Testing times: the emergence of the Practolol disaster and its challenge to British drug regulation in the modern period

Abraham, John and Davis, Courtney (2006) Testing times: the emergence of the Practolol disaster and its challenge to British drug regulation in the modern period. Social History of Medicine, 19 (1). 21pp. ISSN 0951-631X

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Abstract

This article analyses how practolol, the first British drug disaster of the modern, post-thalidomide regulatory period, related to the pharmaceutical industry, the medical profession and government regulation of patients' health. Drawing on comparison with the USA, it argues that, contrary to public expectation and perception, the aftermath of thalidomide did not give rise to strident British drug control, imposing the highest possible safety standards on the pharmaceutical industry. Rather, there existed a culture of reluctant regulation that was characterised by continued optimism about, and trust in the purported benefits of new drugs among manufacturers and regulators in the United Kingdom, together with commitment to the protection of the industry and its institutional support for the medical profession. In particular, British regulators were willing to allow new drugs on to the market, fully aware of uncertainty about their safety, but unwilling to be pro-active in issuing warning letters about risks and requiring `certainty¿ before acting to withdraw a product. Even after the practolol disaster, the British system was unable to reform itself to construct more rigorous and pro-active monitoring of drug risks. This was because of conflicts with industry interests.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Based on ESRC-funded empirical research in the UK and the US (ESRC Ref R000237658), this article is the first article to analyse Britain's worst drug disaster of the 1970s. The article demonstrates how and why this much-neglected drug disaster is extremely important because it was the first drug disaster in Britain after modern drug regulation was introduced in 1968 in response to thalidomide. After reading this article the editors of Northwestern University Press in the US invited Davis and Abraham to expand this research into a book. Authors' contribution was equal in all respects.
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: John Abraham
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:12
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2012 22:06
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/30180
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