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“It’s absolutely appalling” – Outrage grows as healthcare professionals and patients urge Vectura stakeholders to stop PMI takeover

Patients and family members who have lost loved ones to smoking-related illnesses are joining forces with clinicians to urge shareholders of health firm, Vectura, to choose ethics over money and block the proposed takeover by tobacco giant, Phillip Morris International (PMI).

 Fresh TW - Alyson Jordan Vectura quote 2


Those who’ve been personally affected by lung disease have come together with medical professionals from around the UK to warn Vectura shareholders about the ethics and reputation damage of accepting a £1bn bid by PMI.



Vectura Group plc and its subsidiaries is a product development company that focuses on the development of pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of airway-related diseases[i] This market includes asthma, which is made worse by tobacco smoke, especially among children exposed, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is caused by smoking in the majority of cases.[ii]



Accepting a takeover bid for a respiratory drug developer by a company which is responsible for selling more than 130 brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro, would be ethically wrong and could harm the company’s future reputation and prospects argued the consortium of clinical professionals and people outraged by the proposal.


They include Alyson Jordan, 51, from Birtley in Gateshead, who lost her mum, Heather in 2016, aged just 67, after an eight-year battle with severe COPD.


Alyson said: “I’m actually really annoyed; smoking caused my mum’s emphysema and eventually her death. I can honestly say, if my mum was prescribed an inhaler which she had to pay for at the start of her disease, made by a company that was selling cigarettes, she would refuse to use it. Even now if she was alive today, she would think it was false news circulating and couldn’t possibly be true. My mum would say: ‘Can you believe it? Smoking caused my disease and look I now have an inhaler by a company that makes cigarettes.’ And she would put it in the bin.


“They are going to be making cigarettes and inhalers, it’s a joke! So, one of the warning signs on Marlboro is it can cause fatal lung disease. And the inhaler helps to stop wheezing, coughing and opens the airways, really? I’m lost for words; I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, it’s absolutely appalling.”


Neville Drinkwater, 58, from Gorton in Manchester, had to be brought back to life after dying on the operating table when he underwent surgery for throat cancer. It was the wake-up call he needed to quit, and he hasn’t touched a cigarette since that traumatic day in June 2018. He still lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Neville said: “They must be the biggest hypocrites going. On one hand they’re killing people with their cigarettes, and on the other they’re trying to treat people with lung problems.


“It doesn’t make any sense. Is Phillip Morris trying to make amends for all of the deaths their products cause, or are they only doing it to make more money? To me, it seems to be all about the profit.


“Cancer is an awful illness to go through. Thankfully I’m now in remission, but the aftermath following treatment is horrendous. I’m still in pain every day. I have COPD and I get out of breath so easily. I’m living with all of this because of smoking.


“Tobacco companies make billions from human suffering. It’s not right. I hope Vectura shareholders start listening to the people who use their products. I use two inhalers for my COPD, and I’d dread to think that they could come from a company owned by PMI.”


Clinical professionals agree that the takeover could negatively impact Vectura’s reputation and make the medical community prescribing inhalers think twice.


Dr Ruth Sharrock is a Respiratory Consultant and Clinical Lead on Tobacco for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System.

She said: “The medical community is extremely wary of tobacco companies. They have no moral responsibility - profiteering from manufacturing a product that kills half of those people who use it.


“It would be a very ill-advised move for shareholders to consider this offer as I anticipate it would cause a prompt and widespread effect on prescribing choices across the medical community.”


She added: “I understand the teams that created the Vectura portfolio of research and product development were from an academic background and offer a valuable and credible contribution to the UK research landscape. Professional trust in their products and research will be lost if the tobacco industry become involved, and the competitiveness of the inhaled product market will allow us many other prescribing choices that feel less morally tarnished.

“Governmental policy makers need to urgently consider whether they will allow a company to have a vested interest in continuing to cause a huge burden of health problems by also profiteering from the treatments for some of those.”



Dr Matt Evison, a lung specialist from Manchester, said:

“This proposed takeover is nothing short of a tragedy. Every day I see lives lost, ruined, or cut short, all because of the devastating effects of smoking.


“As a doctor, the very idea of seeing medical devices owned by a cigarette company used by patients with respiratory illnesses is deeply unsettling. The impact of this takeover for patients, future research, clinical trials, the pharmaceutical industry, and ultimately Vectura shareholders, would be hugely damaging.


“The market for inhaler products is fiercely competitive so healthcare professionals will not think twice about prescribing other products to avoid moral conflict where this does not impact patient care.


“Detailed lists of Vectura products are already being disseminated across the respiratory and medical communities with the appropriate alternative inhalers listed to facilitate rapid switching to non-tobacco industry tainted inhalers.


“If PMI wanted to end smoking or the harm from smoking, they would not be manufacturing two billion cigarettes per day. We must protect public health from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.”


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said:

“My own father died from smoking-related COPD – the thought of a tobacco company profiting from the cigarettes that make people ill and then charging the NHS for the medicines to treat them stinks of hypocrisy and greed.”The British Lung Foundation estimates[iii] that 1.2 million people are living with diagnosed COPD, with a higher proportion of people diagnosed with COPD in Scotland, the North East and North West of England. Around 115,000 people are diagnosed with COPD each year.


Along with lung cancer and pneumonia, COPD is one of the three leading contributors to respiratory deaths in developed countries such as the UK.


51% of Vectura shareholders need to agree to the takeover bid for it to go through.