Key points

  • The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency.
  • The leak revealed inappropriate involvement of government advisers in SAGE, while exposing under-representation from public health, clinical care, women, and ethnic minorities.
  • Authors from Public Health England were instructed not to talk to the media.
  • … the government procured an antibody test that in real world tests falls well short of performance claims made by its manufacturers.
  • Politicians often claim to follow the science, but that is a misleading oversimplification. Science is rarely absolute. It rarely applies to every setting or every population. It doesn’t make sense to slavishly follow science or evidence. 
  • The UK’s pandemic response relies too heavily on scientists and other government appointees with worrying competing interests, including shareholdings in companies that manufacture covid-19 diagnostic tests, treatments, and vaccines.
  • Government appointees are able to ignore or cherry pick science—another form of misuse—and indulge in anti-competitive practices that favour their own products and those of friends and associates.
  • The medical-political complex tends towards suppression of science to aggrandise and enrich those in power. And, as the powerful become more successful, richer, and further intoxicated with power, the inconvenient truths of science are suppressed. 



BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 13 November 2020)

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