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Inquiry into pharmaceutical industry a victory for consumer rights - Mind Chief Executive

Immediate release - Friday 18 June 04

Inquiry into pharmaceutical industry a victory for consumer rights

Richard Brook, Chief Executive of mental health charity Mind, has today welcomed the announcement there is to be a parliamentary inquiry into the influence wielded by the pharmaceutical industry on UK health policy and treatment provision. Key terms of reference for the inquiry will include the power of drugs companies in relation to medical research, drugs trials and the independent regulation of pharmaceutical medicine.

Mind has long questioned the influence of pharmaceutical giants on the promotion and regulation of medicines. In recent months, the ability of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to safeguard patients' interests has been called into question over the revelation that many thousands of people were exposed to potentially harmful doses of the antidepressant Seroxat (*1). In March this year Mr Brook resigned from an MHRA advisory panel on SSRI antidepressants, expressing concern that the agency had been aware of these problems, but had failed to act.

Richard Brook said,

"The announcement that the Commons Health Committee is to investigate the role of the drugs companies in relation to the way medicines are developed, promoted and regulated is a significant victory for the British consumer. In particular, it is testament to the determination of ordinary people to have their concerns over antidepressant side effects heard and acted upon by the regulatory authorities.

"The regulator's prime function should always be protecting the public from bad medicine. It should never be open to influence from pharmaceutical multinationals seeking instead to protect their commercial interests.

"We have been expressing unease over the power that drugs companies possess in relation to medicines evaluation for some time. And we have been concerned that medicines that are not fully understood with relation to adverse side effects are all too often aggressively promoted.

"Mind hopes that this inquiry will result in a better deal for millions of people, regardless of their condition or their prescribed treatment. Meanwhile we will continue to campaign for truly independent drugs evaluation and regulation. The British public deserves a system that puts the patient at the heart of the decision-making process."

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(*1) Seroxat is one of a group of newer antidepressants called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

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