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BMA representatives at their annual meeting in Torquay rejected a request for the BMJ to boycott advertisements for drugs which are remarketed and reformulated by pharmaceutical companies because they are due to lose their patent.
Stuart Blake, from Lothian, who proposed the motion, said he had no objections to the marketing strategy by some companies to replace drugs that are about to lose their patents with new formulations or enantiomers, but he did object to the fact that the old version of the drug was often withdrawn. He called this a “reprehensible activity.”
“It [remarketing old drugs] is not in the best interests of doctors, patients, or the NHS,” he said. The only purpose of the activity was to maintain the profits of the pharmaceutical companies involved.
Supporting the motion, Gerard Millen, a student BMA representative, complained that the cost of reformulated drugs was often four to 10 times that of the generic version. “The only people who do well out of this situation is the drug company,” he said.
However, Kate Adams, a BMA appointed director of the BMJ Publishing Group, said it was not in the interests of the journal to veto certain drugs advertisements, as proposed by the motion. The BMJ was not a medical licensing agency and it was down to doctors to deal with prescribing issues at a local level, she said.
Arnold McDowell, from the conference of honorary secretaries, also opposed the motion. He argued that doctors were sufficiently trained to screen drug advertisements themselves, and that their training and advice from prescribing authorities gave them the “independence of thought” to make their own decisions as to the value of different drugs.