We’ve been saying for the longest time that the drug regulators are slow, secretive and partial. They are often entirely funded by the drugs industry, and their committees are made up of people with close, or very close, contacts with drug companies. And these watchdogs at the gate are supposedly there to protect the public.
It’s finally occurred to the UK government that this is not an ideal state of affairs. But then they’ve had to apologise and make amends too many times when the regulators have overlooked some problem or other, such as a drug that kills people. The most recent calamity concerned the antidepressant Seroxat, and the way regulators overlooked vital evidence about its dangers, the BBC discovered.
Government officials have drawn up a code of conduct for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, which licenses the Commission for the Safety of Medicines.
The new code recommends that members do not hold any interests in the pharmaceutical industry, and that it should include two lay members.
In a remarkable understatement, Dr Ian Gibson, chairman of the Commons science and technology select committee, said the MHRA suffered from an image problem.
And what the regulator doesn’t hide, the drug company does. According to emails circulated among senior officials of Merck, the company was aware that its painkiller Vioxx was linked to heart problems long before it released the information to the market.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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