Thursday, October 25, 2012

MHRA: Breckenridge to Step Aside

Alasdair Breckenridge to Step Aside as Chairman of MHRA


Better late than never but I guess it had to happen given the length of time Breckenridge has held the position of Chairman of the MHRA and, of course, his age.

Alasdair Breckenridge is to step aside as Chairman of the MHRA. His end of his term in office will cease on 31 December 2012. [Link]

[Insert Applause]

[Insert firework display]

[Insert ticker-tape]

Breckenridge will be best remembered by victims of GlaxoSmithKline's Seroxat for his stuttering performance on BBC TV's Panorama. [See video below post]

Breckenridge, who, before taking his role of Chairman at the MHRA, used to be employed by SmithKline Beecham, who later went on to be the entity we now all know as GlaxoSmithKline.

Much has been said about Breckenridge on this and many other blogs. To be honest I actually don't know what role he played at the MHRA - Yup, we all know the title [Chairman] but it's hard to see what he actually contributed to the business. Maybe he was just dead-wood and the MHRA's CEO, Kent Woods, kindly found him a position within the agency, "Sit down, close the door and talk to nobody about Glaxo or Seroxat"





I don't envisage there will be any drastic changes at the MHRA, they are old school and very much set in their ways. Adverse reactions will still be reported, they'll still use an abacus to tot up the dead then... well, do nothing.

They'll still convene 'expert' meetings to give SSRi medications a clean bill of health.

I started writing this blog back in 2006. My first post was regarding the MHRA and their so-called 'expert' committees. Back then it was just a cut and paste job from a newspaper where it had been reported  that the MHRA had sat on evidence that Seroxat was unsafe for children and adolescents. Richard Brook had sat on their panel and was astonished to learn that the MHRA were keeping important information about Seroxat and suicide out of the public domain. He talked to the press and was threatened by the MHRA. Here are the reasons why Brook resigned - [LINK]

The MHRA have opened their doors to many patient advocates over the years. They've sat and listened to patients discuss withdrawal issues regarding Seroxat and other SSRi type drugs. They've heard stories of suicide related to this class of drugs. They've investigated GlaxoSmithKline for withholding information about Seroxat and pediatrics - this resulted, after 4 years of thorough investigation, in Glaxo being sent a letter telling them that they were naughty and not to do it again. No criminal charges were filed.

As for Breckenridge, he never really got over his mauling by BBC journalist, Shelley Jofre. His performance in front of millions of TV viewers is still talked about. To save face Breckenridge defended his defence of Seroxat some years later by announcing in the New Statesman:

"If you go back – and I read this out to the Health Select Committee – to the data sheet on Seroxat when it was licensed in 1991, we spelt out word for word the problems of withdrawal from Seroxat, in words that we could not improve now. This idea that the regulators have been hiding the data is just not true. The so-called scandal of Seroxat is something I want to nail every time I speak in front of compatriots because it is absolute rubbish." (20 June 2005 Fears, phobias and facts)

Very independent words from the Chairman of an independent agency, huh?

Here's his performance [edited] on national television.

**Note - Breckenridge should not be confused with Benbow. The fact that they share the same christian name [spelled differently] and initials and are both former employees of GSK and both defend Seroxat is purely [ahem] coincidental.

The investigation Breckenridge constantly refers to was, at the time, on-going. It took four years to complete. Glaxo were let off the hook.

My favorite segment of this footage is around the 3.25 mark. The look of shock on his face when questioned about the MHRA keeping information from the public is a site to behold.



For more information on Breckenridge and his defence of GlaxoSmithKline and Seroxat check out the excellent Social Audit website.