THE STATE OF THE DRUGS INDUSTRY,PRT III: Anyone at home at the Medicines
Control Agency?

The Medicines Control Agency is the UK's drugs licensing authority.  It's
there to protect the consumer against dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, and to
pull any drug that may be causing harm.

It also happens to be one of the most secretive organizations in Britain.
Its meetings are held in secret, and no minutes of proceedings, apart from
revealing the names of attendees, are ever made public.  Any member who
would dare step out of line and reveal proceedings to the press could face
two years' imprisonment if the information compromised a drug company and
its work.

The National Audit Office has been investigating the workings of the MCA and
has concluded that the drug licensor needs to communicate better with the
public (or at all, come to that) and to become more transparent.

It's also discovered that not only is the public unaware of the MCA's
responsibilities, but also even health professionals are unclear of its

Worse, the introspection of the MCA is so complete that its warnings about
drugs are sometimes ignored by the manufacturer, often with impunity.

Perhaps this is all to do with the funding of the MCA.  It is one of the few
drugs agencies in the world to be entirely funded by. . .the drugs industry.
It's an arrangement that may one day have to end, says the National Audit

(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 326: 119).