MPs launch probe into influence of drug industry on UK regulators.

    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
    and marketing.

    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,”
    it said.

    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
    promoted.”

    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.”

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