Pharmageddon: "the prospect of a world in which medicines and medicine produce more ill-health than health, and when medical progress does more harm than good". In line with the Precautionary Principle [1], we see the need to investigate and explore that risk and to identify the factors and features that describe it.

What are the risks of Pharmageddon and what harms might be involved? Health Action International, Social Audit and friends are in the early stages of planning a conference on Pharmageddon? We want to develop understanding of the threat, and a better model of what it might be.

We are now making this first call for abstracts/summaries of papers/presentations that you might want to give or hear. We invite submissions from all quarters that signal the nature of risk - including the lack of it, in relation to the benefits felt.

The conference is neither sponsored nor yet scheduled, but we are aiming for the Summer of 2008. We see this conference as a first step in developing the signalling and monitoring systems needed to keep Pharmageddon at bay. If the risk is real, we should be thinking about the process needed to collect and classify reports of signals, indicators, manifestations and portents of Pharmageddon, including the relative lack of them.

To explore this, and by way of stimulating consultation, we are introducing an element of competition in this call for abstracts on Pharmageddon? People who submit the best entries will be invited by Health Action International to attend and present at the conference. In addition, Social Audit is offering at least eight prizes of at least €1,000 each, for any submission published on the Social Audit website. We welcome submissions from all quarters, certainly including those sent in by anyone who is (or has been) closely connected to the pharmaceutical industry. 

Cash for seekers after truth?
Some might think it inappropriate or vulgar to offer cash prizes in a serious ‘call for abstracts’ but we are convinced it is justified – and now seeking prestigious and appropriate sponsorship for prize money of at least €15,000. We are thinking in terms of a 1st 2nd and 3rd prize, plus as many €1,000 awards as there are outstanding contributions. See UPDATE, October 2007).

The cash is partly to reward effort and excellence, also a stimulus to critical peer-review and deeper consultation. Beyond that, it is intended as an incentive to all-comers, from wherever, to pool the thoughts and meanings that Pharmageddon? brings to mind. The prizes on offer will be well worth having, but not too generous as compensation for the work that might be involved: condensing elaborate evidence, thoughts, stories, or ideas into a 350-word text demands effort and time.

Try it yourself, and/or invite your students or colleagues to try it – and then see if you feel like communicating your ideas. The Social Audit website is not a bad place to start: it now gets over 1,000,000 visits a year, and rising.

This is an open competition, with absolutely no strings attached or implied. Prize money may, if you wish, be taken in the form of an ‘unrestricted grant’, with no further commitment to develop thinking about Pharmageddon?

Clearly, we cannot award prizes for completely anonymous submissions – but we will sympathetically consider any request not to publish an author’s name or affiliation. We prefer signed submissions, but would not think it necessary to disclose either payment or receipt of any cash award as some possible conflict of interest.

All submissions should include the name(s) of principal author(s), and email address, and it would help to give some indication of your perspective, experience and/or affiliation(s). You may propose a pseudonym if you wish, and all requests for anonymity will be strictly honoured, (though you would need to provide an address, or nominate some bank or other recipient for any payment to be made).

In this call for abstracts on Pharmageddon? we are looking for submissions with a pithy title and text of <350 words. But you do not need to write a paper to enter: we are now looking simply for relevant evidence, skeleton arguments and ideas: clarity, brevity and cogency are at a premium, as is the ability to capture the imagination. Any focus and all perspectives are welcome: Pharmageddon should be regarded as a hypothesis, no more.

There is no limit to the number of entries, nor to the number of grants made to each entrant. The closing date: 31 December 2007.

Please send submissions in good time to Charles Medawar at Social Audit, copied to Tim Reed at Health Action International.

Charles Medawar
July 2007

See also: Abstraction linked to Second Call [August 2007]

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