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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20461

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

Kmietowicz Z
BMA follows Lancet in quitting group on collaboration between doctors and drug industry
BMJ 2013 Mar 8; 346:


The BMA has become the second organisation in a month to withdraw its support for a document outlining how healthcare professionals and the drug industry could collaborate.
In February, the Lancet said that it no longer backed the four page document,1 which was published in 2012 by the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group (ESHLSG). The group is co-chaired by the president of the Royal College of Physicians, Richard Thompson, and the president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Deepak Khanna.2
Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, said that the document did not match the latest evidence on how drug companies behaved, especially in terms of the industry’s effect on medical practice.
At the time, he told the BMJ: “There can be very positive interactions with the industry, but only if based on reliable evidence and with the patient’s interests centre stage. What is now much clearer is that several of the statements in the document do not stand up to scrutiny. Since there is no process to raise these matters in a joint working group (I have never been invited to the meetings), the only action we could take was to withdraw.”
The BMA said that it was leaving the group that supported the document because of new areas of work that the group was planning. It said its logo would be removed from the ESHLSG website and documents in due course.
In a statement, the BMA said: “As the ESHLSG is considering a number of areas which we have not considered in detail within the BMA and do not yet have an established view, it has become increasingly difficult for us to maintain membership of the ESHLSG.
“We do believe it is important to have open and constructive dialogue between the pharmaceutical industry and health professional communities, and hope that the BMA can continue to be part of that dialogue. We will continue to monitor the work of the ESHLSG and to engage where possible by contributing to public consultations as a non-member.”
The ESHLSG said in a statement that it was “naturally disappointed” that the BMA had chosen to withdraw from the group.
However, the group was encouraged that the BMA would still like to engage with its work on issues on a case by case basis, and it looked forward to continued open and constructive dialogue.
The statement from Thompson and Khanna concluded: “The ESHLSG will continue to work on a variety of pressing issues around transparency, such as the future of industry support for medical education and the need for greater transparency in financial relationships between industry and how a public register of payments to healthcare professionals should be designed.”
The BMJ and the Lancet are currently signatories to the ESHLSG statement on clinical trial transparency. The BMJ is considering whether or not to remain a signatory.



Hawkes N. Lancet withdraws its support of document on collaboration between doctors and drug industry. BMJ2013;346:f770.
FREE Full Text

Dyer C. Collaboration with drug industry won’t affect clinical decisions, says new guide. BMJ2012;344:e2489.
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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909