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Medicines: time to come clean

Transparency is the latest buzzword. But health agencies, the health industry and their intermediaries do not practise it.

The lack of transparency surrounding evaluations of drugs' risk-benefit balance in France and in Europe is appalling.

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) daubs black ink over nearly every page of the report on the adverse effects of rimonabant (formerly Acomplia°, withdrawn from the market in January 2009), before forwarding it to Prescrire (see link below to download the full document). All in order to protect the company's interests, at the expense of patient safety.

Similarly, France's National Authority for Health (Haute autorité de santé – HAS) appoints experts to its committees without disclosing their connections, or in spite of connections with the companies involved (as a survey by Formindep has revealed).

Most of the healthcare professionals who act as opinion leaders appear in the media or in public without declaring their conflicts of interest as required by law. The French consumers' association UFC-Que Choisir has lodged complaints against 9 of these doctors with the country's medical board (l'Ordre des médecins).

"Transparency" is the buzzword. It is preached but not practised by health agencies, the health industry and their intermediaries. If citizens, patients and healthcare professionals let them get away with it, if they do not demand that professionals come clean, and that institutions be held accountable, substandard healthcare will remain the norm.

> Click here to download the facsimile of the blacked-out report (pdf, 670 Ko).

©Prescrire November 2009
"Black wall of secrecy" Prescrire Int 2009; 18 (103) 192 (pdf, free).

> Click here for Prescrire’s online Dossier "Medicines in Europe".

Download the full text