Decision of the Complaints Committee – 04932-21 Various v Daily Express
Summary of Complaint
1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received various complaints that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “UK gets new lung cancer drug...thanks to Brexit deal”, published on 7 May 2021.
2. The article reported that the UK had authorised a “new lung cancer drug” under an international scheme that the country was “able to join after Brexit” having signed up to the US-led Project Orbis in January 2021. It reported that the drug – called Osimertinib – was made by AstraZeneca and sold under the brand name Tagrisso. It stated that this medication was taken in tablet form and “originally licensed to treat patients with mid and later stage non-small cell lung cancer who carry a gene mutation called EGFR” but has since “been extended to include those in early-stage disease after the cancer is surgically removed.” The article went on to include the comments made by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, who said that “leaving the European Union (EU) had presented [the country] with the opportunity to join Project Orbis - a collaboration with the top regulators around the world – to speed up the time it takes to get new medicines to patients”, adding that he was delighted to see the “first results” of this undertaking. He said that the “ground-breaking drug for lung cancer” would soon benefit hundreds of patients across the UK.
3. A substantially similar version of the article also appeared online under the headline “UK gets new lung cancer drug under international scheme thanks to Brexit deal”.
4. IPSO received 34 complaints about this article. Complainants said the headline was inaccurate and misleading on two points. First, to report that there was a “new lung cancer drug” given that the medication ‘Tagrisso’ was already licensed and available to EU countries, including the UK, following its approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2016. Second, to report that “thanks to Brexit” the UK was able to authorise this “new drug”, given that it had been available for use since 2016.
5. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Editors’ Code on either point. The newspaper accepted that the drug ‘Tagrisso’ had originally been licensed in the UK to treat patients with mild and later stage non-small lung cancer. However, it said that the recent authorisation had allowed a new use of the medication, earlier in the disease, that extended its use to a further cohort of patients, who were previously ineligible. It said that this was made clear in the body of the article, which said the drug had been “originally licensed to treat patients with mid and later stage non-small cell lung cancer who carry a gene mutation called EGFR” but has since “been extended to include those in early-stage disease after the cancer is surgically removed.” In such circumstances, the newspaper said the headline was not significantly misleading to describe the medication as “a new cancer drug”.
6. In regard to the second point of complaint, the newspaper said the article was based upon a press release issued by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This included the statement made by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, who said that “leaving the EU [had] presented [the UK] with the opportunity to join Project Orbis” and authorise the “ground-breaking drug”.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
7. In considering the care taken by the newspaper, the Committee had regard to the context of the article. The Committee noted that the article reported on an announcement by the MHRA and the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, with the latter describing the authorisation of the drug ‘Osimertinib’ in the context of “new medicines” being brought to the UK market after Brexit. In addition, the Committee noted that the article had made clear the basis for the claim, specifically that the drug had been approved for a new usage. On this basis, the Committee concluded that there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1 (i).
8. The Committee next considered whether the article contained significant inaccuracies or was significantly misleading. It was not in dispute that, as explained in the text of the article, the drug had been authorised for use in a new way to treat cancer, and would therefore be available to a new set of patients. In addition, the body of the article made clear that, according to the former Health Secretary, the UK’s departure from the EU had afforded it the opportunity to join Project Orbis, which had been responsible for approving the use of the drug for this new treatment of cancer patients – a treatment which had not yet been approved by the EU regulator. In such circumstances, and taking into account the above, the Committee did not consider the article significantly inaccurate or misleading as to require correction under Clause 1 (ii). There was no breach of Clause 1.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 7/05/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/08/2021Back to ruling listing