The Drug Test
As Professor Lachmann noted in his blog for our campaign there is “a false perception that most prescription drugs on the shelf are almost entirely safe. Unfortunately this is not (and never will be) the case.” Today’s Times leader goes further in saying that not only is there a lack of transparency in whether a drug is safe, there is a lack of transparency as to whether a drug is any good as well.
It quotes a 2010 study by the National Institute of Health Research that estimated “half of all clinical trials have never been published and that trials with positive results were twice as likely to be published as those without.” That cannot be in the patient’s interest. When addressing a problem it is just as important to have a full understanding of what doesn’t work as it is to have an understanding of what does.
Legislation already exists in this country compelling drug companies to publish the adverse effects of a drug but not, at this stage, the full results of trials. This needs to change.
I welcome the European Commission’s commitment to publish both “negative and positive results” on the European database – EudraCT. But more is required.
There needs to be a cultural shift in both patients and the medical profession - an insistence on full transparency.
It is only through a full understanding of the efficacy of a drug or treatment that a patient can make an informed decision about what they want. The NHS Constitution contains the provision that patients have the right “to be given information about your proposed treatment in advance, including any significant risks and any alternative treatments which may be available, and the risks involved in doing nothing.”
For those with life threatening illnesses the risk-ratio of “doing nothing” is hugely significant and must be considered. People in this situation must be able to access all the information on a drug that they need - even if the risk of adverse effects or failure are great.
That is part of the reason why we are making a submission to the consultation on the NHS Constitution that is due to close at the end of January. We will be calling for a strengthening of its central aim to put patients at the heart of everything it does.
You can comment on the NHS Constitution Consultation here, I encourage you to take part. I look forward to updating you with our submission to the Consultation which we will publish on the website.