Freedom Of Speech Disappears In The NHS: Do Drug Companies Decide What Doctors Are Told?

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.

No more.

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.

I've been banned.

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 saying.)

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 price.

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.


Simple, really.

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 cabinets.

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.


Past tense.

If you still believe that Britain is a land of free speech read on. And be prepared to be startled.

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 achieved.'

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 programme.

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 held.


Eventually a programme for the event appeared on the internet. Curiously, my name was not on the list of speakers.

Here is 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 to spe

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 drugs?

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 related problems.

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