Allowing the body that regulates the use and safety of medicines to
be run by representatives of the pharmaceutical industry is like
putting Ronnie Biggs at the wheel of a bank delivery van: he
certainly knows how to drive, but he’s got his own ideas about the
It would be funny if it weren’t so horrifying. A year after the
angry resignation of Mind chief executive Richard Brook from the
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the scandal of
bribes, omissions and half-truths in medicine trials and regulation
The problems are obvious, the solutions less so. Pharmaceutical
companies pay millions to develop and test drugs, and face huge
losses if the findings are “inconvenient”. It is in their interest
to, as one internal memo puts it, “manage the dissemination of data
in order to minimise any potential negative commercial impact”.
It would be difficult to staff the MHRA with pharmaceutical experts
who have never worked in the industry, and their presence – within
reason – is to be welcomed. But they have held sway for too long.
The MHRA must be reformed and acquire truly independent voices,
including those of lay people, impartial professionals and the
patients themselves. Above all, vested interests must be
eliminated. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.