Monday, 29 October 2012

Cambridge MP Huppert Joins Medical Profession In Condemning Drug Trial Secrecy


MP Julian Huppert has joined eminent doctors and researchers to raise concerns that patients are being put at risk by the secrecy surrounding drug trials

In a letter to The Times, Julian and 27 leading medical professionals claim that despite being legally bound to report both positive and negative results from clinical trials, information is being withheld from doctors and the public.

Those who have signed the hard-hitting letter include Dr Fiona Godlee from the British Medical Journal, Dr Richard Horton from The Lancet and Dr Clare Gerada from the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The letter comes in response to Lord Howe’s comments on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 that drug companies are obliged by law to report both positive and negative results from clinical trials.

“In reality, vitally important information about drug trials continues to be withheld from doctors and the public meaning that patients are harmed and money is wasted,” says the letter. “The public remain largely unaware of this issue.

“The current best estimate is that half of all drug trials are never published in academic journals. The UK has spent £500 million on stockpiling Tamiflu, and yet Roche continues to withhold information about trails on this drug from the widely respected Cochrane Collaboration, which produces summaries of evidence for doctors and patients.”

The letter accuses politicians of neglecting the issue for too long. It claims new legislation passing through the European Parliament is weak and US legislation has been widely ignored.

“In an age of increasing transparency, and open access to knowledge, there is no justification for this ongoing secrecy,” it says.

The letter’s signatories have been granted a meeting with the Health Minister to discuss the issue.

Julian said: “Drug companies have been allowed to run these trials without being open and transparent about all the information they have discovered.

“This has left doctors in a difficult position prescribing medicines for their patients without having all the facts; similarly, patients are accepting prescriptions without knowing that some information is being hidden in this way.

“This is totally unacceptable and puts patients at risk. The government must act to resolve this issue. Drug companies must give full results of their clinical trials so that when medicines are released onto the market they are supported by full documentary evidence.”