When Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, agreed to be interviewed by the BBC in December 2021, he probably saw it as an opportunity for a bit of free advertising and PR for his company and its Covid vaccine. And so it turned out, apparently. An undemanding set of questions from the docile Fergus Walsh gave Dr. Bourla the chance to opine unchallenged on all things Covid and Covid vaccination, and no doubt communicate a few of his company’s key marketing messages.
However, UsforThem, an organisation which campaigns for the needs and rights of children, saw things differently. Its researchers noticed that during his interview Dr. Bourla had made statements about Covid and the use of Covid vaccines in children that were misleading, unbalanced and not capable of substantiation. They took these concerns to the U.K. regulatory body, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (the PMCPA), and a recent article in the Telegraph reports that the PMCPA agreed with them.
It is scandalous that it took the PMCPA a year to deal with this case. Meanwhile, Bourla and his colleagues have continued to make vast profits on the back of their COVID-19 vaccines, aided no doubt by these misleading statements. The PMCPA is the U.K. pharmaceutical industry’s very own ‘self-regulatory’ body. Self-regulation is a valuable privilege delegated to this industry by the MHRA, whose statutory responsibility it is to ensure that everyone, not just the pharmaceutical industry, complies with the laws which regulate the promotion of medicines. Failure to comply can, but very rarely does, result in criminal charges.
Those of you shocked by the revelation that the MHRA is 86% funded by the pharmaceutical industry, prepare yourselves: because the PMCPA is 100% funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It also reports to the board of its industry body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (the ABPI). This Board is mostly comprised of senior management of U.K. pharmaceutical companies. In fact, at the time this complaint about Pfizer was made, the President of the ABPI Board was also head of Pfizer in the U.K., and the current ABPI Vice-President is the Pfizer U.K. Country President. The PMCPA actually describes itself as “a division of the ABPI”. So, no potential conflicts of interest there then.
Thus, UsforThem will probably have achieved this significant judgment in the teeth of determined opposition. The PMCPA’s own records demonstrate that it is not uncommon for complainants, as in this case, to wait a year or even longer for a final decision. Prevarication, inefficiency and delay appear to have been weaponised by the pharmaceutical industry over the past few years to enable complaints about misbehaviour to be kicked down the road far enough for the impacts of any resulting adverse judgments to be diluted and to allow sales and profits from misleading advertising and unethical promotion to be maximised.