Source:   Sunday Times UK
Author:   Julie Smyth
Contact:    Sun, 16 Nov 1997



MARGARET COOK, the estranged wife of Robin Cook, the foreign secretary,
today calls for the pharmaceutical industry to be nationalised. She said
that doctors should be freed from commercial pressures, possibly by banning
drug representatives from hospitals and doctors' surgeries.

Writing exclusively in The Sunday Times, Cook, a consultant haematologist
at St John's hospital in Livingston, has presented the case for a central
"watchdog committee" comprised of professional bodies' representatives to
monitor drug development.

Expressing her "frank distaste" for the highpressure sales tactics of some
drug reps, Cook recommends a number of measures which she says should be
adopted in Britain in order to deliver better treatment for patients.

She advocates a possible ban on drug reps in hospitals and surgeries, the
development of national treatment guidelines  especially for expensive
drugs  and the comparison of new drugs with the best of their type

"In the present political climate nationalisation is a dirty word, but a
good case could be made for a nationalised pharmaceutical industry," she

She has expressed concern about the way doctors are coaxed into buying
drugs from hardsell reps. "There is particular persuasion to prescribe new
drugs, with subtle messages about being at the cutting edge of practice."

Cook criticised the competitive advertising of new drugs, reliance on
commercial sponsorship for medical conferences and profitled incentives
for developing new drugs. "Drug companies also sponsor research into their
own products, usually making the product available free of charge. How can
the results of such research be free of bias?"

Dr Brian Potter, Scottish secretary of the British Medical Association, did
not agree. He said health boards had a prescribing adviser who had access
to each doctors' prescription habits and could monitor whether any one drug
was being overprescribed and, if necessary, investigate.