Pharma: UK libel law

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Pharma badge.jpg This article is part of the Pharma_Portal project of Spinwatch.

In February 2010, The Guardian reported that a Danish radiologist being sued for libel by GE Healthcare, a subsidiary of General Electric, was launching a 'counterclaim for libel.' [1] Henrik Thomsen previously claimed the company's contrast agent Omniscan which is used in MRI scans caused a 'potentially fatal condition in some patients with kidney problems'. According to Thomsen, 30 patients at Copenhagen University Hospital have developed nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). [2] Thomsen counter-sued the company for defamation after it called him a liar in a press release. GE Healthcare subsequently dropped the libel action claiming it 'did not mean to stifle academic debate'.[3] Thomson released a statement claiming:

"I stand by my publicly expressed opinion, based on my experience and research on published papers, that there is an association between the chemical formulation of gadolinium-based contrast agents and NSF."[4]

GE Healthcare in the financial year 2007-8 was a funder of Sense About Science[5]. SAS has run a high-profile campaign against libel laws in science (Keep Libel Laws out of Science[6]) in relation to the case of the science writer Simon Singh being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for an article in the Guardian in which he claimed the BCA promoted "bogus" treatments.[7]


  1. Leigh, D. The Guardian. 16 February 2010.Danish scientist sued by drug firm under British libel laws to counterclaim Accessed 18 February 2010.
  2. Booth, R. The Guardian. 20 December 2009. UK libel law has gagged me, says leading Danish radiologist Accessed 18 February 2010.
  3. Leigh, D. The Guardian. 18 February 2010.US drug firm drops libel action against scientist' Accessed 18 February 2010.
  4. Leigh, D.The Guardian. 18 February 2010. US drug firm drops libel action against scientist' Accessed 18 February 2010.
  5. Sense About Science Financial Statement Year Ended 5 April 2008, available here
  6. National Petition for Libel Law Reform, SAS website, accessed 16 Feb 2010
  7. Chiropractic critic loses first round in libel fight, New Scientist, Issue 2708, 15 May 2009, accessed 19 Feb 2010