Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Judging the benefits and harms of medicines

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 30 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j3129

Rapid Response:

Re: Judging the benefits and harms of medicines

I was pleased to see the BMJ highlighting our latest Academy report ‘Enhancing the use of scientific evidence to judge the potential harms and benefits of medicines’1 in your news section2 and recent editorial3. We welcome the many synergies between the Academy of Medical Sciences’ work in this area and the Evidence Based Manifesto proposed by the BMJ4.

It is essential that the research community gets its house in order for the fullest benefits of research to be translated into the greatest good for society. We believe widespread adoption of our recommendations will help to achieve this aim.

To this end, our report calls for significant changes to the REF system to recognise efforts that support reproducibility, ‘intelligent openness’ initiatives and better research communication(s). Making these changes to the next iteration of the REF has the potential to galvanise the culture shift that is needed in universities and research institutions.

It is time for all organisations involved in research, including the Academy, to look closely at the processes governing our work. For the Academy this will include reviewing the way we declare interests – though it is essential to note an interest does not inherently present a conflict, as this will be context-dependent, and conflicts of interest are not limited solely to industry links.

On such important issues, it is understandable that we all have our own views on ways to move this agenda forward. Yet we are brought together by a common motivation to ensure the robustness and trustworthiness of scientific research so that society reaps the maximum benefit. We suggest that is more likely to happen if the whole research community, including patient representatives, funders, researchers, universities, journals, policy makers and communicators, align their respective efforts and work collectively.

Last week the Academy hosted an implementation meeting to take our recommendations forward, and we were pleased that Fiona Godlee and representatives from across the research community were able to attend. The need for a collective, aligned and coordinated response to the recommendations was reinforced. One key role for the Academy will be to convene partners to ensure progress and optimisation of effort.

We look forward to working with the community to achieve a new era of accountability in the way we generate and communicate trustworthy scientific evidence on the potential benefits and harms of medicines.

Professor Sir John Tooke, Chair of the Academy of Medical Sciences report ‘Enhancing the use of scientific evidence to judge the potential harms and benefits of medicines’

Yours sincerely,

Professor Sir John Tooke FMedSci


Competing interests: No competing interests

14 July 2017
John Tooke
Chair, ‘Enhancing the use of scientific evidence to judge the potential harms and benefits of medicines’
Academy of Medical Sciences
41 Portland Place, London W1B 1QH