So, who’s lying then?

Sorry to go over old ground here, but I still have questions about Ian Hudson and his non-appearance at the Health Select Committee hearing back in 2005. I have written about this before, so if you’re new to this thread or just want a refresher then I suggest you look at this post: More on the MHRA and the House of Commons.

Interestingly, I’ve just found this old article from the BMJ, 29 January 2005

Select committee angry over absence of drug regulator from session

London – by Lynn Eaton

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.

Committee members were told that Dr Hudson could not attend the session because he was at a London meeting as a representative of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, a part of the European Medicines Evaluation Agency.

“It would have been useful if Dr Hudson had been here, as he was at SmithKline Beecham and his department was responsible [for drug safety],” said Mr John Austin (Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead).

The agency’s chairman, Alasdair Breckenridge, told MPs he had been a member of the scientific committee of SmithKline Beecham from 1992 to 1997, when he resigned. He fiercely defended his involvement with the committee and denied any knowledge of the issue of the safety and efficacy of paroxetine.

The agency’s chief executive, Kent Woods, also giving evidence to the committee, said that Dr Hudson had assured him he had no direct personal involvement in this safety issue. “However, because of his role in the company [SmithKline Beecham] he doesn’t get involved [in discussions on Seroxat],” said Professor Woods.

Speaking after the meeting, the committee’s chairman, David Hinchliffe, who was clearly angry at the committee’s inability to question Dr Hudson, said his understanding was that Dr Hudson was invited to attend.

However, Professor Woods, also speaking afterwards, said that some discussion with the committee secretariat about who would attend had taken place and that the agency had received a clear statement from the committee about whom it wanted to see, which did not include Dr Hudson.

Professor Woods and Professor Breckenridge also sought to reassure the committee that measures were now being taken by the agency to monitor new drugs more closely. Both reiterated the views of earlier witnesses that the public needed a better understanding of the risks and benefits of all drugs.

Professor Breckenridge admitted that the agency had “suffered from not being professional enough” in its communications. “We are determined to change that,” he said, explaining that the agency has just appointed a communications director.
I hope you noticed the paragraph in bold – “Speaking after the meeting, the committee’s chairman, David Hinchliffe, who was clearly angry at the committee’s inability to question Dr Hudson, said his understanding was that Dr Hudson was invited to attend”.

But what I find strange is that if you want to download this PDF – Witnesses for Thursday.pdf – you’ll see that it appears that Lord Warner (then Health Minister) and David Hincliffe had a phone conversation on the Monday morning before the hearing and agreed exactly who was going to attend from the MHRA… and you will see that Ian Hudson is not mentioned as a witness.

I’m confused – who’s lying then – Lord Warner or David Hinchliffe? and why?

I have emailed my concerns to members of the Committee who were there, asking questions that day, but so far I have been ignored – more than once…


10 Responses to “So, who’s lying then?”

  1. Derek Scott Says:

    I attended that particular meeting of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee Investigation of the Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry. It was clearly obvious from the outset that the Chairman David Hinchliffe was very angry at the absence of Dr Ian Hudson as a witness. I’d say Lord Warner is the liar, based on the fact that I caught him lying more than once both to me and Members of Parliament.

  2. admin Says:

    But that explanation still doesn’t make sense to me. The email was sent by Neil Townley – PR Office at the DoH to David Harrison who I understand was the Clerk of the Committee. So are we to believe that Warner said one thing in the phone call to Hincliffe then told Neil Townley another? Or maybe Warner and Hinchcliffe had a row over the phone about Hudson not attending?

    And remember Breckenridge said at the hearing “…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…” But Breckenridge was one of the people copied in on this email…

    Have I been supplied with an edited email?

    Do you know what? – I don’t think this one will go away. I want to understand what went on.


    Hudson, it seems, is very coy where Seroxat is concerned. We’ve heard or read statements from Breckenridge, Raine, Benbow even Woods but never have I seen or heard Hudson… apart from when Lawyer Andy Vickery made a show of him during legal proceedings in the US.

    Hudson, is possibly the key that will eventually unlock the Seroxat secrets… that’s why they want to keep him on a tight leash.

    You have to blame the Health Select Committee here too. A decision was taken on whatever evidence was taken at that meeting and they now have washed their hands of the whole Seroxat debacle (See here)

    Good post Mr Admin


  4. Matthew Holford Says:

    Interesting, isn’t it? Unless I’m very much mistaken, David Hinchcliffe is no longer an MP, although I’m not sure how much one should read into that.

    It looks as if the Select Committee was keen to ask the awkward (not to say “obvious”) questions. Their observations in the Report are really quite near the knuckle, anyway. I can see that that would create an issue for certain people, and if the Committee started to feel that it was having information withheld from it, I can see how that would be frustrating for it.

    The issue of efficacy is the key one, I think. I’ve already seen for myself how the MHRA is extremely evasive on this point. It won’t even disclose how it assesses efficacy in general terms, let alone with respect to Seroxat (the Committee inferred from comments made by Breckenbridge, I think it was, that assessment amounted to taking the word of the submitting company!).

    I’m still inclined to argue that there is no evidence of collusion, here, but the bottom line is that not only has Mr Fuck-up come to call, but he’s bought a Season Ticket. The MHRA may be able to argue that it has a very good reason for each and every thing it does, in isolation, but its systems and procedures have produced a spectacular mess, which it seems to think is OK. That’s incompetence so massive that it’s off the scale, as far as I’m concerned.


  5. truthman30 Says:

    The Seroxat Scandal so far reads like a mystery novel…
    Not unlike John Le Carre’s ” the constant gardener”…
    ( in places it is in fact eerily similar )
    It seems to me that Ian Hudson and the MHRA do not want the public to have access to information on Seroxat, the licencing procedures which pased, it or access to any information about it…
    If Ian Hudson had nothing to hide, then why did he not turn up to the “select committee” meeting?..
    Surely a meeting like that would have been of utmost importance .. (it’s not something that could easliy slip your mind)
    And personally , I find the excuses offered by Mr Breckenridge as to the reasons behind his non-appearance quite lame..
    To be honest , it reminded me of a bold school boy bunking off school because he knows he is in trouble, (so he gets his buddy to tell the teacher a porky to cover for his absense) I imagine Mr Breckenridge could have said that Mr Hudson could not attend because his dog ate his homework and that would have been just as unsatisfactory and silly as what he actually said…
    How stupid do they think the public are?…

  6. Matthew Holford Says:

    Yes, this non-appearance must have been quite galling, for the Committee. I wonder why it wasn’t given the authority to compel “witnesses” to attend, as is the case when public enquiries are called. Indeed, I wonder why it was not possible to have Hudson attend on another day – I’m sure that a mutually agreeable time/date could have been arranged, when everybody had a hour or two free.

    Actually, it might be interesting to know what Terms of Reference were given to the Committee – I don’t remember seeing that mentioned on the Report, although maybe I just skimmed past that particular appetiser!


  7. Derek Scott Says:

    I often wonder why the committee didn’t just call for Dr Hudson to appear at a future meeting to discuss Seroxat. The chairman had the power to do so but didn’t. The pharmaceutical industry clearly have a great amount of clout within Parliament given that GlaxoSmithKline canvassed MP’s with constituency interests in GSK in the run up to BBC Panorama ‘Secrets of the Drugs Trials’ as revealed by Paul Flynn MP for Newport West in EDM 767 >> Call me paranoid but this whole thing stinks of conspiracy.

  8. Derek Scott Says:

    Check this out, Charles Medawar is still corresponding with the MHRA…. Sounds like hes ready for a fight, strong words and a threat of passing his concerns to the Fitness to Practice Directorate of the GMC re: Breckenridge!


    The limp MHRA response to Charles’ letter is also available. No admittance, no apology – NO SURPRISE!

    Maybe the Fitness to Practice Directorate of the GMC can delve further? Surely though, the Directorate would have already watched the Panorama episodes where Breckenridge made a fool of himself so why no action?

    What a can of worms!


  10. Derek Scott Says:

    Oh the GMC should have already watched the DVD copy I sent them in my complaint about Dr Alastair Benbow, and his misconduct (blatantly lying in 4 BBC Panorama Seroxat documentaries). The GMC like the MHRA are useless and who allowed the murders of Dr Harold Shipman to continue for as long as they did. As a consequence they are to have a lot of their powers stripped away.

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