The vice-president of a diabetes charity has been called on to sever ties with the group because he also acts as a lobbyist for a drugs giant. Sir Michael Hirst is both a figurehead for Diabetes UK and an adviser to Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, a firm that is planning to withdraw a vital form of insulin from the UK.Novo Nordisk plans to remove Mixtard 30 as a treatment, which some diabetics have used for more than 10 years. Doctors believe the move could cause problems for sufferers and the NHS.
Hirst, a one-time Tory MP, is a former chair of Diabetes UK and now acts as the charity's vice-president. At the same time, he is chair of Edinburgh-based Pagoda PR, which represents Novo Nordisk.Hirst is “retained to act for a number of health-related clients, including Roche Diagnostics and Novo Nordisk”. Services include public affairs advice and parliamentary lobbying.
Tristan Stewart-Robertson, a writer and type-1 diabetic, said: “The withdrawal of this form of insulin highlights the problem of having only two companies worldwide that produce insulin. With only two firms controlling the patent, you really need a patients’ rights group that is 100% on the diabetics’ side."
When Novo Nordisk withdrew another insulin treatment, Actrapid in 2005 Hirst said: “...product rationalisation is a common fact of life.”
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