Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Multiple Sclerosis Society (PI 25)


About MS

  1.1  MS is a condition which affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Its effects include problems with mobility and speech, extreme fatigue, pain, continence and cognition. With many people diagnosed in their twenties or thirties, employment or other useful occupation is a key issue in their lives.

  1.2  There are an estimated 85,000 people with MS in the UK. There is currently no cure.

About the MS Society

  1.3  With nearly 45,000 members the MS Society is the largest organisation in the UK representing and working for those affected by MS. We estimate that we represent over one-third of all people with MS in the UK.

  1.4  We provide a range of services to people affected by MS including helpline, website and information services, and personal support through our network of 360 local branches. We fund both scientific and service improvement research, and provide pump-priming funding for such things as MS nurses.

  1.5  Provisional figures for 2003 indicate that the Society's income was £28 million. The broad division of income was £12 million donations, £8 million legacies, £8 million grants and other income. Details of contributions received from pharmaceutical companies in 2003 are given in Annex A.


    —  The MS Society values its relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, which we believe in help us achieving our charitable objectives.

    —  Any financial arrangements between the Society and the pharmaceutical industry are conducted within a clear and transparent framework.


  3.1  As an organisation our role is to support people affected by MS and represent their interests. Our relationships with people affected by MS and other stakeholders depends crucially on our independence. It is important that we are both independent of all outside interests and perceived to be so.

  3.2  We have been aware for some time of the need for particular transparency in our relations with the pharmaceutical industry. In 1999, after a lengthy consultation with pharmaceutical companies and other MS charities the Board of the MS Society approved a document Relations between the MS Society and the Pharmaceutical Industry, which forms the basis of our interactions with the industry. A copy of the document is at Annex B.[23]

  3.3  Our relations with the pharmaceutical industry are generally constructive. Most differences tend to be small scale, resolved informally and in private. However, we do not shy away from a more public approach if we believe it to be necessary. In 2000 we reported a manufacturer of MS disease-modifying drugs to the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) for what we believed to be a breach of the Medicines (Advertising) Regulations 1994. The issue related to advertising promoting access to drugs which seemed to us to constitute direct to customer marketing. In the event the MCA concluded that the nature of the advertisement in question was not covered by the advertising regulations.

  3.4  We have in the past published a statement on our relationship with pharmaceutical companies and the detail of donations received from them. We did not publish this in 2002 (though the full details of the nurse scheme mentioned in Annex A were made public through a press release at the time of its launch). However, in view of the increasing interest in the relationships between medical charities and the pharmaceutical industry we intend to reintroduce this section in our 2003 Accounts.

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