Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Statins for people at low risk

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 21 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3908

Rapid Response:

Science and Transparency

Rory Collins, Head, Nuffield Department of Population Health has raised concerns about editorial integrity and transparency of the BMJ [1]. As a long time campaigner for transparency in healthcare it is the latter issue I wish to comment on here.

I should say first of all that I am not an expert on statins but I share the scientific approach of Wilson and Jungner (WHO) [2]. In this shared view it is entirely legitimate, and indeed in the spirit of ethical science, to raise questions about any intervention that may target large swathes of the population who would not otherwise be “patients”.

Collins raises concerns about the transparency of BMJ in relation to pharmaceutical industry payments for promotional and related activities. Collins argues, as I would also do, that detailed information about this should be readily available in the public domain.

My concern is not about the request that Collins makes but the inconsistency that he demonstrates on behalf of CTSU (Nuffield Department of Population Health). As a campaigner for transparency I contacted Professor Collins when he first appeared on the BBC News about the BMJ’s coverage of statins for primary prevention. In reply I was sent CTSU Grants, May 2014 [3]. I asked Professor Collins if this CTSU declaration was publically available and he replied on the 27th May 2014: “Not as yet, but - we are looking at how best to do that in the short-term (i.e. based on what I sent you) and in the longer term (i.e. ensuring that it is kept up to date).”

The CTSU grants from Industry would seem to add up close to £250 million over twenty years [3]. This is not specified nor referenced by Professor Collins in his response [1]. It would seem entirely fair then to suggest inconsistency from CTSU on the subject of transparency. There is of course additional debate regarding transparency of research data.

In summary: I believe that this debate on transparency is important and thank Professor Collins and the BMJ for doing their best to have it in the open. My personal view is that transparency is only a means to an end as I share the outlook of Peter C. Gøtzsche who has stated in the BMJ “I believe science ceases to exist when no one else than those who have conflicts of interest are allowed to see the data” [4]

[1] Collins, R Lack of transparency about the BMJ’s income from the pharmaceutical industry
[2] Wilson J, Jungner, G. Principles and practice of screening for disease. WHO Chronicle 1968;22(11):473
[3] CTSU Grants, May 2014 (supplied by Professor Rory Collins to Dr Peter J Gordon, 23 May 2014. Dr Gordon understood from this communication that this document, outlining CTSU funding, was open and available to the public)
[4] Gøtzsche P. Adverse effects of statins. BMJ Rapid Response, 21 May 2014

Competing interests: Dr Peter J Gordon raised a petition with the Scottish Parliament to consider introducing a Sunshine Act for Scotland:

07 January 2017
Peter J. Gordon
Psychiatrist for Older Adults
Bridge of Allan