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Alliance – Still Depressing?

November 2004

“It would be impossible to understate the greed and guile of the pharmaceutical industry” the Common’s Health Committee was told yesterday (25/11/04).

Parliament has cleaned up its act as far as M.P.s are concerned. No longer can M.P.s receive fat “bungs” from the pharmas. In the past they were offered positions as consultants and advisors to the drugs industry. They were expected to, and offered, hymns of praise to the dodgy drugs produced by their paymasters. In 1991 I reported one M.P. for abusing his position in this way. The Standards Committee found him guilty. The disgraceful position at that time was that fees were paid for inappropriate, dangerous and addictive drugs by M.P.s who were in the pay of the pharmas.

There is still unfinished business. The pharmaceutical companies are now using charities and patient groups as Trojan Horses to find their way into the Commons. Yesterday a comparison was made between the magnificent example of Mind and the sad record of the Depression Alliance. Heroically and courageously Mind led the campaign that exposed the scandal of Seroxat. Richard Brook resigned from the Committee of the regulatory body of the MHRA. He assisted Panorama in their three splendid programs which have set off worldwide investigation into this drug. Thanks to them we know that GlaxoSmithKline suppressed the truth on their trials. Clear evidence that Seroxat increased suicidal behavior amongst children was never published. This is a scandal of immense proportions. Mind is a splendid example of a charity defending the interests of patients.

Depression Alliance, on the other hand, has a record of heroically defending the interests of the pharmaceutical companies. At yesterdays meeting they claimed they were not sent on the Seroxat debate. True. Unfortunately when they spoke they attacked Panorama. Throughout their brief existence Depression Alliance has been singing from the hymn sheet provided by GlaxoSmithKline and the other manufacturers of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). They still haven’t got the point. At yesterdays meeting there was a claim made that there are 9 million people who have undiagnosed depression which needs to be treated. This is precisely the line that the pharmas have taken in order to persuade us that almost the entire population needs to be on their dangerous drugs. The Commons Standards Committee must act to ensure that all charities and Patients groups that work with Parliamentary All-Party Groups make full declarations of where their money comes from. In some cases it is no problem because only minute percentages of the income comes from outside sources. It would greatly assist the work of the Alzheimer’s Society and Arthritis Care if they turned down the minute funding that they now receive from outside sources. They could proclaim with pride that there is no danger that their integrity will become promised. The only groups that would be embarrassed are those groups that are almost entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry, such as Depression Alliance. That is a fate they richly deserve.

Below is an EDM that will shortly appear on the Order Paper in the House of Commons.

Motion An early day

Depression Alliance

This House applauds MIND for refusing financial aid from outside bodies: is concerned that several patients associations rely on funding from the pharmaceutical industry which may be used to promote their commercial interests: notes that the Depression Alliance admits to receiving more than 80% of their money from unnamed drugs companies: contrasts Mind’s vigorous recent campaign exposing the dangers of anti-depressant drugs with the silence of the Depression Alliance: calls for all organizations involved with All Party Parliamentary Groups to publicly declare the identity of their donors to assist judgments on possible conflicts of interest and to avoid the abuse of these groups as Trojan Horses to smuggle pro-drug propagandists into parliament.