By Jo Revill
Every medicine prescribed in Britain is offered to patients only after years collecting data from clinical trials to show a drug’s safety and effectiveness.
Increasingly, medical research in the UK is a collaborative effort between big pharmaceutical companies and universities. Although there will be a commercial contract between the two, much of that relationship is built on trust.
For patients everywhere it is essential that the way research is conducted is open and transparent. This is an account of what happens when the relationships break down, when academics believe they have not been given access to the data and when the relationship between universities and the drugs companies which provide much of their funding for research becomes mired in controversy. This issue – and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry – will be debated in parliament this week.
At its heart is the practice of ‘ghost writing’, pharmaceutical companies hiring writers to produce reports which academics give permission for their name to be put to.