The Medicines Control Agency has now responded to Social Audit's enquiries about the safety of patients in clinical trials. The big question was whether or not the evidence available to the MCA broadly supports or refutes the audit findings published by Drs Bohaychuk, Ball and colleagues. The MCA replied: "Evidence is not available in a form that can be used to support or refute these audit findings".

How long does it take to construct such a sentence, to have honed each word to dignify such poverty of meaning? If this is the Health Secretary's best advice to patients invited to take part in clinical trials, then Dr Bohaychuk's warning seems even more important than before: "I would never go into a clinical trial myself and I would certainly try to discourage anyone in my family from doing so."

Perhaps the main redeeming feature of the MCA's response is that it exposes the claim of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry: "it is not true to suggest that people taking part in UK clinical trials are at risk … clinical trials are run to the most exacting standards". They offer no credible evidence of this. There is all the more cause for concern when the ABPI - representing the paymasters of the MCA - insists that "there is no real need for further regulation". Watch this space.

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