§ Mr. Loyden
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why the findings or proceedings of the Committee on Safety of Medicines are confidential.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
The date of marketing a new product or news of the suspension or revocation of a product licence are published by the licensing authority. The Committee on Safety of Medicines regularly publishes advice to the medical profession about problems it is considering, particularly when the committee has decided that the profession should be aware of newly discovered possible adverse reactions in making decisions about prescribing. It also advises the profession on the implications for prescribing of new research work, for example the recent studies linking the pill with cancer.
We keep the remaining findings and proceedings of the CSM confidential only to the extent necessary for valid commercial reasons. Commercial confidentiality is necessary because information relating to the timing of a product licence application or to the data supporting that application might be valuable to the company's competitors in this country or overseas. Consideration by the committee of the safety of a product or group of products also remains confidential since news about such consideration may seriously prejudice the commercial prospects of the products in question and cause unnecessary alarm to patients if, as is often the case, the committee advises, after examining the full evidence, that there is no serious cause for concern.