Open Medicine EU

The recent conference in Cork on conflict of interest was extremely interesting and will provide the basis for a few posts on this blog – the speakers’ presentation can be seen here.

In a well received intervention, Noel Wathion of the European Medicines Agency announced that the agency would now publish an electronic declaration of conflict of interest for all its scientific committee members and other experts involved in EMA work. The database was launched on 30th September and can be seen here. (Many experts have yet to submit their declarations but that should be only a matter of time.)

Also, in choosing experts, the agency would welcome individual expressions of interest from qualified experts. In the past, experts were chosen mainly from those nominated by national authorities. By accepting individual expressions of interest the agency is opening its doors to qualified experts who may not be part of the “establishment” in their own country. (This is my comment, not Noel Wathion’s.)

(The European Commission has just invited expressions of interests for a number of specific committees of the agency.)

The agency will also move to publishing the clinical trial data received during the authorisation process for new medicines. This is potentially a huge step forward, that should help to lead to better science and better medicine.

There was some controversy in the Irish media that the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) did not send anyone to the conference. The board explained that it received many invitations and could not accept them all. Of course this is true but it is hardly a great excuse in this particular case. Some of the people at the conference have been critical of the board but public authorities and regulators in particular will do a better job if they engage with their critics and with citizens in general. Also, many of the speakers are well known international experts, who are not often in Ireland.

I was particularly surprised that the Irish Medicines Board was not represented at a meeting addressed by a representative from the European Medicines Agency. Times may have changed but I was a national regulator for eleven years and would certainly have attended or sent a representative to a meeting addressed by my EU counterparts. In Ireland we are proud of our Céad Mile Failte or One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, but we were a bit short on this occasion…

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