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Mr S Gregor, Director, Communications Division
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ

26 February 2007


Dear Mr Gregor,

Now here’s an invitation to professional death or glory: I’m writing to give you (unprecedented) advance notice (still in draft) of my next posting on the What’s New? bit of the Social Audit website. If you are minded to respond within 24 hours, I will link your response at the right place (see highlight) before publishing. If not, I undertake to link any response you send within 24 hours. Failing that, this letter will occupy that link.


Charles Medawar                                                                 

Attachment                                                     cc: usual suspects and a few besides


REPLY: 08: 42, 28 February 2007

Dear Mr Medawar

Many thanks for 'the invitation to professional death or glory' afforded by the opportunity to respond to your latest posting.

I am sorry if you feel that the MHRA's response to your request for information was unhelpful. However, in common with other law enforcement agencies, there are strict limitations as to how much we can say about an ongoing criminal investigation without prejudicing any criminal proceedings which may ensue. I am sure that your readers will understand those constraints, and indeed would consider us negligent had we behaved in a way which compromised that investigation.

As I believe our FOI team has previously advised, you have the option of an internal review of our decision in relation to your FOI request should you wish to have one, and if you remain dissatisfied there remains further recourse to the Information Commissioner. If you would like an internal review, please let me know and I will advise the FOI team accordingly.

Best wishes
Simon Gregor

Simon Gregor
Director of Communications
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
Market Towers
1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8  5NQ
Tel 020 7084 3540    Fax 020 7084 2548


RESPONSE: 13:03, 28 February 2007

Dear Mr Gregor,

Many thanks for getting back to me so promptly. I appreciate your steering a middle course between death and glory, but my query was no sort of inducement to prejudicing possible criminal proceedings. I didn’t ask about the merits of the case. I wanted to know about timing and the resources the Agency was devoting to investigation.

So far the investigation has lasted three and a half years. A year ago your colleague, Ms Wark, wrote that the MHRA had already examined “over a million pages of scientific and other documentation” and said that “the process of considering documents is now completed”. It therefore seemed reasonable to ask for an update and to expect something more informative than the reply sent. In particular, the lack of any indication "that the investigation has been given substantial additional resources and remains a high priority", seemed significant.

If you honestly think the Agency could have done no better, I fear glory may always pass you by. Meanwhile, I have no wish to make a complaint: the process is deadly at the best of times, and certainly no way to resolving the Agency’s own conflicts of interest in this matter.

There’s no need to acknowledge this, but of course I’d promptly post any comment, if that’s what you decided to do.



Attachment: What’s New?

February 2007    The MHRA has, to date, spent between 14 and 30 person years (maybe 1m of drug industry funding) in not deciding to prosecute GlaxoSmithKline, since its investigation began in October 2003. Last month the Agency told Panorama, "that the investigation has been given substantial additional resources and remains a high priority" - but their latest communication on the subject suggests anything but: that 'high priority' stuff seems to be a media sop, a trip off some tongue in the Agency's "Communication Division". Do read this mail, if only to savour the tone: the MHRA rounds off a spluttering (spitting?) blast of disinformation with, "I hope this is helpful". Whatever your party, you might well wonder if the end of credible government is nigh.

The MHRA's response is no more helpful than straight: a rotten display of commitment to Freedom of Information, a shameful signal of the arrogance of power. That's my view, anyway - and if the MHRA has any grounds for disputing it, they'll say so here.

The reality is that any prosecution of the Company would put the Agency itself - and Chairman Breckenridge in particular - too squarely in the frame. What was it he told Panorama in the second of their four splendid programmes? (11 May 2003) - "What you can say with great firmness is that these drugs do not increase the risk of suicidal thought and they do not increase the risk of suicide". If that's the Agency's best assessment after more than a decade of drug investigation, personally spearheaded by the blunt tool, Breckenridge, why should the law expect GSK to do any better? I'd sooner argue that GlaxoSmithKline was fit for purpose (serving shareholders), than the MHRA (safeguarding public health).

Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge clearly should have retired some time ago - indeed he should never have been appointed. But rather than dwell on his fitness for public purpose, here are some reflections on my own retirement: no cards please.

Please note that we now require registration before you can post to the Discussion Board. The procedure is simple and just involves sending us a mail: for further information please click here. Still, we regret this and apologise for it: it's a bloody nuisance, but seems to be the only way of avoiding vast amounts of sickening spam. Unsurprisingly, much of it offers prescription drugs for sale - most of them dependence producing, and including SSRIs.