- David Phizackerley
- James A Cave
n the late 1950s and early 1960s independent drug bulletins first began to be published. At that time, laws on the licensing of medicines had yet to be introduced, there was little effective control of marketing and promotion of medicines, and summaries of product characteristics for prescribers and information leaflets on medicines for patients did not exist.1 2 Crucially, there was a little recognition of the importance of scientific evidence to clinical practice and few publications provided clinicians with independent evaluations on the use of medicines.
Birth of independent drug bulletins
The first independent drug bulletin, The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, was introduced in the USA in 1959.2 In 1962, the UK Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin was launched ‘to provide clinicians with clear, reliable, usable, impartial and independent information to help ensure patients [got] the best deal’.1 Both publications stressed the importance of improving the health of patients and were born out of organisations that had been developed to support consumers (the Consumers’ Union in the USA and the Consumers’ Association in the UK). Over the years many more independent drug bulletins have been established across the world.3
It has been noted that ‘access to unbiased information (or the lack of it) can be the difference between a good and a short-sighted national medicine policy’.3 In the 1980s, the WHO Regional Office for Europe, together with several drug bulletins, helped to launch the International Society of Drug Bulletins (ISDB). This was a worldwide network of independent bulletins that promoted rational prescribing.4 5 ISDB’s aims include assisting in the development, support and promotion of independent drug bulletins, as well as helping them to achieve the highest professional standards.3 To this end, WHO and ISDB published a practical manual to help drug bulletins produce high-quality information in an impartial, objective and accessible way.5
No conflicts of interest
As editors of drug bulletins, we recognise that independence is a fundamental basis for providing evidence-informed, practical information to help practitioners make rational decisions about medicines.5 The main requirements for ISDB membership are editorial and financial independence. Also, bulletins must not carry any advertising relating to therapeutic or diagnostic activities. In 2016, ISDB introduced a further requirement that members of the editorial team of an ISDB-member bulletin and authors of articles that could influence therapeutic choices must be free from any conflict of interest with the pharmaceutical industry or related healthcare products industry.4 Not all medical journals routinely publish conflict of interest statements for their articles, and not all medical journals have policies for disclosure of conflicts of interest from their staff and editorial boards.6 Along with our ISDB colleagues, we believe that it is important that readers know that our content is independent of commercial and other biases.