Sunday 16 June 2013

Questions Need To Be Asked, So Let's Ask Them

Even those of us who have been aware for some time that the tobacco control movement has had little to do with health were still quite surprised at the incompetence of the MHRA last week.

In effectively killing off e-cigs - should their daft recommendations eventually be adopted - they seem to be either woefully ill-advised or criminally incompetent.

There is, of course, a third possibility as highlighted by the Free Society yesterday.
That a body can be convened by the MHRA/CHM with quite so many links to the pharmaceutical industry is almost unbelievable. Can you imagine an ‘expert committee’ advising government on tobacco regulation being populated by people working for the tobacco industry? No, nor can I.
Do go read the whole piece to see some staggering self-righteous hypocrisy.

An industry which has been accusing others of interfering in health policy for profit for decades - they even have a WHO convention banning the practice - is now backing the MHRA, which lists a committee so deeply mired in pharmaceutical conflicting interests as to be scandalous.

Remember the furore over the government's responsibility deal?
A BBC Panorama alcohol feature this week questioned the level of industry influence over Government policy whilst exploring the impact of alcohol misuse within hospitals. Scrutinising Government alcohol policy, Panorama revealed that industry representation on the Government and Partners Alcohol Working Group had recently increased from a few up to 7 out of the 16 members. 
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said "The government needs to decide if it really does want to get to grips with the significant levels of alcohol harm in the UK, or stick with the status quo of allowing the drinks industry to call the shots. It can't have it both ways."
If you are a popular public supplier who wishes to be involved in the prohibitionist process, it's appalling that you're allowed anywhere near the table.

However, if you've been paid by Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, or any other competitor for nicotine provision, you're invited onto an advisory committee, no less.

Indeed, the MHRA's forerunner was described in 2003 as an organisation designed to protect the interests of the pharmaceutical industry!
"In deriving all its funding from industry fees, the Agency differs from some of its overseas counterparts, who have a proportion of direct governmental funding. The Agency is also unusual in having a stated objective to facilitate the development of the UK pharmaceutical industry"
This was criticised by Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge in 2005 who was in charge of the MHRA at the time..
"Thus it is unsurprising that many of the agency's employees have worked in the pharmaceutical industry." 
"In addition, from November 2005, European regulations will require that staff have no financial or other interests that could affect their impartiality." 
"Regulation of drugs by the UK regulatory agency is funded entirely by user fees. Strict rules are in place to ensure staff and committee members have no personal conflicts of interest"
Those "strict rules" obviously do not extend on who is allowed to entirely ignore the public on e-cigs and, instead, protect pharmaceutical patch and gum manufacturers against competition.

But then, Prof Breckenridge isn't squeaky clean either.
From 1992 to 1997 I was a member of a scientific advisory committee of SmithKline. I resigned from that in 1997. This had been an extremely valuable exercise for my development in medicines regulation. We did not discuss specific products on that board; it was a matter of the larger picture of industry.
Yeah, pull the other one, matey, I could imagine the tobacco control industry saying. You see, you only have to mildly object to daft pronouncements to be classed as a tobacco industry stooge without the remotest hint of evidence (like everything else they do).

Yet you can take the pharma dollar proudly for years and still be classed as a fine upstanding impartial source. So much so that you are invited to committees which advocate bans on new products which threaten pharmaceutical profits.

Questions need to be asked of the MHRA and its vested interests. The best people to ask them are MPs, so I do hope vapers everywhere will encourage their elected representatives to do exactly that by way of a written parliamentary question.

You have every right as a constituent to do so, and it is a very simple process - you don't even have to know who your MP is. Simply type your post code into, click on your MP's name and fill in the web form. They are obliged to provide a reply.

If you receive an ignorant or dismissive response - which I'm sure might happen - do please forward it my way. Not only could it provide great entertainment, but I'll even offer a prize if it's funny enough.

(For a few useful nuggets to drop in, see a letter featured Friday).

H/T Dave Atherton for MHRA digging.


SteveW said...

Excellent stuff Dick.
I trust you'll not mind me borrowing a few snippets to correct my earlier assertions to my MP about the MHRA being a government funded body?

Not that I need an excuse to pressure him into responding, but I'll take what I can get :-)

DaveAtherton20 said...

Cancer Research and the MHRA have inadvertently shone a light on some questionable conflicts of interest with their e-cigs report..

Big Government is pleasing no one. :)

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I hope every reader steals loads.

I've always said that e-cigs are a Godsend for exposing hypocrisy, but they are exceeding even my enthusiastic expectations. I didn't think they would expose corruption too. ;)

DaveAtherton20 said...

Well SteveW you can see why government wants to control the internet. Too many prolls learning what the world really is..

DaveAtherton20 said...

Cancer Research is getting a good kicking too.

DaveAtherton20 said...

Steve I run a blog too and I am Health Correspondent for and have written about e-cigs often. The whole idea is to impart information into the public domain for everyone's use.

SteveW said...

I've seen some of your Commentator stuff before Dave, all good.

Will check out your blog when I've not been drinking this nectar of the gods

Dick_Puddlecote said...

CRUK is increasingly looking like the R&D arm of the pharmaceutical industry. Does anyone truly believe that if CRUK found a cure for cancer they'd give it to the country for free?

Or would they hand it to big pharma to increase shareholder value and thank them for their 'investment'?

Of course, a cure would mean the end of CRUK entirely along with their tens of thousands of jobs and £400m+ annual income. Hmm, it's a toughie, isn't it? ;)

Crossbow said...

Also noteworthy is that the MHRA used science from a TOBACCO COMPANY (BAT)

And as if that wasn't bad enough, it's also the tobacco company that owns Intellicig, the only company seeking MHRA approval for thier product.

Now, if all the crap spouted by the TCI is true, and tobacco science is inherantly dodgy, why is a medicine regulator using it?
And if it isn't, doesn't it still constitute a complete conflict of interest?

barnacle bill said...

We had the possibility of a relaxation in the smoking ban waved in front
of our noses at the last general election like carrots on a stick.
perhaps this is all some cunning plan by Cast Iron to cast Cleggie as
the E-Fag banastor, whilst Cast iron will be donning his anti-EU pants
inside of his tights to rescue E-Fags.

Then again I doubt if Cast Iron would know a cunning plan if he saw one - let alone manage to think one up himself!

JonathanBagley said...

Best kicking I've witnessed in a long time. Here's a link to MHRA funding

Tony said...

This makes no sense at all to me. So they are trying to say nicotine is a medicine which is clearly not true. I am hoping this nonsense is thrown out.

And surely if they class nicotine as medicines then what about cigarettes?

These people can't have their cake and eat it.