Political “collaboration” with drug companies

David Cameron is apparently about to announce that private companies – i.e., pharmaceutical companies – will be able to access NHS patient data.

Over the last couple of years, I have had concerns that the opt-out system into electronic medical records is wrong, and should instead be an opt-in system. I’ve been concerned that the kind of medical data gathered and the way it is stored on the electronic record isn’t of great use to patients, but may be of more use to research companies and drug marketers.

So perhaps this pending annoucement should not be a surprise.

It’s worrying that we still see pharmaceutical products as the mainstay of improving health in the future when the evidence tells us, should we listen to it, that the biggest gains to be made to health are social, political and environmental.

The biggest problem though, is this.

Currently, there is no legal requirement for pharmaceutical companies to publish clinical results that they don’t like, for whatever reason. They can, quite legally, bury or destroy data that they are unhappy with. A few brave souls have tried hard to publish results when they are disliked, and many editors have tried to put trial registrations into place to stop this practice. Yet the bottom line remains: there is no guarantee that pharma will publish all their clinical trial results.

Yet the government seems to be happy to let pharma see into NHS datasets. Magnifying the inequality is farcical. And wrong.

4 Responses to “Political “collaboration” with drug companies”

  1. Penny Wolff December 5, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Couldnt agree more with all of this. Is Cameron just being hypocritical about the supposed ‘health’ gains from his stragegy ? i.e. he knows only too well from the evidence year on year since the early 80s, that true health gains are only to be made from a political will to address socio/economic and environmental issues. What he and Willetts are actually doing is trying to attract ‘life sciences’ (what a misnomer!!!)businesses into the UK to boost the economy and jobs.
    I also thought it somewhat hilarious this morning on the Today programme that Willetts said that in Scotland they had achieved a 40% reduction in lower limb amputation in diabetics as a result of their being more open to pharmaceutical companies being able to access patient data!!!!!! This is a man they call ‘two brain Willetts’ More like half a brain I’d say!

  2. steve December 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Margaret – this topic cropped up about a year ago when a private company tried to get hold of anonymised data from patient GP records here in Highland, free of charge. The issue was discussed at LMC/GP Sub where myself and others argued that whether it was anonymised or not this was not data that we were prepared to give away. There was no patient consent and, in addition, no recognition that this was data collectd by us after, in some cases, many years of hard work and therefore it was also our “intellectual property”. We haven’t heard from them since.
    I think we must resist such moves by private companies to mine NHS data for the purposes of generating company profits and share holder dividends.

    • Margaret McCartney
      margaretmccartney January 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

      how interesting – you don’t remember who is was ? There is one company that does collect anonymised data from practices and sells to pharma that I’m aware of….

  3. steve January 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Nope – sorry – can’t remember the details – must be the red mist that descended on me at the outrageous cheek of their approach!