- Today (18 October 2017) is 2017 World Menopause Day, as Allison Pearson told readers in her Daily Telegraph column, er, today. She didn’t mention GP and menopause expert Dr Louise Newson this time, though (see previous post).
- To coincide with 2017 World Menopause Day, charity the British Menopause Society (BMS; registered charity number: 1015144) today released the results of an online survey it commissioned on UK women’s experiences of the menopause. “The findings reveal the need for greater support for women experiencing the menopause across the UK,” claims BMS. Here’s the press release, which shows the charity again used PR company Edelman: EMBARGOED-UNTIL-18-OCT-2017-00.01_BMS-Survey-Results-2017_Press-Release.
- BMS used Edelman for last year’s national PR campaign organised around a 2015 survey (see 17 July 2017 post). There I revealed who actually funded the previous PR campaign – three pharmaceutical companies: Novo Nordisk, Mylan and Pharmacare. Prior to my investigation, BMS hadn’t disclosed the funding sources.
- As today’s press release shows, the charity has again failed to be transparent about who’s funded its PR campaign. It says nothing about funding. Disappointing, but predictable.
- In Allison Pearson’s new novel, “How Hard Can It Be?”, Kate Reddy is back, now dealing with the menopause. The bestselling author devotes a paragraph in the acknowledgements to Dr Louise Newson, “an expert in hormone replacement therapy” (HRT). HRT is the main treatment for menopause. On 17 September 2017, Dr Newson gushed on Twitter: “This book [“How Hard Can It Be?”] is so enlightening and truthful about the menopause – I have so enjoyed helping @allisonpearson with it!” Later that day the GP and menopause expert re-tweeted Ms Pearson’s response: “You were so helpful. Gave me great confidence that what I was writing was true!” Yes, but Ms Pearson and her readers should be aware: Dr Newson is paid to promote HRT and other menopause-related products and services – but doesn’t always disclose her commercial relationships with the relevant companies.
- Ms Pearson and Dr Newson‘s mutual admiration continued in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, where the novelist is a columnist. On 2 October 2017, Dr Newson published an article again banging the drum for HRT, “Women need HRT, not antidepressants.” Again, the menopause expert was full of praise for “How Hard Can It Be?” and its author. There was even a plug at the end, proclaiming the book is available via The Telegraph website.
- There‘s no suggestion Ms Pearson has been paid or received other material benefit to promote menopause-related products and services in her new book, which was published on 21 September 2017.
- True, Dr Newson declares her financial interests in a file on her website. But she only published the file after I contacted her to query the absence of the information on her site in relation to a particular company (see below). Also, the disclosures there are inadequate. Particularly concerning, though, is her non-disclosure when quoted as a seemingly independent expert in editorial articles in newspapers and on websites – or as author herself of such pieces. Here I discuss two examples. In the first, Dr Newson‘s promotional activities around menopause-related vaginal dryness and a new laser treatment, MonaLisa Touch (MLT). Then her work with US drug company Mylan, a major HRT manufacturer. In quotes for a recent national Sunday newspaper article, for instance, Dr Newson praised a new supposedly independent menopause website for the public – but failed to say Mylan was responsible for it. She didn’t reveal her commercial relationship with the drug firm, either.
- On 4 July 2017, Dr Newson published on her website, menopausedoctor.co.uk, an article by Jane Lewis on vaginal dryness. There Ms Lewis enthuses about treatment MLT. There’s two paragraphs about the laser treatment, and a link to a new website, takeoutthepause.co.uk (screen shots in Figure 1a and 1b).
- In her introduction, though, Dr Newson didn’t declare a relevant financial interest. She simply said: “Jane Lewis has written this article to share her experience and help to empower women and break this taboo. I am so grateful to her for allowing me to share this on my website.”
- Yet Dr Newson was working with MLT, raising awareness of vaginal dryness and promoting the company. Website takeoutthepause.co.uk, where she appears, is part of a PR campaign for MLT organised by ROAD Communications (screen shot in Figure 2). As you can see, ROAD put Dr Newson at the heart of the campaign.
- On the same day Dr Newson published Ms Lewis’ article, MLT UK expressly thanked Ms Lewis on Twitter for sharing her “story” via the menopause expert‘s website (screen shot in Figure 3).
- After I emailed Dr Newson on 26 July 2017 to ask why she hadn’t declared her role with MLT when publishing Ms Lewis’ article, the menopause expert added a two-sentence comment at the foot of the article: “This is an independent review and the opinion of Jane Lewis. I have previously been reimbursed to provide advice on general menopause issues with regards to MonaLisa Touch (takeoutthepause.co.uk).” (screen shot in Figure 4).
- In the same email on 1 August 2017, Dr Newson also brought to my attention the file on her website containing her declaration of interests: link on the “About Louise” page. Yet the file creation date reveals it was only created that day – 1 August 2017 (screen shot in Figure 5). In other words, after I’d first contacted her. The full filename, too, shows it was published in August 2017 (screen shot in Figure 6).
- Also, the disclosures there are inadequate. The menopause expert simply lists companies with whom she has/had financial relationships (Figure 5). There’s insufficient detail.
- Following our email correspondence, Dr Newson arranged for a statement to be added to the MLT website, takeoutthepause.co.uk (screen shot in Figure 7). It wasn’t there originally (screen shot in Figure 8).
- On 28 June 2017, Dr Newson published an article, “The A-Z Of Menopause,” on the Female First website, which clearly identifies her as “ambassador” for MLT (screen shot in Figure 9). Disclosure of interest, rightly, then. Yet no disclosure in another of her articles, in dluxe Magazine dated 11 August 2017, “5 Steps to Take the Pause out of Menopause,” where author Dr Newson refers to vaginal dryness, names MLT and lists takeoutthepause.co.uk (screen shots in Figure 10a and 10b). The headline of the article, of course, echoes the MLT website, too.
- Dr Newson is on the board of the grandly titled Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF), an organisation that falsely claimed to be a charity (see 17 July 2017 post). She’s lead for the West Midlands. PCWHF is “dedicated to the education and support of healthcare professionals across the UK caring for female patients,” says its website. On 21 July 2017, it published document “Guidance on Diagnosis and Management of Urogenital atrophy or Genitourinary Syndrome of the Menopause (GSM)”: GSM-Guideline. Dr Newson and Dr Carrie Sadler wrote the guidance on behalf of PCWHF. As the overview explains, they use GSM as a more accurate term for menopause-related vaginal dryness. Although the authors fail to declare explicitly any relevant financial interests, the document carries five – yes, five – different brand logos, including pharmaceutical company Pfizer. MLT, though, isn’t one of them. Yet here Dr Newson was again raising awareness of vaginal dryness – while the medical face of MLT‘s PR campaign to do the same. Further, the guidance describes laser treatment, which “has been shown to lead to impressive results in some studies.” While MLT isn’t named in the document, the list of references includes a single study of laser treatment – one using MLT. It’s surely remiss of Dr Newson not to disclose her link to the company. In summer 2017, I complained twice to PCWHF via email about her failure in the guidance to disclose her commercial relationship with MLT. I didn’t receive a response either time. Nor did I hear from Dr Newson when I raised the omission in an email.
- Now to Dr Newson‘s work with Mylan, the major HRT manufacturer. On 17 July 2017, I exclusively revealed that the manager of the HRT portfolio at Mylan UK is a trustee of The Daisy Network, a charity providing “support, information and networking opportunities” to women with premature menopause (registered charity number: 1077930). For several reasons, I was concerned the charity is a front organisation for the pharmaceutical company. The Sunday Times newspaper reported my findings on 30 July 2017.
- It’s clear Dr Newson works with Mylan as she sometimes declares her relevant financial interest. But sometimes she doesn’t – and that’s the problem.
- First, examples of disclosure. The GP publishes four leaflets on her homepage: downloading them you discover Mylan “developed and funded” two of them. These are “Menopause and Me” (remember the title) and “Menopause and Me: In the workplace.” Here they are: 00133-22-Menopause-Booklet-Update-AW-3-HR-FINAL-JAN17-1 and 00498-02-Menopause-and-Work-Booklet-V5-FINAL.
- For further information, Mylan on the back of each leaflet points readers to several websites, including Dr Newson‘s. There both state: “Please note: Mylan has had no involvement in any of the websites listed above.” This is self-evidently false – because in both cases the drug firm’s list of recommended “independent” websites includes, er, The Daisy Network!
- On 13 September 2017, meanwhile, Dr Newson spoke at a women’s health seminar for GPs, in London, organised by Pulse Learning Seminars – title of her talk: “Early Menopause: Do we need to treat it?” She was “supported by” Mylan, according to the day’s programme (screen shot in Figure 11). Two examples, then, the leaflets and the seminar, where Dr Newson declares her commercial relationship with the drug firm.
- Yet occasionally she doesn’t. Particularly concerning are some of her promotional activities for a new menopause website for the public, Menopause and Me: www.menopauseandme.co.uk. Sound familiar? Yes, Mylan created the site.
- On 2 July 2017, Dr Newson was quoted in a very troubling article in national Sunday newspaper, The People, “It’s time to change the face of our final taboo.” Here’s the online version: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/final-female-health-taboo-set-10720595. (Trinity Mirror publishes The People.) Author Caroline Jones describes “new advice website Menopause & Me,” which is “designed to help women make more informed choices when it comes to managing their symptoms.” “Dr Newson is a wholehearted supporter of all such efforts,” writes Jones about the site. Yet neither the GP in her quotes nor the author disclose the fact that Mylan is behind the site. There’s no mention of Dr Newson’s commercial relationship with the drug firm, either. It‘d be laughable if it wasn‘t so serious.
- At date of publication Dr Newson hasn’t responded to requests for comment via email about The People article.
- On 30 August 2017, Dr Newson was quoted in an article on the NetDoctor website, “5 unexpected symptoms of the menopause every woman needs to know about” (screen shots in Figure 12a and 12b). As you can see, there’s a plug for Mylan‘s new site at the end of the article: “Dr Louise Newson has been working with Menopause & Me – a new website dedicated to supporting women throughout their menopause journeys.” At least this article discloses a relationship, if ill-defined, between Dr Newson and the site. But the fact that Mylan is responsible for Menopause and Me is omitted – as is the GP’s commercial relationship with the drug firm.
- A day before the NetDoctor article, author of The People one, Caroline Jones, again quoted Dr Newson at length, this time in the Daily Mirror newspaper (“Your guide to beating perimenopause blues”): Daily Mirror 29 Aug 2017. Although not plugging Menopause and Me this occasion, the GP reassures women on the safety and effectiveness of HRT – but again fails to declare any relevant financial interests. To treat vaginal dryness, meanwhile, the article advises use of a “good” vaginal moisturiser, naming a particular brand – Sylk. Sylk‘s logo is one of the five in Dr Newson and Dr Sadler‘s GSM guidance for the PCWHF.
- Dr Newson undermines both her and PCWHF‘s credibility by being paid to promote menopause-related products and services. What’s worse, she doesn’t always declare relevant financial interest(s). The egregious articles in The People and on NetDoctor deserve scrutiny for another reason: Mylan is the company involved.
- Mylan is unusual in the UK pharmaceutical industry because it isn’t a full member of trade association The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). ABPI members, for example, submit financial data to its Disclosure UK database: http://www.disclosureuk.org.uk. Non-member Mylan’s payments to Dr Newson and other healthcare professionals, and healthcare organisations are therefore hidden.
- Further, Mylan has a demonstrable track record in the UK of questionable practices in both its marketing of HRT to the public and its closeness to the menopause charities (see 17 July 2017 post). To that list can be added dishonest promotion of its new Menopause and Me website via editorial articles in newspapers and on websites. Dishonest because the editorial content hides the fact that Mylan is behind Menopause and Me; and there Dr Newson endorses the site without disclosure of relevant financial interest.
On 22 August 2017, I revealed that regulator the Charity Commission was going to instruct charity The Lee And Bakirgian Family Trust (registered charity number: 1046940) to re-submit its latest accounts “in the correct format”. This was after earlier that month I’d brought to the commission’s attention the problem with the latest accounts, made up to 30 September 2016: they didn’t contain an independent examiner’s report to the charity trustees. Here are the deficient accounts, downloaded from the commission on 27 July 2017: 0001046940_AC_20160930_E_C. Well, the north west charity has duly re-submitted them – but there’s no record on the commission’s public register of charities that the accounts had to be re-submitted. The re-submission is hidden. The fact of re-submission is hidden in the new version of the accounts, too. Both are unsatisfactory. The charity’s records should surely be complete and transparent.
Lord Lee of Trafford (Lib Dem) is a celebrated private investor, who, among many other things, has for a long time written a column in the FT newspaper about investing. How ironic: former MP Lord Lee pores over company accounts and tells FT readers how to interpret them. Yet the latest accounts for his own charity – he’s a trustee – were inadequate, according to the regulator.
On 18 September 2017, the commission told me in an email Lord Lee’s charity had now re-submitted the accounts. Nevertheless at date of publication there’s no indication of the re-submission on the commission’s public register of charities. There the revised accounts, which aren’t identified as such, are erroneously shown as received by the commission on 28 April 2017 – the date when the original accounts were filed there. In other words, the regulator hides the re-submission.
It’d be less of a concern if the revised accounts themselves documented the fact of re-submission and why it was necessary. But they don’t.
So the latest accounts now include an independent examiner’s report to the charity trustees – which, although undated by the examiner, obviously helps to maintain public trust and confidence in Lord Lee’s charity. But neither the commission’s public register of charities nor the accounts themselves record the fact of re-submission and why it was necessary. So much for transparency and accountability.
When I brought to the commission’s attention the new problems, a staff member said in an email: “We are in the process of reviewing and updating the ‘search for a charity’ and register page, I have forwarded your comments to the relevant team for them to incorporate into their feedback for future versions.” I won’t hold my breath.
- Former Tory MP Tim Yeo is a “senior consultant” at Turquoise, a London-based merchant bank specialising in “energy, environment and efficiency”.
- He was South Suffolk MP from 1983 to 2015. His parliamentary career included a stint as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, according to his biography on the Turquoise website (screen shot in Figure 1). That’s a government post.
- Yet the parliament website shows Mr Yeo was in fact, twice, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/mr-tim-yeo/136. And that’s an opposition post.
- Government and opposition are, er, obviously different.
- At date of publication Mr Yeo hasn’t responded to a request for comment via email, nor has Turquoise. His biography on the merchant bank’s website is unchanged.
- On 15 August 2017, UK 2020 Limited, the thinktank founded and chaired by former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, filed its second set of accounts at Companies House (registered company number: 09245454). Conservative MP Mr Paterson, who’s now sole director, signed off the accounts on 8 June 2017. Made up to 31 March 2017, note 4 there, “Future activities,” states: “The company was dormant from 1 April 2017.”
- Two weeks after filing the accounts, meanwhile, the apparently dormant thinktank published its latest report, “Timebomb: How the university cartel is failing students.” Its findings were first reported on 3 September 2017, in The Sunday Times newspaper and on the BBC News website. Two days later, UK 2020 formally launched the report in the House of Commons Thames Pavilion, according to the thinktank’s Twitter feed (@_uk2020).
- The 157-page report was produced “over recent months,” says lead author Richard Tice in his preface. Is UK 2020 the first dormant thinktank to prepare and publish a weighty report?
- At date of publication neither Mr Paterson at parliament nor UK 2020 itself responded to requests for comment.
- The company that owns English football club Hull City Tigers, Allamhouse Limited, is as well known for its record of political donations, mostly to Labour. The firm itself is owned by the Allam family. Dr Assem Allam is chairman of Hull City; his son Ehab Allam vice-chairman. There‘s an unexplained discrepancy of almost £32k between two independent public sources for political donations made by Allamhouse Limited for the five years 2012-2016. Further, the identified recipients of the donations differ between the two independent public sources. The football club apparently remains for sale, meanwhile, after relegation from the Premier League last season, 2016-17.
- The firm’s last accounts were made up to 31 December 2016, Companies House records show (registered company number: 07042898). And at that year-end Allamhouse Limited had made seven political donations, all cash and total value £750.0k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. Also, subsidiary Allam Marine Limited (registered company number: 02708090) made two political donations in 2012, both cash and total value £106.9k. Thus the overall sum at the Electoral Commission is £856.9k.
- Political donations above £2k must be disclosed by a company in the directors’ report within the annual report. Here the accounting reference date is 31 December, according to Companies House records. For each year 2012-2016 except 2015, political donations are disclosed in the annual report of Allamhouse Limited. But here the total value is £825.0k – almost £32k (i.e. £31.9k) less than the Electoral Commission total, £856.9k (Table 1). (No political donations are disclosed in the 2011 directors’ report of Allamhouse Limited. And none are listed during 2011 in the Electoral Commission online database, either)
|Year||Annual report||Electoral Commission|
- Six issues about the Hull City owners‘ political donations arise from comparison of disclosures in the directors’ reports and Electoral Commission records.
- FIRST ISSUE: The 2012 directors’ report of Allamhouse Limited discloses a cash donation to Labour of £100k. Electoral Commission records show that in 2012 the party actually received that sum from subsidiary Allam Marine Limited. Yet later that year, Allam Marine Limited also gave Labour £6.9k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. Why did the 2012 directors’ report of Allamhouse Limited fail to disclose the second cash donation to Labour? (No political donations are disclosed in the 2012 directors’ report of Allam Marine Limited.)
- SECOND ISSUE: The 2013 directors’ report shows two cash donations: £110k to Labour and £15k to the Conservative Middle Eastern Council (CMEC). Neither – nor any donation – is shown during 2013 in the Electoral Commission online database. Why?
- THIRD ISSUE: The 2014 directors’ report discloses cash donations to Labour of total value £500k. The number of cash donations isn’t specified. During 2014 in the Electoral Commission online database there’s only a single donation to Labour – of £110k. Perhaps this donation is that disclosed in the 2013 directors’ report? (see SECOND ISSUE) Similarly, in 2014 CMEC accepted a cash donation of £15k from the company, the Electoral Commission online database shows. Again, perhaps this donation is that disclosed in the 2013 directors’ report?
- FOURTH ISSUE: The 2015 directors’ report discloses no political donations. Nevertheless in 2015 Labour accepted two cash donations from the firm: £200k and £300k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. Perhaps these donations are those disclosed in the 2014 directors’ report, total value £500k? (see THIRD ISSUE)
- FIFTH ISSUE: The 2015 directors’ report discloses no political donations. Yet during 2015 in the Electoral Commission online database CMEC accepted a cash donation of £15k from the company. Why the non-disclosure in the directors’ report?
- SIXTH ISSUE: The 2015 directors’ report discloses no political donations. But during 2015 in the Electoral Commission online database the Conservatives (Haltemprice and Howden) accepted a cash donation of £10k from the company. Haltemprice and Howden is the constituency of David Davis MP, Brexit Secretary. It‘s also where Dr Allam lives. Why the non-disclosure in the directors’ report?
- For 2016, however, there’s no discrepancy in amount between the two independent public sources: both say £100k. This political donation is vaguely described as “to the Labour Party Leadership campaign” in the 2016 directors’ report. While Owen Smith MP, who challenged Jeremy Corbyn MP as Labour leader in the summer of 2016, is shown as recipient at the Electoral Commission.
- Hull City press officer, Luke Cash, hasn’t responded to requests for comment. I‘ve emailed him at the football club three times, beginning in June 2017.
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I’m grateful to James Douglas at the Electoral Commission for advice on its data.
- Lord Lee of Trafford (Lib Dem) is a celebrated private investor, who, among many other things, has for a long time written a column in the FT newspaper about investing. One of the former MP’s declared non-financial interests is his role as a trustee of charity The Lee And Bakirgian Family Trust (registered charity number: 1046940). Here I reveal a problem with the latest accounts for the north west charity, made up to 30 September 2016.
- Income that year, £30 236, is above the statutory threshold for external scrutiny of the accounts, £25k. Yet there was no external scrutiny of the accounts. That is, there’s no evidence of an independent examination.
- In July 2017, I twice requested a comment from the public contact for the charity, Simon Ellis at accountants Jackson Stephen LLP, Warrington (email). I didn’t receive a response.
- On 18 August 2017, a spokesperson for regulator the Charity Commission told me in a written statement: “The Commission will be contacting the trustees to request they re-submit their accounts in the correct format so that we can be satisfied the accounts we hold are accurate and in line with charity law.”