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Mr Roy Alder, Head of Executive Support
Medicines Control Agency
Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ

28 August 1999

Dear Mr Alder,

Many thanks for your letter of 26 August. Sometimes when I read these things, it merely feels like sinking up to my nostrils in porridge, but this one felt more like being in the Sahara in a thick woolly jumper and leggings. You are so mercilessly smooth in defending the regulatory establishment. It reminded me of Kafka: "It's a working principle of the Head Bureau that the very possibility of error must be ruled out of account …"

Next time you use the term "fully consistent" I shall know what you mean. I shall quietly translate it as "not incompatible with", an almost infinitely stretchable point.

The arrangements you describe underline my fear that the Committee on Safety of Medicines is horribly out of touch with the public. This lack of accountability is potentially dangerous in an organisation dominated by clinicians, so close to commercial interests and so blind to risk. Are you telling me that the MCA's response to those questions addressed the CSM Chairman in June 1998 is acceptable under the Cabinet Office Code? Surely, Open Government would be a farce, if so?

But we shall have to wait for the Ombudsman's report - not long, to judge by the speed of your response to me. Indeed, your letter felt like a grim portent, so I don't think I'll send a copy of this to Mr Colmans. In any case, I'm off on holiday for a bit, and the PCA report is due to be published when I'm away. Impeccable timing, what?

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar


Contents page
List of correspondence with MCA/CSM