MSD Italy is criticised for threatening legal action over prescription advice to GPsBMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4441 (Published 04 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4441
All rapid responses
The Italian branch of Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) has stopped a leading public health doctor from advising GPs about the use of one of the company’s drugs.(1) This has a name SLAPP: “strategic lawsuit against public participation”, a lawsuit intended to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense. This is not the first time in Italy, Boiron threatened to sue an amateur blogger over remarks he made about homoeopathy.(2) This is also common in France.(3,4)
Long ago, Fiona Godlee rightly warned “Weak science sheltered from criticism by officious laws means bad medicine”.(4) The Journal played a major role in supporting the Libel Reform Campaign--formed by Sense about Science, Index on Censorship, and English PEN--to reform libel law in England and Wales and make it harder to stifle scientific debate.(5)
British have a long tradition of being cynical about Europe’s barminess, not without reasons. Eg. EEC No 1677/88 set up an “extra class” for cucumbers having a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length. On the matter of SLAPP, it is down to the UK to lead the way in contributing to a European directive that will have a meaningful effect on public health and those who strive to protect it. Otherwise, don’t complain if the next directive is on the minimal number of toys that farmers must supply pigs with.
1 Turone F. MSD Italy is criticised for threatening legal action over prescription advice to GPs. BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4441 (Published 04 July 2014)
2 Turone F. Homoeopathy multinational Boiron threatens amateur Italian blogger. BMJ 2011;343:d5197.
4 Braillon A. Le silence est d’or. Pratique 2011;35 :74-75 Available at http://braillon.net/alain/3.pdf
5 Witton J, O’Reilly. Tobacco scientist wins case against illegal sacking. Addiction 2012;107:1714-5.
4 Godlee F. Keep libel laws out of science. BMJ 2009;339:b2783
5 Dyer C. Defamation bill gives defence of qualified privilege to peer reviewed journal articles. BMJ 2013;346:f2691
Competing interests: No competing interests