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It's a false economy to restrict drugs bulletin

Open letter to Patricia Hewitt

From Dr Arnold Zermansky, Leeds

I wish to express my disquiet about your decision to cease dissemination of the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin to all NHS doctors in the UK.

This and the BNF have long been the only reliable and unbiased sources of therapeutic information in an unreliable world. The pharmaceutical industry, despite well-meaning controls on advertising and promotion, continues to exert its huge power to exaggerate, mislead and subtly influence prescribers.

Indeed, the extension of prescribing to nurses, whose theoretical knowledge of therapeutics and ability to interpret data may be less secure than doctors', makes it more important to maintain the few unbiased sources of prescribing information.

My own experience, as a GP, as a medical adviser, and from my extensive research into doctors' prescribing activity, suggests that GPs welcome the objectivity of the DTB.

This is because it has neither the heavy imprint of the Government's financial agenda nor the commercial spin of the pharmaceutical industry. It is factual, sensible and reliable. And now you're withdrawing it.

By doing so you are undermining the quality and value for money of NHS prescribing, which is truly world class. It is a false economy. Please don't do it!.

· From Dr Laurie Davis

South Hermitage, Shrewsbury

So the Department of Health wants to withdraw national funding for the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (News, 4 May). This is an unbelievably stupid short-term proposal.

The DTB is one of the few balancing publications we receive in our unsolicited post, overladen with pharmaceutical literature. Traditionally it has always been sceptical about expensive new drugs and it influences and helps justify my prescribing.

It would be hard to measure the DTB's exact cost saving to the NHS as a lot of its effect is subliminal and delayed, but it must be substantial.

Being of a naturally mean disposition I wouldn't pay for it out of my own pocket, and I doubt many would.

If the department thinks our heavily indebted PCT, which would recycle its own toilet paper if it could, is likely to take a long-term view and fund it, then they need cognitive therapy.

· From Dr BK Sinha, Lincolnshire

As a young GP I have found the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin very useful as a source of impartial and quality information.

I am bitterly disappointed that the Department of Health has taken a decision not to renew the national contract that gives GPs access to paper copies and online archive. The argument that local PCTs will fill in the gap is unconvincing.

I understand the contract costs the department £1.4 mllion, which is a miniscule fraction of the total NHS drug budget and, I am sure, is more than recovered by the cost-effective and safe prescribing the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin encourages.

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