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Posted by JimLSHTM on 19 Dec 2014 at 20:58 GMT

We consider Robert West’s "acid test" a concise formulation of a key issue. Tim Stockwell also nicely juxtaposes the academic quest for precision in definitions with commercial vested interests getting on with the business of exercising policy influence. Mike Daube is correct in refuting suggestions that there has been no collaboration between ICAP and IHRA. Similar statements about this were made by Gerry Stimson and Marcus Grant. In the Executive summary of their book under a heading; “How did the book come to be written?”, it is stated that; The International Center for Alcohol Policies, a think-tank, supported by major drinks companies, has taken the lead in the preparation of the book. Three other organizations have also contributed their expertise to this process: the International Harm Reduction Association has extensive experience in the field of illicit drugs…”

Leaving aside the problematic content of Rick Lines’ comment, we welcome the important content; that IHRA has ended it's collaboration with the alcohol industry. There has been no previous public statement to this effect as far as we know. This is good news for those working to reducing alcohol harms, and we encourage Lines and colleagues share it more widely. In so doing, they may wish to elaborate the reasons for this decision, and the implications for the organisation. The idea of alcohol harm reduction could yet have a better future, if combined with the evidence on how to achieve it.

Jim McCambridge on behalf of Kypros Kypri, Colin Drummond, John Strang

Competing interests declared: As decalred in the paper

RE: Author reply

RickLines replied to JimLSHTM on 23 Dec 2014 at 10:25 GMT

The authors patronisingly note what they term the 'problematic content' of my original posted comment. The problem I noted was that their article is poorly researched, misrepresents out-of-date information as being current and conflates the private activities of our previous Executive Director in the years after his retirement as reflecting IHRA policy. As the authors do not attempt to defend or refute any of these failings, I can only assume they admit them to be true, in which case the 'problematic content' charge more accurately applies to their opinion piece than to my comment.

In terms of publicising our reasons for leaving alcohol funding behind in 2010, why didn't the authors just ask us? If they claim to be doing research on this topic, then surely a phone call or an email would be the bare mimimum effort expected? Such a conversation might even have yielded useful information. But to try and suggest the article's inaccuracies are the fault of IHRA for not publicising this decision more widely is a cop-out in the extreme, unbefitting a group of allegedly serious academics. As I mentioned in my previous comment, the article already fails to reflect information publicly available on our website, so I'm not convinced lack of availability of information is the problem.

I am still awaiting clarification from the editors on how my formal complaint about this piece is being resolved. Judging from the authors' posted comment, they have no defence for their unsubstantiated accusations.

Dr Rick Lines
Executive Director
Harm Reduction International (aka IHRA)

No competing interests declared.