At a glance

What’s planned? Health minister Lord Warner last week announced plans to make the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the pharmaceutical industry ‘operate more openly and transparently’.

Great news. What will this entail?

A draft revised code of practice will tighten rules on the pharma interests of MHRA licensing committee chairmen and members. There will also be more lay members and patient representatives to give patients greater involvement and the MHRA has demanded more action from pharma firms on the agreement to publish clinical trial data for medicines.

What have the media said about it?

The controversy over GSK’s drug Seroxat, which was withdrawn by the MHRA for prescription to adolescents, has been used as an example of where things have gone wrong. The Guardian, for example, ran in-depth pieces on the relationship between regulators and the pharma industry. And BBC1’s Panorama last month claimed to have exposed failings in the MHRA’s relationship with the pharma industry that could have contributed to patients’ health being put at risk.

And since Warner’s announcement?

It’s been fairly quiet, although the Financial Times mentioned the Government’s proposals in an article that also said that Seroxat ‘has become a symbol of what is wrong with an industry that is almost as distrusted as tobacco’.

Does the FT say anything positive?

It points out that mental health charity Mind CEO Richard Brook sees the DoH move to ban licensing committee experts from owning pharma shares as ‘a positive step’, even though it does not go far enough.

And what is the industry saying?

The ABPI says MHRA advice is already impartial, since members have to declare interests in the pharma companies or products ‘and withdraw from discussions on issues where a conflict could arise’. But it agreed there was a need to ensure greater transparency and trust, saying that ‘justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done’.

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