The European Respiratory Society (ERS) is very alarmed by the proposed acquisition of Vectura by the tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI).
This news must be extremely disappointing for the hard-working scientists at Vectura who have dedicated their careers to developing products that improve the quality of life of people living with debilitating lung conditions, and all of those advocating for tobacco control, considering that tobacco is one of the biggest preventable causes of many lung diseases.
The tobacco industry is responsible for the suffering and early death of millions of people around the world each year. It is extremely unethical for a tobacco company to profit from addicting people to its immensely harmful products, then subsequently seek to further profit from the medicines produced to treat harms caused by its own products. ERS is very concerned that the proposed deal will enable PMI to obscure its image as a company that profits from getting people addicted to its dangerous products, and that a tobacco company will be in a position to abuse the inhalation technologies developed by Vectura to make its tobacco products even more addictive. If PMI truly wants to move “beyond nicotine”, it should focus on stopping the aggressive promotion and sale of all its tobacco products without delay.
ERS and other medical institutions have strict rules against the involvement of individuals/companies that are linked to the tobacco industry in society activities, including membership, event participation and engagement with research activities, due to the conflict of interest. The deal is also likely to be financially detrimental to Vectura, as health professionals will avoid prescribing drugs from any company that enriches the tobacco industry due to the ethical implications. ERS strongly urges Vectura shareholders to reject the deal to ensure Vectura scientists can continue to engage with the scientific community to its full extent, to protect the integrity of its essential medical products, and to prevent the abuse of its technologies by the tobacco industry.
If the acquisition is approved by shareholders, ERS calls on UK regulators to use their authority to intervene in the deal in the interest of protecting public health and public confidence in essential medical supply chains.
This statement is signed by:
Prof. Anita Simonds, President of the European Respiratory Society
Prof. Jonathan Grigg, Chair of the European Respiratory Society Tobacco Control Committee
NB: This statement was updated on 6 August, 2021. An earlier version of the statement was published on 28 July, 2021.