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BSE and the use of cattle tissues in inoculates

by Joanna Wheatley

Long Lane Farm
Touchen End
Berks SL6 3LG
1st March 2001

Lord Neill of Bladen
Committee on Standards in Public Life
30 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BQ

Dear Lord Neill,

For a number of years I have been concerned with the quality and efficacy of veterinary medicines, also with the difficulties users have in obtaining acceptance and recognition of adverse reactions that occur to their animals and themselves. This led me to investigate the membership of the advisory committees charged with the task of recommending these products for licensing. The majority of the members have commercial and non-commercial interests in the companies whose products they license, which quite obviously presents a conflict of interest.

More recently I have become concerned with the use of bovine tissues in injectable preparations for use in bovines. Also as BSE is postulated to cross from cattle to humans, why the various advisory committees on human medicines did not legislated on the sourcing and usage of bovine tissues in pharmaceutical preparations, as was applied for the eating of bovine tissues. What I found yet again was that the committees were full of people with commercial interests in the actual products they were licensing many of which use bovine tissues.

On two occasions in the past I have telephoned your secretariat to investigate raising these issues to be told that these committees have to rely on pharmaceutical employees advice as they are the best people to understand the complex science. I would challenge that position, if indeed it is one which precludes your committee from investigating this flagrant abuse of the application of 'The Seven Principles of Public Life' drawn up by your Committee on Standards in Public Life.

I am presently compiling a dossier of the committees, the members and their commercial interests, however in the meantime I enclose just a couple of examples of what appears to be standard practice in appointing members to these committees.

The Guardian 18/12/00 'Alarm as drug company chief joins watchdog'. It refers to the appointment of Ian Hudson as chairman of the Medicines Control Agency and his professional status as director and vice president of Worldwide Clinical Safety at Smith Kline Beecham.

This is similar to another appointment which over the years I have found very difficult to qualify that of Dr Peter Goodfellow Senior Vice-President. Biopharmaceutical Research and Development at Smith Kline Beecham, who has been sitting on the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee [SEAC] however he has recently moved to the Human Genetics Commission, human genetics now being heavily invested in by his employers the newly merged Glaxo Smith Kline, hence his influence will be no doubt greatly appreciated.

Although both these illustrations apply to the employees/shareholders of one particular company this practice is widespread and as company reports record it is most useful and greatly prized. [See enclosed profile of Professor Dayan extracted from ML Laboratories PLC company report]

I have in the past been invited to apply to an advisory committee and contained within the application form was a copy of 'The Seven Principles of Public Life' confirming that these are circulated for compliance, if not in any way adhered to. I declined the invitation to apply, not because I could not fulfil these principles, but because I considered the Committees functions of both approving licences for products, and undertaking surveillance for adverse reactions, intellectually corrupt. I.e. one would become Judge and Jury. Furthermore I felt I would probably be doing a better public service by continuing to attempt to change this basically flawed situation, which was acknowledged by the 5th Agricultural Select Committee 1995 in its investigation of the 'Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Pesticide Safety Directorate and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate'. It recorded in its report, Human surveillance should be removed from the VMD this responsibility should be carried out instead by an independent research institute or university department.' As yet this situation remains unchanged.

I have a wealth of evidence that I could submit to your committee with regard to these serious concerns, but obviously I need to know if this is an appropriate matter for your committee to address.

Yours most sincerely

Joanna Wheatley