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Bryan Holroyd Hartley



Bryan was a significant, wise and friendly presence in much of my working life, as he was for many people. He did annoy some but more often than not they learnt from the experience. He achieved much both as a pharmacist with the industry and as a private citizen.

We first met in 1963 when we were working in the pharmaceutical development labs of Burroughs Wellcome & Co Ltd. in Dartford under Mr. Stevenson. Bryan worked in the pilot plant section and the main thing I recall about him then was getting into a terrible mess with a large trial batch of the traditional BW cream ‘Hazeline Snow’. Perhaps that’s what persuaded him towards a more administrative role, at which he excelled. I also remember him in the amateur dramatics group, the Wellcome Players.

Bryan then moved north to Winthrop in Newcastle. Later a mutual colleague John Ayling recalls that he came to know Bryan in 1968 when they both worked for Wyeth, Bryan in Taplow now in tablet development and John making them in Havant. But what they didn’t know was that in 1971 each of them separately applied to join the Medicines Inspectorate in the new medicines division of the Department of Health and Social Security. This division had been created in the light of inadequate drug research that led to the thalidomide tragedy, and the need for independent regulation of the industry was reinforced a year later by the manufacturing errors that led to the issue by Evans Medical Ltd. of contaminated infusion fluids[1]. Bryan and John joined the Inspectorate on the same day, 4 August, after the bank holiday. They remembered it well, because when their pay slips came through at the end of the month they were both deducted three days’ pay because of starting on the fourth!

Not long after the Inspectorate was formed Bryan’s ability and experience was recognized by his promotion to Principal Inspector.

He appeared next in my life in 1972 as the first Medicines Inspector to visit our BW factory where I now supervised steriles production. I noticed that he and another pharmacist friend John Cheetham, who’d also left Wellcome to join the Inspectorate, both seemed to be enjoying themselves so I decided to apply to join as well, as I did in 1973.

I guess Bryan and I went on some early inspections together, probably with me as the trainee. I don’t recall many details but I did recognise even then that Bryan was the longer-term, strategic thinker. He must have been an effective inspector too as at least one company was heard to groan when we arrived on site “We haven’t got that red-headed so-and-so again have we?”

We didn’t see so much of each other after I moved to set up the Midlands Inspection office in Nottingham and later to work in the licensing division but it was obvious that Bryan was destined for higher things; he was selected for the Civil Service ‘High-Flyers course’ and joined an administrative division of the department to widen his experience.

Then in 1989 the old medicines division was transformed into the Medicines Control Agency[2] under Dr. Keith Jones and Bryan was brought back as director of the inspection and enforcement division. John describes him in that role as a visionary, he raised the profile and prestige of the Inspectorate and established new standards and procedures that are still in common practice. And he asked me to rejoin him in the Inspectorate.

Bryan had this influence not only in the United Kingdom but far wider. In 1992 he chaired the international Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention that set and ensured high standards in the manufacture of medicines in the 17 EFTA countries that were then members. It is in no small part due to Bryan’s foresight that the PIC and PICS[3] has now developed to include almost 50 national medicines inspection authorities worldwide, from Argentina to Japan, all co-operating with this aim.

Bryan had also been appointed to chair the EC Inspectors Working Group in Brussels that developed the European “Guide to Good Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Practice”, and he and I often worked together with senior inspectors from all other member states on this and other mutual inspection matters. The success of the present EU system of ensuring ‘Good Manufacturing Practice’ and the quality of the manufacture and distribution of all our medicines in the UK today, licensed and unlicensed, owes a lot to Bryan’s leadership of this work

For a time Bryan held two very senior posts, as our director and as chief pharmaceutical officer for England in the Department of Health. We never knew how he found the time to do the two jobs, but then in 1995 he left the Agency to become the full-time chief pharmacist until he retired. He’d been honoured with the Fellowship of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1985.

In his private life, Bryan was a great walker, a keen Methodist and Rotarian and did much for the mentally handicapped including helping to set up the Totnes Memory Cafe. The last time John, Bryan and I met together with several other retired inspectors was last December in London. It was an enjoyable occasion and we shall very much miss the opportunity of doing that again.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203224

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