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Claire Rayner, President,
The Patients' Association,
P.O. BOX 935
Harrow, Middlesex HA1 3YJ 16 November 1999

Dear Claire Rayner,

The choice about whether and how to respond must be entirely yours. Yes, it was a long letter, and I know it's a bit cheeky and irksome to publish correspondence on a website. But the issues and principles involved seem important, and I was aiming for responsible journalism when I offered you complete rights of reply.

But it's nothing personal: it should be clear that I am writing to you as President of the Patients Association. I can't give you the undertaking you want because this would make it impossible to establish whether and to what extent you speak for the Association, and on what basis its policy has been determined. You are prominent in this debate and you strongly support the pharmaceutical industry's campaign. Perhaps you and/or the Patients' Association also receive funds from Pharmacia & Upjohn and other pharmaceutical companies. When it is at least arguable that direct-to-consumer advertising would prove as much a disaster for public health as it is a tonic for drug sales, surely the public needs to know where the Patients' Association stands on this and why?

I am enclosing copies of letters of complaint about the professional advertising standards of Pharmacia & Upjohn. These may or not be upheld, but nothing alters the substance of the allegation, for it is based on government-approved company "facts". If doctors don't complain when a drug with such very modest effects is advertised as if it were the next best thing to sliced bread, how on earth can the Patients' Association feel confident that DTC advertising is going to promote health rather than undermine it? I imagine many ADWEB readers would want to know.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar


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