“Classsic Pharma shill stuff”

Professor Robert Howard, 13 April 2022: “From memory, it amounted to attending one meeting to help them understand the data from 2 memantine trials. Here’s the 2006 BMJ paper, anyway. Classic Pharma shill stuff.”

19 June 2011:
Professor Rob Howard of University College London  is a leading academic involved in developing scientific understanding for UK doctors in relation to dementia.  He has in the past worked with the pharmaceutical industry:

[Prof Rob Howard] “I was paid to sit on an advisory board for Janssen for a short period in the 1990s and I have in the past been paid to give talks at sponsored symposia. I have not accepted any payments from Industry since 2001 when I became interested in conducting clinical trials. I had before then mostly been an imager and interested in phenomenology, but when I became more of a trialist, it just seemed tidier to not take money. I still get invited to give talks and serve on advisory boards but I don’t accept payment. 

“In 1994/5, having been interested in tacrine since the 1980s with my old boss Raymond Levy, we were a centre for one of the early donepezil trials and Eisai paid for a registrar’s salary for 12 months to carry out participant recruitment and assessments. Pfizer and Lundbeck contributed supplies of donepezil and memantine free of charge for the MRC-funded DOMINO study in 2007. I struggled to get the NHS trusts that were supporting the trial to pay for the dementia drugs and approached the manufacturers as a last resort.”

In November of 2018 I asked Professor Howard if he supported Sunshine legislation? He replied: “I have other windmills of my own to tilt at before I retire, I am afraid . . . I support colleagues making full and honest declarations of their competing interests and their failure to do this being punished by the regulator in the same way that any breach of professional standards or probity would. I am not sure whether legislation is the way to do it and I don’t like the ‘sunshine’ label.” Since then, Professor Howard has stated that he considers seeking  greater transparency in relation to  financial interests “a misguided pursuit”.

Professor Howard’s lapse of memory of payments made to him from the pharmaceutical industry are understandable.  He received payments from the pharmaceutical industry for many years, at  least till 2006. If Prof Howard wishes to correct any misinformation in this post or clarify any further details, he can do so by submitting a comment.

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On the 12 April 2022, Prof Rob Howard offered this public ‘clarification’: “I do not receive funding from pharmaceutical companies. I have contributed as a speaker or discussant to scientific meetings within professional organisations that receive sponsorship but I can’t think of anything else in past 10 years. Just to clarify Dr Gordon’s graphic.” 

This ‘clarification’ would not have been necessary if the UK had introduced Sunshine legislation. This ‘clarification’ has also missed the opportunity to acknowledge the past contribution of partnership with industry which can be a key part in the career progression of academics and clinicians who have become today’s key opinion leaders. These influential professionals are in the privileged position of being able to influence the current narrative, including  selecting which details of their own relationships with industry [both past and present] may need ‘clarification’.