This month’s report by the Royal College of Physicians, Innovating for Health, is “anything but” another attack by doctors on the pharmaceutical industry, and instead it represents an opportunity which drugmakers should embrace, says a leading industry spokesman.

The tone of the report is positive and constructive, says Dr Richard Tiner, medical director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), and he points out that its 42 recommendations are made not only to the industry but also to the Department of Health, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the RCP itself, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), medical schools and physicians themselves.

He acknowledges that the recommendations to industry call for “an end to gifts of sticky notes and pens” and to any contribution to food and travel. The RCP also wants to “wean doctors off their reliance on industry to foot the bill for continuing education” and it calls on industry to put money into a central pool to support education of healthcare professionals. However, these activities are already regulated by the ABPI Code of Practice, a point which is made in the report, says Dr Tiner, who is vice-president of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine and served as a member of the working party that produced the RCP report.

Moreover, he says, the RCP did not make those industry-specific recommendations “simply to fashion a stick with which they and others could beat us over the head. It made them because it wants to re-invigorate the relationship between the people who make medicines and the people who prescribe them.” The College is calling for this “new covenant” for two reasons; it understands the knowledge and value that those working in the industry have to offer, and closer working is in everyone’s best interests, especially those of patients. “Simply put, for me the RCP wants to clear out the impediments which it believes prevent the pharmaceutical industry being regarded as a respected partner and allow it to take its rightful seat at the healthcare top table,” he says.

Moreover, at the press conference to launch the report, Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet and leader of the working party which produced the study, had directed “by far the greatest amount of his intellectual ire” at three subjects close to the industry’s heart, according to Dr Tiner; Dr Horton had told the conference that NICE is in a complete mess, that young doctors’ prescribing knowledge is woefully lacking and that it is “incredible” that the Department of Health has no UK medicines strategy encompassing access and patient information, he says.

Dr Tiner asks: “do these sound like the tenets of a myopic, jaundiced institution, ready to tear down the walls of one of the UK’s last great industries? No, they are the reasoned, measured views of a venerable institution which since its foundation nearly 500 years ago has had the best interests of patients as its guiding light.”

The RCP is one of the industry’s most important constituencies, and it should listen to what it is saying and consider its recommendations carefully. The RCP has given it the diagnosis and offered a prescription and, “with them, we need to work on the treatment,” he says.