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Editor's Choice

Turning the tide on conflicts of interest

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d5147 (Published 10 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5147

Rapid Response:

Turning the tide on conflicts of interest but please dont leave us high and dry

Dear Ms Godlee

I have been working in the field of functional gastroenterology for
over 30 years and have published over 300 papers, articles and chapters
during that time. I think it is fair to say that practically none of this
work would have been undertaken without the support of the pharmaceutical
industry. Until very recently it was virtually impossible to obtain a
grant towards research into irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and
consequently I decided that the only way forward was to collaborate with
the 'industry' and use any money left over for more innovative work. This
policy has allowed me to publish a broad range of clinical studies which,
at the risk of sounding pretentious, have significantly contributed to
current thinking about IBS. In addition, none of our original work on the
application of hypnotherapy in gastroenterology would have been possible
without this source of finance.

I currently undertake four and a half clinics per week devoted to
patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders which amounts to at
least six hundred new patients yearly. It would therefore be a shame if
somebody with such a wealth of clinical experience, which must be more
than most, is denied the opportunity to share this with others, especially
decision makers who regrettably, in my field, often seem to have
vanishingly little experience in the area about which they are making
judgements.

I have, of course, come across some unfortunate practices from
certain companies but the majority are now 'cleaning up their act' almost
to excess. In addition, I have gone to extreme lengths to maintain my own
integrity, mainly by dealing with the R&D people rather than marketing
arm, although this is not always possible.

In some areas of research it almost seems that you only have to snap
your fingers and the money comes flowing in, but please spare a thought
for those of us in the Cinderella specialties where the going is much more
tough and we have no alternative other than to be a little less choosey
about how we maintain our momentum.

PJ Whorwell

Competing interests: Professor Whorwell has served as an advisory board member or received research funding from the following pharmaceutical companies: Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Glaxo SmithKline, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer Global R&D, Rotta Research, Proctor and Gamble, Danone Research, Astellas Pharma, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Almirall Pharma, Movetis UK, Norgine and Chr Hansen. Boehringer-Ingelheim, Heel GMBH.

26 August 2011
Peter J Whorwell
Professor of Medicine & Gastroenterology
University of Manchester