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Dr. Paul Seaward, Clerk of the
Select Committee on Public Administration
Committee Office, House of Commons
LONDON SW1A OAA 7 March 1998

Dear Dr Seaward,

If it is not too late, I would be grateful if you would accept this letter, with enclosures, as evidence to the Select Committee, relating to its enquiries into the Government's White Paper, Your Right to Know. I was prompted to write after seeing the submission to the Committee, sent by the Medicines Control Agency (Mr. Alder) on 9th February.

The attached letter to the MCA is pretty much self-explanatory. It makes a series of requests for information under the existing Code. It also suggests that the MCA might have given your Committee very much fuller information than it did and that, probably by the standards of any good, conscientious, independent scientist, the level of secrecy in the drug regulatory system is intolerable.

I am also enclosing a recent background note, about the extent to which the current licensing system adequately represents either the patients' or public interests.1 This was the subject of a debate, earlier this week, organised by the King's Fund Centre; the motion was proposed by the present Chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, Professor Michael Rawlins. On safety, the CSM acts rather as an oversight committee to the MCA.

This document, and quite a lot of the evidence on which it is based can also be accessed on our website, at The core of the evidence here is 25,000 word paper, The Antidepressant Web, also published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicines [10 (2) (1997), 75-126]). This discusses some apparently serious shortcomings in the UK medicines control system, secrecy not least. The evidence given prompted the editor of that journal to say he thought the situation "intensely worrying", and he is a giant in the drug safety field. (See note attached). I am enclosing a hard copy of this journal; please refer to our website to see the very long and continuing correspondence with the MCA and other agencies on matters arising. This might give you useful insights into how the MCA's policies on disclosure have evolved.

I hope this information will be of interest and relevant to the Committee's enquiries. Please get in touch if I can give you any further information. Please note that, in the interests of open government, this letter and any correspondence arising from it will also be posted on our website in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Medawar


                                                                                    10 March 1998

Dear Dr Seaward,

I am enclosing a further letter to Mr Roy Alder, in connection with the MCA's evidence to the Select Committee, relating to its enquiries into the Government's White Paper, Your Right to Know.

This questions how the MCA deals with appeals against refusals to disclose, and also about the proposed development of the MCA website.

I hope this information will be of interest and use to the Committee.

Yours sincerely, 

Charles Medawar


Acknowledgement received, dated 11 March 1998

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Correspondence with government