In the process of writing a more substantial article for CRFocus (journal of the Institute of Clinical Research), I asked the president of the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry for his perspective on the ABPI’s media statement in response to Dr Ben Goldacre’s `Bad Pharma’. This is just a quick post to report how that went. Here is the full text of his reply:
Thank you for your letter dated 7 November 2012. The issues raised by Mr Goldacre (sic) in his book, Bad Pharma, are important and we take them very seriously. I would like to add that during the development of Mr Goldacre’s book, the ABPI did try on numerous occasions to make contact with Mr Goldacre and we were disappointed that he did not respond. Consequently, there are a number of issues that we are now clarifying through public debate.
I wish to reiterate, as outlined by the ABPI on 5 October 2012, that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. The industry has stringent and robust transparency requirements and disclosure of all data exists in line with international standards set by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), as well as a host of other regulatory bodies, both national and international.
However, although I believe the pharmaceutical industry sets a very high standard on protocol, disclosure and transparency, we do recognise that there is always room for improvement and refinement. The UK and the ABPI has often led the debate on transparency and has undertaken extensive work in this area. The ABPI’s CEO, Stephen Whitehead, is a major champion of transparency and the ABPI reaches out and listens to all stakeholders on such debates, however difficult that may be.
In the UK, the ABPI has been doing considerable work through its ethical working group consisting of the Royal Colleges, the BMA and The Lancet. Only six months ago, the ABPI and the BMJ hosted a joint conference on this very issue to understand exactly what stakeholders want from the industry and what we, within the UK, have the power to influence.
To this end, the ABPI is committed to further improving the research and development process. This should be through stakeholder engagement involving all those working in R&D, regulation and healthcare delivery while ensuring that we put patients at the heart of everything we do so that they continue to have access to new and innovative medicines.
I hope this addresses your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further queries.
Of course, I took up his offer to request further information, and asked when and how the alleged attempts to contact Ben were made. There was no reply, so I tried again. I then received an email, which got me all excited, but it contained no text, only a PDF attachment. This was another letter on ABPI stationery, which said:
Please contact my colleagues at the ABPI head office, who will be happy to assist you with your query.
The same letter then arrived in the post, in a nice high quality envelope. An amazing effort in order to say nothing of any use. In fact I had already phoned the ABPI press office to ask the same question, but so far there has been no reply, even after two phone calls and three emails. This is all very interesting in view of Ben’s perspective on it. He says:
They made absolutely no attempt to contact me whatsoever. That is very simply another false claim from the ABPI.
It is extremely puzzling behaviour, especially since they have also told other people that they are deliberately not engaging with me. I think this does a great disservice to the many ethical professionals in the pharma industry.
What more can I say? This is the industry that I have been proud to serve over nearly 40 years. There is a large majority of ethical professionals in it, and they will be as disappointed as I am. Ben says to contact him if you have anything else on this: firstname.lastname@example.org