IMMDS panel member and ‘communications lead’ Simon Whale has done a good job so far. But what is that job?
See my 14th August piece on the ‘pro-industry, anti-patient’ bias of the ‘lead researcher’ for the IMMDS Review, and my follow-up questions to Julia Cumberlege’s initial evasive response. The initial piece has now been updated with the finding that the ‘lead researcher’ was being paid, undeclared, by two of the directly implicated PLCs, plus other pharmaceutical companies.
The ‘Panel’ have now, well over a year after the Review started, responded further by publishing a ‘register of interests’. It has already been shown to be seriously incomplete in Sonia Macleod’s case. This piece looks at ‘communications lead’ Simon Whale.
What is Whale’s role on the IMMDS Review? Is it to engage with the patient groups? To ‘communicate’ the Review’s findings and recommendations to ministers?
I suggest his main job has been to ensure that the media, and the wider public, follow the Review as little as possible. Most of the medical establishment, Pharma, and the device manufacturers, are united in wanting to see minimal pressure for a full Public Inquiry into past and present drug and device safety failures, which Sir Norman Lamb MP has implied is necessary (20-23 minutes).
Simon Whale has done this job very well. For a start, his corporate biography does not mention his government-funded employment on the Review. His PR and lobbying company, Luther Pendragon (LP), has never published a piece about mesh, valproate, Primodos, or the Review, on its website. Neither has LP ever Tweeted about them, even though it does Tweet about other clients:
After eighteen months, the Review still only has 350 Twitter followers, and views of the oral evidence have been similarly low. My first piece on the IMMDS Review criticised how it had not been publicised to doctors, and it is likely that Whale can be credited for this ‘non-communication’.
In the UK media, the health journalist who probably matters most is Hugh Pym, the BBC’s health editor. Pym has never Tweeted the Review by name; he has only Tweeted ‘valproate’ once (in April 2018) since the Review started, and ‘mesh’ and ‘Primodos’ not at all.
Pym has known Luther Pendragon since at least 2013. The PR and lobbying company appears to have ‘sponsored’ the Christmas carol service at St Bride’s (the ‘Journalists’ Church’) in Fleet Street for some years:
In March 2017, Pym ‘gave his thoughts’ and ‘shared his opinion’ at a ‘LutherNetwork’ breakfast meeting with ‘regulators, professional bodies, insurers, charities and medical services providers’. (I will ask LP, and Pym, for details, including whether he received a fee).
The account of the breakfast on the LP website states that ‘The coverage of mental health was noted as a particular example of a major shift in the way certain health topics are covered in the media’. I wonder what this means.
Simon Whale, managing director of Luther Pendragon on the left, with Hugh Pym below the LP logo.
I will also ask Pym to comment on Whale’s being a ‘panel member’ for the IMMDS Review while LP still has at least two pharmaceutical industry clients which have not been declared to patients: LGC Group Limited, and the Wellcome Trust. Wellcome has a partnership with Sanofi, which gave evidence to the review about valproate.
In her evidence to the review, Jo Cozens of OACS Charity talked about (17 minutes) the ‘lost children of valproate‘: those with fetal valproate syndrome, or their parents, who remain unaware of it and its cause. Publicising the Review more widely would have contributed to greater identification, but Sanofi is under pressure from some of the patient groups to provide financial compensation, and it is a legal fact that the primary duty of such companies is to their shareholders.
(10th September: correction of ‘Primidos’ to ‘Primodos’, and one sentence rewritten as a consequence).
(17th September: more of Simon Whale’s undeclared COIs)