The Royal College of Physicians of London have issued a report, Innovating for Health, on the relations between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry:
The 7 February issue of the BMJ has a number of commentaries:
At first blush, the report appears to be a hard-hitting document that calls for a radical restructuring of the relationship, with a special focus on the industry divesting from all professional education activities, and that argues that the public has lost faith in the present prescribing process. However, Joe Collier, an emeritus professor of policy at St. George's, London, expresses disappointment in his BMJ editorial (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/feb03_2/b443) that the RCP working group seemed to lean over backwards to improve the image of the drug industry. He claims that the industry took a huge PR hit in a 2005 report from the House of Commons Health Committee (noted in HOOKED), and the RCP seemed to believe that the record needed to be set straight on that. Still he agrees with a number of the specific recommendations in the report.
The focus of the report is "innovation." The Executive Summary calls for moving beyond "past confrontational debates" to decide upon a national policy for the UK, involving public, private and professional sectors, to restore innovation in medicines to a higher priority status. There is little evidence, however, that innovation has somehow been stifled by the actions of the government and the profession. It seems far more plausible to argue that the major cause of a lack of innovation has been the R&D and marketing decisions of the industry--that it had much more to gain by rediscovering me-too drugs for lifestyle conditions rather than developing new types of drugs that met serious public health needs.
The bottom line seems to be that for regular readers of this blog there is little real news in the RCP report. (Note: The Executive Summary is available on line but the full report, some 70 pages, is available only to RCP members.)