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Medical regulator faces questions over board members’ links to drug firms

The UK medicines watchdog has been urged to strengthen its conflict of interest policy after it emerged that six of its board members are receiving payments from the pharmaceutical industry.

Board members involved in overseeing the regulator’s “strategic direction” also have financial interests in companies including US and Saudi drug giants and firms with ambitions to break into the UK’s healthcare market. Some offer consultancy services while others help run or own shares in drug and medical device firms, according to official transparency records.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing, but the findings have led to concerns about perceived conflicts of interest among senior figures at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care responsible for regulating drugs and medical devices and ensuring they are safe.

The MHRA said that “in order to be an effective regulator” it needed to “bring together the right expertise from across industry, academia, the public and beyond”, adding that board meetings are held in public and non-executive board members – to whom the potential conflicts relate – are not involved in “any work or decisions relating to the regulation of any products”.

But critics raised concerns about the potential for bias – or the perception of it – and called for stricter rules on conflicts of interest for those working in pharmaceutical regulation.

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Source: The Guardian, 17 April 2022


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