Drug company GlaxoSmithKline has signed a deal with the World Anti-Doping Agency to help scientists develop early detection methods for drugs that have performance-enhancing potential in sport.
The British drug maker will supply WADA with confidential information about medicines in early stage development that may be abused by athletes, once licensed under the deal announced, and which covers all new drugs being developed by GSK.
Sports, including cycling and athletics, have been plagued in recent years by top-level athletes abusing banned substances - including the blood booster EPO, human growth hormone and testosterone - and using blood transfusions to increase red blood cell mass to improve oxygen supply to the muscles.
Risk of abuse
"There is always the potential for the illegitimate use of medicines by a minority of athletes seeking advantage in sport," GSK said, adding it would review all drugs to identify substances with a probable or high risk of abuse in sport.
"Scientists will look for any similarity to the pharmacological characteristics of existing performance-enhancing substances and assess how they work in the human body," the company said.
"This would include stimulatory effects or improved physical endurance."
Any new drugs found to have performance-enhancing potential would then be highlighted to WADA, and confidential scientific data relating to them would be transferred by GSK, so that anti-doping experts can begin work on detection methods.
Sharing sensitive information
Efforts to improve and formalise ways of sharing sensitive information with WADA have been under way across the drug industry since the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) - which includes 25 leading pharmaceuticals firms including GSK, Merck & Co and Eli Lilly and Co - signed a joint declaration with WADA in July 2010.
"Our work with the pharmaceutical industry is critical to staying one step ahead of the dopers, who have an ever increasing level of scientific expertise," said John Fahey, WADA's president, who welcomed the GSK agreement.
GSK has already agreed to provide lab-testing services and equipment for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Britain's Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson, said in March he viewed doping as the most serious threat to the integrity of London 2012.
Seb Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, said the GSK-WADA deal showed that the enthusiasm to deliver a doping-free 2012 Games had "grown into a genuine legacy for sport and athletes".
"We now see a large global organisation creating a new way of working through a dedicated partnership that will live on beyond London 2012," he said in a statement. - (Kate Kelland/Reuters Health, July 2011)