Note: We're delighted to share this post by Martin Walker. Martin covered the GMC trial in the UK moment by moment and is a copious author whose book "Dirty Medicine" is sharp and thought provoking. Please visit his website Slingshot Publications. Ordering information is at the bottom of this post.
By Martin Walker
Just this morning I saw Robert Kennedys meme about the control of the CDC by pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical company licensing. The situation is not quite the same in the UK but his statement ‘The CDC is not an independent agency, it is a vaccine company’ rang bells with me.
By infiltration the pharmaceutical companies have take over completely the regulation of pharmaceutical medicines in the UK. The most powerful of the groups involved is the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, (MHRA), like the CDC the agency, responsible for licensing. Most people in Britain see the Agency as part of the UK government with a supportive civil service. However the MHRA, although apparently attached to the UK government, is actually a free standing ‘executive agency’.
The Agency employs more than 1,200 people and has facilities in London, York and South Mimms, Hertfordshire. It deals with the licensing of all drugs and has various departments which carry the pharmaceutical cause further. The group also has ex-police investigators there to harry alternative medicine practitioners and bring charges against them if necessary, and a small unit which sends out letters under the names of fictitious patients asking for information on alternative treatments. The executive Agency is wholly funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
Although the pharmaceutical companies pay the whole bill for the MHRA, there are occasions when the MHRA sees fit to make a criminal prosecution - yes the MHRA has the power to prosecute in criminal law - against an alternative health distributor or practitioner. Clearly it would be unfair to expect the pharmaceutical companies to pay for such cases, so when they do bring them, despite the fact that they do not pass through the Crown Prosecution Service (the governemt check on the validity of cases) they draw on the common purse getting the tax payer to fund their case.
The agency is run by a management board at present headed by Dr Ian Hudson who became chief executive in September 2013. Hudson is a physician who practiced as a paediatrician for a number of years, before working in the pharmaceutical industry in clinical research and development between 1989 and 2001, at which time he joined the Medicines Control Agency (former organisation to the MHRA) as director of its licensing division.
The head since 2014 of the licensing division, the most inbred of departments, which receives the majority of funding for MHRA from drug companies desperate to get their drugs licensed, is Dr Siu Ping Lam who the MHRA site assures us, has over 24 years’ experience in medicines regulation.
Dr Siu Ping Lam the MHRA site claims, has shaped many changes in European directives for pharmaceuticals, set up the traditional herbal medicines registration scheme, and the homeopathic medicines registration scheme.
A third member of the MHRA Board, worth noting is Gerald Hedell a microbiologist who is a Chartered Biologist and a member of the Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Hedell, previously worked for the National Health Service (NHS) but left in 1978, since then Hedell has worked in senior roles for the late Wellcome Foundation, Glaxo Wellcome and GlaxoSmithKline.
How the MHRA came into being is instructive. The Evans Cunliffe report, Study of Control of Medicines, published in 1987 written by a senior civil servant at the Department of Health with an ICI chemicals executive, a leading member of the Association of British Pharmaceucal Industries (ABPI), acknowledged the cosy, informal relationship between ‘officials’ in the DoH and ‘applicant companies’ seeking to license their products.
The report - that had come about because of the massive backlog of chemicals, drugs and apparatus in need of licences, which were piling up on the books of the Medicines Division - determined this informal co- operation to be a healthy state of affairs, which had regrettably been lost over the years. The report recommended that there was a return to this ‘informal communication’ between parties and that ‘both parties should take steps to encourage informal communication’.
DHSS (Department of Health and Social Security) and the pharmaceutical industry agree that communication between officials and applicant companies has become more formal in recent years, with more reliance on written notices referring to the terms of the Medicines Act. All parties agree the need for informal communication by telephone, letter and meetings help to remove misunderstanding and aid the smooth dispatch of business. (22)
This report signalled the first momentum in modern British history that ushered corporations into the structure of the Government’s civil service.
In order to solve the ‘backlog of licencing’ problems, a department in the DHSS was designated for the pharmaceutical companies, who would fund 60% of its cost. Within a short time, this was a booming ‘department of Government’, running all aspects of regulation and licensing of pharmaceuticals and paid for in its entirety, by licensing fees, by the ABPI and separate pharmaceutical companies.
Just as with the CDC, governments have left the pharmaceutical regulators to get on with their own business. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s there was constant sniping from the media, usually restricted to the minor question of the involvement of those within the wide ranging committees of the MHRA with vested inters. The much larger question, however, of who controls pharmaceutical licensing, has been left entirely to the pharmaceutical companies.
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