Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Head To Head

Should drug companies be allowed to talk directly to patients?: NO

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 12 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1302

Rapid Response:

Back in the real world

Wendy Garlick tells us that 'There should be one central,
independent, and impartial source of information on medicines and
treatments which is stripped of any commercial or political bias and which
the public can rely on to provide or direct them towards accurate and
current information. '

I agree absolutely. There should be. And in an ideal world, there
would be, just as there would be no famine or poverty, and Gerry Adams and
Ian Paisley would be seen sharing a few jokes over a pint or two of
Guinness (in a smoke-free pub, of course). On the other hand, an ideal
world would have no disease, so such a resource would be unnecessary.

Back to the real world for a moment, who is going to pay for this
wonderful information source? I don't see governments queuing up to fund
it. Even if they did, would it really be 'stripped of any commercial or
political bias'? The government tried to give impartial advice on MMR
vaccine, and in my own view made a reasonable job of it, but they were
still widely distrusted. Can we be sure that advice sponsored by
government would always be completely impartial, and not influenced by
whatever this week's political dogma happens to be?

While we are waiting for the ideal world to materialise, wouldn't it
be better to have information sponsored by industry than no information at

Competing interests:  
My company provides medical communication services. If large amounts of money were spent, whether by industry or government, on providing medical information, some of it could conceivably come our way.

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 June 2003
Adam Jacobs
Dianthus Medical Limited, London SW19 3TZ