WATCHDOGS (MCA) LINKED TO MAKERS OF MMR JAB

Taken from: Sunday Express, 11/3/2001.

By Lacy Johnston and Katie Branigan

Many Government advisers on the safety of medicines have close financial ties with the pharmaceutical giants who produce the controversial measles, mumps and rubella jab. A Sunday Express investigation has found that nearly a third of the 181 experts who sit on the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) committees are linked to GlaxoSmithKline, Aventis Pasteur or Merck, Sharpe and Dohme.

51 members either hold shares in these companies or are dependent on them for consultancy fees or research grants.

The MCA has continued to endorse the triple measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab despite concerns linking it to autism and stomach disorders. But the extent of the MCA members’ financial ties to MMR manufacturers raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Nicholas Harvey said the matter should be looked into. "If these experts have pecuniary interests in the companies, we can’t be confident they are making objective decisions," he said.

Members of the MCA are also concerned. Joe Collier, Professor of Medicines Policy at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London, said many committee members are too close to drug companies. He claims there is an "institutional bias" which makes the experts ready to take the industry’s point of view. Health experts also argue that MCA meetings are secret and therefore not open to public scrutiny.

Jackie Fletcher, from the campaigning group JABS, which is highlighting the possible health risks of MMR., said:

"Monitoring bodies keep saying that they are independent but what is the definition of independence when they have shares and interests in the companies that manufacture and distribute the vaccines?"

The size of the members’ shareholdings is confidential because they are not required to disclose on the MCA’s register of interest how many shares they own. But our research - based on drug companies’ share registers from April last year - found several experts have substantial investments.

Dr Michael Denham, a retired consultant in geriatric medicine and a member of the committee on Safety of Medicines External Advisory Panel, owned 250,000 worth of shares in GlaxoSmithKline. Professor Roderick MacSween, a professor of pathology at Glasgow Western Infirmary, had nearly 26,000 worth of shares in Glaxo ---SmithKline.

Dr Michael Donaghy, a brain specialist at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary Hospital, who sits on the MCA had 19,000 worth of shares. 11 professors and doctors have received fees for research from Aventis Pasteur.

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