Freedom Of Speech
Disappears In The NHS: Do Drug Companies Decide What Doctors Are
An organisation putting on a
conference on drug side effects for NHS staff has just paid me £1,500 NOT to
give a lecture explaining why drug side effects are such a big problem in the
NHS, why one in six patients in hospital are there because they have been made
ill by a doctor and why doctors are now one of the three most important causes
of illness and death in British hospitals.
If you think this sounds
strange read on to find out why.
You won't see me on TV these days. You won't hear me
on your radio. You are unlikely to read about me or my books in national
newspapers or magazines.
I used to appear on national TV and radio
several times a week. There was a time when my articles and columns regularly
appeared in countless publications.
I still receive
invitations to appear on TV or radio. But the invitations are invariably
cancelled when the inexperienced researcher who has made the phone call or sent
the e-mail is advised of their mistake.
These days I don't even bother
talking to anyone representing a media organisation. I know I'll be cancelled
before the broadcast takes place or the article is published.
Coldly, clinically and efficiently I have been banned from
radio, TV and print media.
I have even, on many occasions, been banned
from making public appearances.
On one occasion, when I was due to speak
at an open air animal rights rally opposing vivisection, the Home Secretary and
the police effectively shut me up by introducing a temporary law preventing me,
or anyone else, travelling to the site of the rally. (When the rally was
rearranged and the Home Secretary and police failed to ban my second attempt to
speak they used a less subtle approach. A helicopter hovered right above the
stage where I was speaking so that the noise would drown what I was
On another occasion the Oxford Union invited me to speak in a
debate on vivisection. They then withdrew the invitation. They said that they
had to do this because no one would speak against me. I offered to do both sides
of the debate. The Oxford Union refused. They didn't want me there at any
In South Africa I was booked to take part in a debate at the
University in Johannesburg. But at the last moment all the speakers who had been
booked to oppose me pulled out. No one would agree to debate with me. Eventually
a speaker had to be flown up from Cape Town.
I've annoyed too many powerful people. The Government doesn't
like the fact that I tell the truth. The medical establishment doesn't like the
truth being aired. The drug industry doesn't like the truth being aired. The
food industry doesn't like the truth being aired. The chemical industry doesn't
like the truth being aired. Scientists don't like the truth being aired. Social
workers don't like the truth being aired. Farmers don't like the truth being
aired. Hunters don't like the truth being aired. Policemen and judges don't like
the truth being aired. Civil servants don't like the truth being aired. The list
goes on and on.
Most editors (whether of broadcast programmes or print
media) are too scared of losing their jobs to risk upsetting the people in
power. I'm regarded as too dangerous to be allowed on air. I'm renowned for
telling the truth about delicate issues. And the truth is something the
establishment - and the media - usually prefer to keep tucked away in filing
I've grown accustomed to this.
But there have always
been one or two avenues left open.
I could, for example, lecture at
meetings or symposia.
If you still
believe that Britain is a land of free speech read on. And be prepared to be
In July 2004, I was invited to speak at a new conference in
London. The conference was, I was told, intended to tackle the subject of
medication errors and adverse reactions to prescribed drugs. The company
organising the conference was called PasTest. `For over thirty years PasTest has
been providing medical education to professionals within the NHS,' they told me.
`Building on our commitment to quality in medical and healthcare education,
PasTest is creating a range of healthcare events which focus on the professional
development of clinicians and managers who are working together to deliver
healthcare services for the UK. Our aim is to provide a means for those who are
in a position to improve services on both national and regional levels. The
topics covered by our conferences are embraced within policy, best practice,
case study, clinical management and evidence based practice. PasTest endeavours
to source the best speakers who will engage audiences with balanced, relevant
and thought-provoking programmes. PasTest has proven in the past that by using
thorough investigative research and keeping up to date with advances in
healthcare and medical practice, a premium educational event can be
Goody, I thought.
Iatrogenesis (doctor-induced disease)
is something of a speciality of mine. I have written numerous books and articles
on the subject. My campaigns have resulted in more drugs being banned or
controlled than anyone else's. A previous Government admitted that they had
taken action because of my articles.
The conference organisers offered to
pay me £1,500 plus £500 in expenses for two hours of my time. In addition to
speaking at the conference they wanted me to help them decide on the final
I thought the conference was an important one and would give
me a good opportunity to tell NHS staff the truth. I signed a contract.
PasTest wrote to confirm my appointment as a consultant and speaker for
the PasTest Conference Division.
And then there was silence. My office
repeatedly asked for details of when and where the conference was being
Eventually a programme for the event appeared on
the internet. Curiously, my name was not on the list of speakers.
part of the blurb promoting the conference - due to be held at the end of
November 2004 at 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT
`Against a background
of increasing media coverage into the number of UK patients who are either
becoming ill or dying due to adverse reactions to medication our conference aims
to explain the current strategies to avoid Adverse Drug reactions and what can
be done to educate patients.'
Putting the blame on patients for problems
caused by prescription drugs is brilliant. Most drug related problems are caused
by the stupidity of doctors not the ignorance of patients. The list of speakers
included a variety of people I had never heard of including one speaker
representing The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and another
representing the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Delegates representing the NHS were expected to pay £250 plus VAT
(£293.75) to attend the event. Delegates whose Trust would be funding the cost
were asked to apply for a Health Authority Approval form.
The NHS is
paying to send delegates to a conference where someone representing the drug
industry will speak to them on drug safety. But I'm banned. No longer allowed to
speak. The truth has been uninvited.
So why am I now apparently banned
from this conference?
This is what Simon Levy of PasTest said when we
asked them: `certain parties felt that he (Vernon Coleman) was too controversial
ak and as a result would not attend.'
Could that, I wonder,
be the drug industry?
Is the drug industry now deciding whom they will
allow to speak to doctors and NHS staff on the problems caused by prescription
If I was banned at the behest of the drug industry do NHS bosses
know that people attending the PasTest conference will only hear speakers
approved by the drug industry?
If I was banned at the behest of the
medical profession why are doctors frightened of the truth? (If they think my
views are wrong they would surely be happy for me to appear so that they could
counter my arguments.)
I could not, of course, be banned by the NHS
itself. Why would the NHS not want its employees to know the truth about drug
Why are the people who had me banned so frightened of
what I would say? It can surely only be because they know that I would have
caused embarrassment by telling the truth.
PasTest offered me a fee of
£1,500 to speak at this conference. Because we had a contract they have now paid
me NOT to turn up.
I'll use the money to buy advertisements for my book
How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You. The conference is due to take place
on November 30th 2004.
A summary of the lecture I would have given will
appear on this website on that date.
Vernon Coleman's book How To
Stop Your Doctor Killing You is available from the bookshop on this website,
from other web based bookshops and from good terrestial bookshops.
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2004