Crappy Branded Stuff

It has been many years now since ABPI introduced a new Code that put an end to the ‘gifting’ of relatively low value merchandise to healthcare professionals from industry representatives.

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In 2013, realising that this “crappy branded stuff” was disappearing I sought help in gathering an informal archive.

This Seroxat lamp is paradoxically symbolic – as science needs light. Without such light science cannot be assumed to be science:

Switching off the light:

To play this short film please click here or on the image above

In a similar consideration, it concerns me that the archive of the British Journal of Psychiatry  does not include the full-page glossy adverts that appear in every monthly edition. However, by mistake, one edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry from 1997 was archived with its adverts. To this very day full-page adverts like this feature in each monthly edition of the Journal:

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Recently there was a fascinating and open exchange on social media about such marketing to healthcare professionals.  Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, was part of this exchange, and like all contributors her thoughts were most welcome:

“Pharma logos on pens, or no pharma logos on pens are red herrings – it’s the systemic corruption of psychiatry by the pharmaceutical industry that is most concerning… surely you cannot deny that this is a problem”

‏President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists: 
“I don’t feel corrupted. But accept there have been bad behaviours in the past. This is not just Psychiatry.”

“If you are referring to other medical specialties, I agree – many of the other specialties are also corrupted, however that doesn’t mean it’s ok does it? just because all the other specialties take Pharma cash doesn’t make it ok for everyone to do it does it?”

“Things have not changed Wendy, most of your key opinion leaders are in the pocket of Pharma through honoria, research grants, talks they give etc etc. This is corruption, and it is ‘legal’ bribery.”

A few of my thoughts:
The current President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists acknowledges concerns about marketing, but only in terms of “the past”. We have had similar casual reassurances from the current and previous Chief Executive Officers of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who have used words such as “yesteryear” to describe any relationship with industry. Indeed Vanessa Cameron, on her retirement as CEO in December 2016 described British psychiatry’s relationship with industry as “puritanical”.

Vanessa-Cameron, July 2016, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Pharma

In June of this year, the current Chief Executive Officer for the College, Paul Rees, gave the following firm assurance:


Here are some of the paid opinion leaders in UK psychiatry [I have used information available in the public domain to construct visual summaries of the competing interests of some key opinion leaders. I have done so in the spirit of the relevant guidance of the Royal College of Psychiatrists].

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Paula J. Caplan stated in her consideration of the marketing of Risperidone:

“The details included finding ‘key opinion leaders’ who were prominent professionals in powerful positions . . . and having them teach Continuing Medical Education that professionals are required to take . .”

It seems to me that my College is demonstrating wilful blindness on this issue. I would urge my College and all the other Royal Colleges, and the General Medical Council to support the immediate introduction of sunshine legislation.

Perhaps there is a glimmer of light in Psychiatry HQ, but if there is not enough light, I am happy to gift HQ my Seroxat lamp.