- The Royal College of General Practitioners has accused
drug companies of "disease-mongering" in order to boost sales.
- The college, whose members include many of Britain's
37,000 GPs, says the pharmaceutical industry is taking the National Health
Service to the brink of collapse by encouraging unnecessary prescribing
of costly drugs.
- In evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, the college accuses
the companies of over-playing the dangers of conditions such as mild depression
or slightly raised blood pressure.
- Dr Maureen Baker, the college's honorary secretary, wants
the Commons health inquiry to investigate the companies' practices.
- "It would be fruitful to look into the increase
in disease-mongering by them," she told The Sunday Telegraph.
- "It is very much in the interest of the pharmaceutical
industry to draw a line that includes as large a population as possible
within the 'ill' category. The bigger this group is, the more drugs they
can sell. If current trends continue, publicly funded health-care systems
will be at risk of financial collapse with huge cost to society as a whole."
- The college lists hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis,
anxiety and depression as examples of common conditions that, in mild forms,
are often inappropriately treated with drugs.
- Richard Ley, a spokesman for the Association of the British
Pharmaceutical Industry, said: "It seems odd for this criticism to
come from the Royal College of all organisations, because a decision on
when and how to treat a patient is the doctor's."
- Dr Baker, however, questioned the impartiality of treatment
guidelines from bodies of specialist doctors that tell GPs when and what
to prescribe, saying they were often overly influenced by and financially
reliant on drug companies.
- Earlier this month, it emerged that three senior members
of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which recommended
the introduction of the new five-in-one jab for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping
cough, polio and Hib had received "industrial support" from two
pharmaceutical firms, Aventis Pasteur and Merck Sharp & Dome, which
are supplying the vaccination.
- Some observers are also worried about "hard-sell"
methods applied to general practice. Last year, a survey of 1,000 GPs published
in the British Medical Journal found that those who saw drugs-company representatives
at least once a week were more likely to prescribe drugs that were not
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.