In my previous post today ‘MPs to scrutinise drug watchdog – but it’s NOT the MHRA‘ I illustrated the difference between NICE and the MHRA as far as Big Pharma is concerned. Please read on for more background.
Decisions by NICE are crucial for the giant Pharamceutical companies. It decides whether a drug should be universally available to patients in the NHS. Chaired by Prof Sir Michael Rawlings, NICE draws on scientific experts and consults doctors, patients, drug companies and the Department of Health. The government invariably accepts its final recommendations. Although ministers say they cannot influence NICE, documents obtained by the Guardian under Freedom of Information legislation reveal a constant stream of high-level visitors to the Goverment from drug companies.
Manufacturers, led by Pfizer, have been complaining to ministers about NICE’s position on their controversial Alzheimer’s drugs. Originally NICE decided to allow them, then it reversed its position, saying they should be used only for a minority of patients with moderate disease.
At a meeting in October 2006 with the minister, Pfizer executives made it clear they “were unhappy with the NICE decision … and thought their processes were flawed”. They requested a special meeting with ministers where all the companies making Alzheimer’s drugs could put their case.
The documents prepared by civil servants for the Pfizer meeting outline the wealth and scale of the US company, which in 2004 had revenue of $52.5bn (£28bn) and a net income of over $11bn.
But, Pfizer executives warn the minister, it could always take its business elsewhere. “Pfizer … noted that there is complacency in some quarters of Whitehall regarding their continued investment in the UK,” the minutes record. “Pfizer asked for more public support from the government for a robust pharmaceutical industry in the UK and more consultation/dialogue with the government.”
This shocking information has been taken from an article in the Guardian by Rob Evans and Sarah Boseley in 2006 which goes into the matter much more detail.
Do we really want to be told how to run the NHS by the White House and Big Pharma? – because that looks like the way things are going at the moment.