By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
The pharmaceutical industry came under assault from senior figures in medical research yesterday over its practice of withholding information to protect profits, exposing patients to drugs which could be useless or harmful.
Experts criticised the stranglehold exerted by multinational companies over clinical trials, which has led to biased results, under-reporting of negative findings and selective publication driven by the market, which was worth £10.1bn in the UK in 2006, amounting to 11 per cent of total NHS costs.
The latest attack was triggered yesterday by an analysis of published and unpublished trials of modern antidepressants, including Prozac and Seroxat, showing they offer no clinically significant improvement over placebos (dummy pills) in most patients. But doctors said patients on the drugs should not stop taking them without consulting their GPs.
It was the first time researchers – from the UK, Canada and the US – had successfully used freedom of information legislation to obtain all the data presented to regulators when the companies applied to license their drugs.