MPs are to hold an inquiry into the influence of the pharmaceutical
industry on the UK’s health policies in a move hailed by mental
health campaigners as a “victory for consumers”.
The move coincides with a decision by pharmaceutical giant
GlaxoSmithKline last week to finally release the results of nine
clinical trials suggesting links between its antidepressant drug
Seroxat and suicidal thoughts in children.
The House of Commons health select committee inquiry will focus on
the impact the pharmaceutical industry has on drug safety and
efficacy reviews by the regulators, the conduct of medical research
A statement from the committee said balancing commercial and health
objectives posed “major challenges” to policymakers. “How these
sometimes conflicting objectives are perceived and resolved has
profound consequences for consumers, patients and public health,”
Richard Brook, chief executive of mental health charity Mind,
resigned from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory
Agency after complaining that data questioning the safety of some
antidepressants had been suppressed (news, page 9, 18 March).
Welcoming the inquiry, he said: “The regulators’ prime function
should always be protecting the public from bad medicine. It should
never be open to influence from pharmaceutical multinationals
seeking to protect their commercial interests. We have been
concerned that medicines that are not fully understood with
relation to adverse side effects are all too often aggressively
Release of GlaxoSmithKline’s trial data follows a recent decision
by New York state attorney general Eliot Spitzer to prosecute the
company for alleged fraud. He claimed it had tried to suppress the
studies, which suggest that Seroxat is no better than a placebo
(news, page 14, 10 June).
In a statement, the company said: “GlaxoSmithKline’s policy is to
ensure transparency of the clinical data the company collects on
its marketed medicines. We endorseÉprinciples that call for
timely publication of meaningful trial results.”