drug industry.1 She states that the financial relations between charities and the industry are “unclear” and implies that this unduly influences the daily activities of the third sector. In reality, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s code of practice requires that companies publicly declare their financial transactions with charities and the nature of their relationship. Those who fail to meet their obligations are subject to sanctions of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority—the arm’s length administrator of the code. Charities are protective of their independence and wholly committed to the patients they serve—any malign influence is fiercely resisted.

Secondly, medical representatives do seek to engage with clinicians to educate them on the latest available treatments. There are strict rules about how this is conducted. I think it is important that clinicians are offered the chance to learn about new and innovative drugs and make their own decisions about their suitability for patients.

Finally, cooperation and partnership between the drug industry and the wider health community are valuable, despite negative preconceptions. By working together we can improve health outcomes, drive innovation, and save the NHS time and money. This should be, and is, conducted within strict guidelines that ensure commercial interests are secondary to patients’ needs. This drive towards closer working has not been pushed by the drug industry but by all healthcare stakeholders. Earlier this year a range of signatories, including the Department of Health and the medical royal colleges, approved principles for working in partnership with the life sciences sector for the good of patients.

It may be fashionable to criticise the drug industry, but we shouldn’t be quick to criticise the good work done to help people live healthier lives.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7089


  • Competing interests: SW is chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry


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