LibLink: Tim Farron: European Parliament makes it easier for you to know what’s in the medicines you are taking

European Parliament chamber, StrasbourgRoughly a third of people take part in the European elections. That turnout reflects that people don’t necessarily feel engaged with the European Parliament. Yet this body, whether it be on e-cigarettes, abolishing (with Liberal Democrat support) mobile phone roaming charges or even the medicines your doctor prescribes, makes laws that affect our daily lives. Tim Farron has been highlighting its important work in this medical field in an article over at the Huffington Post.

First of all, he outlines the problem:

Doctors regularly get accused of treating their patients like children by not revealing all the facts, but it’s nothing compared to how drugs companies can treat doctors. Astonishingly drugs companies are often under no legal burden to make their research public, despite millions of people depending on the drugs they develop for treatment.

This state of affairs has been in operation for decades. But it’s only recently that controversy has been stoked by the revelation that Tamiflu is pretty well ineffective in preventing complications like pneumonia developing from flu–precisely what it was supposedly developed to do. Patients had no way of knowing that the drug was useless, because the company who developed the drug wasn’t obliged to release their research to the public.

The answer, he suggests, is transparency – making sure that drugs companies publish the results of their clinical trials – and this is better done at European level:

This is one of the many issues, like fighting climate change, or arresting terrorists and serious criminals , which are best handled at a European level because they ignore our borders. If we in Britain made drug companies publish their clinical trial data, they might decide simply to take their business to the continent to avoid our laws. That’s why I’m delighted that the European Parliament is taking action by passing laws to oblige these companies to publish their clinical trials.

Fancy taking a wild guess who voted against these proposals to let us know what’s in our medicines and whether they work?

The proposals received cross-party support: the law was backed by 594 MEPs with only 17 opposed. No prizes for guessing which rag-tag outfit of extremists opposed doctors and patients knowing what’s inside the drugs they take. That’s right, UKIP MEPs voted against, along with such savoury characters as Jean-Marie Le Pen and members of Geert Wilder’s party.

The truth is that the European Union benefits all of its members through new laws like this, protecting patients and empowering doctors. In the future, the results of drugs trials will be in the public domain for all to see. Patients need no longer fear that what they are taking might have unintended side effects, and governments won’t have to waste millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money stockpiling useless medicines.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • I agree with Mark Dimmock. Our simplistic ‘IN’ campaign has ignored, and continues to ignore, a rising demand for significant change to the Europe project. It has been argued that a more nuanced campaign would not have got across to our often ignorant electorate, heavily influenced by populist UKIp, Daily and The Sun.

    I admire and respect our East Midlands MEP and hope that he gets in again. But he has not succeeded, for instance, in getting rid of the farce whereby the European Parliament commutes between Brussels and Strasbourg. The time has surely come for a total boycott of week 4, or whatever they call it.

    Paul King, Chesterfield

  • Is there really “a rising demand for significant change to the Europe project”? If so what change would that be? I would guess that MEP expenses and remuneration might be top of the list. Those who are aware might cite the anachronistic decamp of the Parliament to Brussels, but I think I am right to say that since this would require a new treaty and a possible referendum in France this is not going to be easily changed.

    Some claim a ‘democratic deficit’, but when pressed you will find that for them the Parliament and the Council of Ministers is too democratic and the last thing they want is more democracy. We hear little about the agricultural policy these days, partly because the budget has been reduced quite a lot, but also perhaps because there are vested interests in the UK that include the royal family; I think Lib Dems have advocated a cap on individual subsidies (I am not sure if this is official policy); we could do this, but I doubt such a policy would have much electoral impact.

    I am very happy to advocate and enhanced democracy including an elected President of the Council, but, again, as an electoral strategy I would not claim that it would do much to increase our appeal. It is worth thinking about, but could backfire.

    It really is up to those who feel that we should be pushing the ‘significant change’ angle to specify what ‘change’ they are after. After all Cameron is also for ‘significant change’; I doubt we want what he wants (though we do not really know what that is).

    Tim Farron is right to highlight one of a number of areas where the only rational action is at the European level. This is the principal of subsidiarity in action. Do people really want to be represented by UKIP MEPs on environmental issues and control of how supranational companies operate?

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