La campaña organizada para evitar el cierre de Therapeutics Initiative parece haber tenido éxito. En un correo electrónico Jim Wright comunica que se han parado los intentos de cierre y agradece a todos los que hemos participado en esta campaña de solidaridad.
Probablemente lo más determinante ha sido el comentario publicado en el BMJ
BMJ 2008;336:1270 (7 June), doi:10.1136/bmj.39598.708333.DB News
Independent drug watchdog in Canada under funding threat
Ray Moynihan, Melbourne
An internationally respected drug advisory body based at the University of British Columbia is facing closure after a report to the provincial minister for health called for its "replacement."
The Therapeutics Initiative (www.ti.ubc.ca) produces evidence based reviews of drugs for doctors, policy makers, and the public, and the group has strict conflict of interest policies, which guarantee that its findings are as free of industry influence as possible.
A report from a task force of nine, submitted to the health minister of British Columbia last month, claims that although the Therapeutics Initiative "has served an important role in the past, it is now widely regarded as being in need of either substantial revitalisation or replacement. The task force regards replacement as the better option."
The health minister, George Abbott, said that he would accept the task force's recommendations, sparking a strong global reaction in support of the independent watchdog. Recent public praise for the activities of the Therapeutics Initiative has come from leading experts, including Andrew Herxheimer, long time chairman of the International Society of Drug Bulletins, and Jerome Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Critics of the recommendation to close the Therapeutics Initiative have pointed out that some members of the task force themselves have connections to the drug industry, including one who is among the industry's chief lobbyists in Canada.
In its 14 year history, the watchdog's independent assessments of the risks and benefits of new drugs have often put it at odds with industry. For example, in the early 2000s, the Therapeutics Initiative assessment of cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors, the then new antiarthritis drugs, raised questions about serious side effects years before they became a global scandal. As a result of the group's cautious assessment the insurance coverage of the drugs in British Columbia was more restrictive than in other provinces, which researchers say has resulted in fewer patients being affected by side effects.
The campaign to defend the Therapeutics Initiative has led to critical media coverage throughout Canada, and academics are organising direct email protests to Mr Abbott, who seems to have underestimated public support for the drug advisory group.
The minister defended the recommendation to close the watchdog but said that the details of any changes have not yet been finalised.
The Therapeutics Initiative's Jim Wright has told The Tyee, a Canadian online news site, that there is a need for advice on drugs that is independent from the industry. "When you're dealing with any commodity that's heavily marketed, you need a trusted source that's looking at the benefits and harms from an independent perspective," he is reported as telling The Tyee. "It's particularly true for drugs.