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I was pleased to see that the JRSM Editorial Board has taken a responsible stance, condemning Reed Elsevier's involvement in dubious arms fairs (JRSM 2007;100:113).1 It has needed the actions of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to make this clear conflict of interest newsworthy once again, and I will be interested to learn whether recent articles in the Lancet,2 BMJ3 and JRSM4 affected Reed Elsevier's AGM in London on 17 April.
In his Editorial (JRSM 2007;100:114-115), Richard Smith calls for a coordinated campaign to instigate change and asks who will take the lead.4 Among medical students, this position is being taken up by Medsin's Global Health Advocacy Project (www.medsin.org/ghap).5 This student group, whose annual conference last month attracted some 400 student delegates and included Lancet editor Richard Horton as a guest lecturer, forms a strong body of internationally aware future health professionals. GHAP members at various medical schools are writing to their course lecturers and authors of popular undergraduate textbooks requesting that they write to Reed Elsevier stating that they will not enter into further contractual agreements with them unless it ends its association with the arms industry.
Similar action is being considered within the Royal Society of Medicine by several committee members of the Student Members Group, who consider that the RSM, honoured with leading academics in all medical branches, would be suitably placed to carry the baton of orchestrating such a campaign. It is not often that we, as medical professionals, are in such a privileged and powerful position as to be able to enforce a global company to divest of its arms business: the RSM should take a lead.
Competing interests EA is the Imperial College School of Medicine Representative to the RSM Student Members Group and a member of Medsin.