Declarations of Interest:
I have published in both medicine and arts but have only ever received one payment of £70 for an article on the local history of the north-east of Scotland. On a recent occasion when I spoke at the RCGP annual conference, one night’s accommodation and breakfast was provided to me by the conference organisers. Other than these, I have never received any payment outside my NHS work. I have no shares in the pharmaceutical industry or commerce generally. I do not see Pharmaceutical representatives and I endeavour to attend continuing medical education that has no sponsorship. I am a full supporter of “The All trials” campaign.
My determination follows ‘Nullius in verba,’ the motto of the Royal Society which roughly translates as ‘take nobody’s word for it’. In the 1970’s the sociologist Robert K Merton expressed concern that the loss of disinterestedness would become an issue for science. Merton described the ways that the cultural structure of science guarantees scientific objectivity. Disinterestedness is the assumption that scientists are not influenced by personal material gain.
My ambition for science is to continue to maintain disinterestedness. I fully support pharmaceutical innovation and development based on transparency of method and all results. My view is that disinterestedness risks being lost given evidence that the pharmaceutical industry spends twice as much on marketing and promotion as on innovation and development. The result of marketing medical education has been that benefits have been maximised and harms not fully represented. Key opinion leaders have a most significant role in such promotion but we have today, in the UK, no idea how disinterested they are. Yet last year £40 million was paid by the pharmaceutical industry for “medical education”. Recent evidence has demonstrated that up to three-quarters of Guideline Panellists have ties to the Pharmaceutical Industry.