At the time, the UK press reported Ian Hudson’s non-appearance at the House of Commons like this: “Members of the House of Commons select committee on health appeared angry that they were not able to question one of the employees of the United Kingdom’s drug regulatory authority at a session last week looking into the influence of the drug industry. Although several senior figures from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency attended the session, the committee said that it would also have liked to have heard evidence from Ian Hudson. Dr Hudson is a member of the agency’s executive board and was worldwide director of safety at SmithKline Beecham from 1999 to 2001, having worked for the company since 1989. Dr Hudson joined the agency’s predecessor, the Medicines Control Agency, in January 2001 as director of the licensing division. MPs wanted to question Dr Hudson about the company’s drug paroxetine (marketed as Seroxat in Britain and as Paxil in the United States). They were particularly interested in evidence concerning the safety and efficacy of the drug in people under the age of 18. In June 2003 the agency advised doctors that patients aged under 18 should not be prescribed the drug.”
I know someone who attended the hearing that day as well, and he confirms that David Hinchcliffe, the Chairman of the meeting was angry & exasperated “There was a great feeling of cover up, or at least that’s what I felt sitting there nearby Charles Medawar. Charles Medawar’s overall demeanour was one of anger, alongside David Hinchcliffe who was also angry & exasperated…”
The transcript of the hearing is here, read around question 783 for a flavour of how the committee and Chairman felt.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, the MHRA has made public an email, download here – Witnesses for Thursday.pdf – apparently showing that Hudson’s non-appearance was agreed in a phone call between Lord Warner (government Health minister) and David Hinchcliffe (meeting Chairman) just a few days before the hearing. This email was from Neil Townley at the Dept. of Health to David Harrison – the Clerk of the committee (and copied to Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge.
However this exchange from the hearing is most interesting:
Q790 John Austin: I think it would have been useful if Dr Hudson had been here because, as far as I understand, he was at SmithKline Beecham and his department was responsible for the collection of adverse reaction information such as there was with Seroxat.
Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge: Yes, I know that, but I—
Q791 John Austin: So he would have been a very key witness.
Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge: But I have not discussed that with Dr Hudson.
Q792 John Austin: So you must admit that it is very unfortunate he is not with us today?
Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge: Well, I apologise for that, but I think there was some confusion about who was going to attend and I think the Clerk was told that this was where Dr Hudson was going to be.
Now, what this makes me ask is:
Why did Breckenridge reply to Q792 as he did? The email that was copied to him on Monday 17 January clearly states Lord Warner and Hinchcliffe had just agreed that it would only be Breckenridge, Woods and Raine who were appearing. For Breckenridge to say “…I think there was some confusion about who was going to attend and I think the Clerk was told that this was where Dr Hudson was going to be…” beggars belief.
Well, I think there was no confusion at all. I think the Clerk was never told that Hudson would appear. I think Breckenridge was lying when he said that. I think it would have been too embarrassing to let Ian Hudson be questioned. I think this stinks.
Why didn’t Breckenridge simply say that “Ian Hudson is not here today because you, Mr Chairman, agreed his non-appearance with Lord Warner on Monday of this week”… (the hearing was Thursday).
And why, if Hinchcliffe did agree the list of attendees, did he say nothing to explain the confusion to the hearing….
So, the question is just what did Lord Warner say to Hinchcliffe during their phone call on the morning of Monday 17 January?