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GPs have joined a chorus of protest after the Government 'shirked' its responsibilities and rejected proposals by MPs for wholesale reform of the drug regulatory system.

The RCGP condemned the Department of Health's response to a report from the health select committee as 'a missed opportunity' and accused ministers of failing to protect GPs from safety scares.

In a move welcomed by GPs, the department also rejected proposals for stringent prescribing controls in primary care, saying treatment decisions should remain in the hands of the doctor.

But it infuriated GPs, MPs and patient groups by refusing to separate out the drug regulator's twin roles as protector of patients and advocate of the pharmaceutical industry.

'The interests of patients and the industry are not exclusive,' the department said, in its official response to the committee's report on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

The department rejected proposals to beef up post-marketing surveillance by handing it over to a body independent of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The MHRA, it said, would dem-onstrate 'any suggestion of a lack of independence is not well-founded'.

Dr Mayur Lakhani, chair of the RCGP and a GP near Loughborough, Leicestershire, said: 'I must say I'm disappointed in the Government response. It is a missed opportunity. GPs are at the receiving end of these drug scares. We're increasingly seeing the need for better regulation.'

Dr Des Spence, UK spokesperson for No Free Lunch and a GP in Glasgow, told Pulse: 'Overall the response is very weak. It certainly doesn't safeguard people against another drug disaster. There will no doubt be further scandals.'

He added: 'I suspect they were cowed by commercial interests.'

Dr Ike Iheanacho, editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, said: 'The Government has shirked the chance to tackle the current situation.'

MP Kevin Barron, health select committee chair, said he would apply for a slot in Westminster Hall to debate the report and response. He said: 'It is positive in parts but there are areas where the report and the response are at complete loggerheads.'

What the Department of Health will and won't do

Proposals accepted

·Pre-vetting of promotional material to be extended to all pharma products

·Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority asked to consider strengthening

code

·Reforms to the Yellow Card scheme of

reporting adverse drug reactions

·'Blue skies' group to consider better drug controls at time of release and better data gathering to avoid scares

Proposals rejected

·No wholesale reform of drug regulatory bodies

·No stricter prescribing controls in primary care

·No compulsory registers of interest for professional bodies

·No public inquiry whenever a drug is withdrawn

By Daniel Cressey

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