Georg Röggla: Peter Sawicki’s dismissal

Georg RögglaNutrition in Critical Care Medicine was the main topic in the lectures at the ‘Wiener Intensivmedizinische Tage’ in Vienna (February 10th to 13th, 2010), one of the biggest ICU meetings in the German speaking part of Europe.  In the corridors the most discussed topic was Peter Sawicki’s dismissal as head of the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

His contract will not be extended and he will be forced to leave office. This institution is in charge of cost effectiveness and covers a similar area of activity like NICE.  One of the functions is to decide which drugs will be covered by public insurance. The German pharmaceutical industry has been complaining for quite some time that IQWiG and especially Peter Sawicki were preventing them from putting new drugs on the market. One of Sawicki’s main goals was to push industry to allow the IQWiG to read unpublished studies. The long list of clashes between Sawicki and industry then focused on concerns in the drug industry that the scientific methods used by IQWiG were not correct. It is not easy at the moment to clearly distinguish who is right in this discussion. The opinion amongst German academics is divided. According to DER SPIEGEL, Sawicki’s dismissal was part of politically motivated weakening of IQWiG. The decision not to extend Sawicki’s contract is based on some inconsistency in his expenses which is thought to be an excuse by all his supporters as well as his opponents, that I have spoken to.

Georg Röggla is an associate editor with the BMJ.