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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 16831

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Lexchin J, O'Donovan O
Prohibiting or ‘managing’ conflict of interest? A review of policies and procedures in three European drug regulation agencies
Social Science & Medicine 2009 Sep 24;


In light of debates about the relationship between interests and scientific expert judgments, and the potential for declarations of conflict of interest (COI) to minimize corporate bias, we reviewed the approach to COI in 3 European drug regulatory bodies. These bodies were the Irish Medicines Board, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom and the European Medicines Agency in the European Union. Official statements about COI laws and codes of practice in the 3 contexts suggest that COIs are prohibited. In practice, the approaches to COI in the 3 drug regulatory agencies presuppose and promote the ideas that COIs cannot and need not be eliminated as the risk of bias can be managed. Because the evidence about if and how COI affects micro-level decision-making in drug regulatory authorities is neither complete nor comprehensive, we advocate a precautionary principle model. Under this model COI would be prohibited on the grounds that it might influence the outcome of regulatory decisions.

Ireland; UK; European Union; Conflict of interest; Drug regulation; Risk management


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Email a Friend influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.