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Heather Simmonds, Director
Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority
12 Whitehall
London SW1A 2DY 14 October 2002

Dear Mrs Simmonds,

Case AUTH/1318/5/02 Safety of Seroxat (paroxetine)

Thank you for your FAX of 14th. I am sorry our statement gives you grounds for concern, but I do think it would have been asking too much to expect us to hang on and say nothing until the Appeal Board had prepared its own statement – especially in the light of the concurrent US court proceedings and the Panorama programme. You didn’t ask us to; nor did we hold back over the ruling last year – just as well, I think, in view of the determined efforts made by the IFPMA to present this as a technical breach of little or no consequence. Indeed, the Authority’s statement on this occasion didn’t even mention the complainant’s name.

That brings me to another factor, which you would appreciate more if you were in our shoes. We are dealing with serious issues, seriously handicapped in numerous ways and endlessly struggling for existence. It’s a real slog bringing these complaints, expensive too. Last year, it took months of pushing before the IFPMA grudgingly agreed to act. Then we get turned down, just like this year. Then it took hours and hours of work to prepare the case for Appeal: uphill all the way. The Authority’s work is properly funded: we have to do it on a shoestring etc. From the perspective of the independent complainant, there really is very little incentive just to roll over and wait gratefully and patiently for the Appeal Board’s decision.

On the substantive point, I suspect that what the Authority is most concerned about, paradoxically, is our suggestion that the Appeal Board made a quite significant ruling – and I accept there may have been an element of wishful thinking on my part. On the other hand you would have been even more infuriated if I’d howled, ‘whitewash’ – which of course I would if the Board’s ruling turned out to be all about Mr Chandler. My colleagues and I would find that absurd, though I won’t jump to conclusions until the ruling comes through.

Meanwhile, thank you for pointing out the minor error. I apologise for this: I’ll correct it this evening (cheap phone). I look forward to getting the Appeal Board’s report in due course.

Charles Medawar


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