I grabbed the thesaurus to decide which adjective to use in describing the UK’s MHRA at the moment and didn’t really find a satisfactory descriptor. There’s no doubt the agency, charged with protecting the interests of patients by controlling the devices intended to be used on them, is under the media cosh at the moment. Whether it’s metal-on-metal hip prostheses or “mattress foam” breast implants, the blame seems to be frequently landing at the door of the MHRA. Never has it “enjoyed” such exposure, and of course in an imperfect world we all like to have a kicking boy… someone to blame when imperfection turns meaningful.
Anyway, it seems the best adjective to use might in fact be “feisty”, “indignant” or just plain “cross” as media commentator after media commentator blames MHRA for all ills and becomes ever freer to have a pop at all aspects of its operations. So cross in fact that it is choosing to go into print to refute pretty much every criticism. And to be honest, why not? Whether one likes or dislikes government agencies, and this one in particular, what’s without question is that it is genuine in its mission to exercise appropriate protection for patients under its jurisdiction. It exists to enforce the mandates of the European Medical Devices Directive(MDD) and as such is dependent on the directive itself rather than the other way around. There’s no doubt the MDD is an imperfect device and indeed the debate about reform will probably never end, but in enacting the directive in a thorough and diligent way it’s a bit rough to point too firm a finger at the agency.
It looks like they agree, as Professor Sir Kent Woods, MHRA’s Chief executive, has come out fighting with a raft of responses to criticism from the media. First there was the letter in response to BMJ article written by Deborah Cohen in which she suggested the MHRA hadn’t acted appropriately in the all-metal hip fiasco. Prof Woods’ response is here. This one comes hot on the heels of this clarifying missive from MHRA’s Susan Ludgate following another article on the subject in this week’s Lancet.
Then there was the response to Guardian writer George Monbiot’s suggestion that MHRA and government act in a type of closed shop, riddled with conflicts of interest. Prof Woods’ response is here. In fact that one came on the back of a response to a Sunday Times article about conflicts of interest, issued by MHRA the day before, which is here.
Source: MHRA, medlatest staff