Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist August 2012 Contents Australian Pharmacist August 2012 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 613
Well, Big Pharma eventually had to do
something to o set growing public concerns
about its image.
Too many stories have emerged in recent
years of the multi-billion dollar industry's
dealings with the medical profession,
duchessing health professionals on
the understanding they will promote
It was six years ago that the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission
told Medicines Australia (MA) there was a
need for greater disclosure of drug company
funding of 'educational' events for doctors.
The disclosure was a condition of the ACCC
authorising MA's Code of Conduct.
MA dragged its feet while the Australian
Medical Association sided with it in
condemning the ACCC's move, unashamedly
suggesting that it impugned the integrity
of the medical profession -- doctors would
not be in uenced by inducements from
pharmaceutical companies, the then AMA
President Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said.
A big step but not big
enough for some
By Mark Thornton
It took two years for MA to release its rst
report on duchessing, a release preceded
by extraordinary behind-the-scenes
manoeuverings to seed selected reporters,
politicians and bureaucrats with its own take
on what it saw as the unrealistic and unfair
requirements of the ACCC.
Now, six years on, and with MA releasing its
latest Code of Conduct, it has nally agreed
from January 2013 to disclose the total
amount it pays to health professionals.
This includes providing details on how
doctors are paid to attend or speak at
seminars, serve on advisory boards or act as
consultants, along with the total number of
doctors who receive the payments.
But that's as far as it goes for now. It won't
name any doctors on the receiving end of
Unsurprisingly, consumer groups and the
Greens, which have been banging on about
the excessive self-interest of Big Pharma since
the party drew its rst o cial political breath,
are not amused.
Carol Bennett, Chief Executive O cer of
the Consumers Health Forum said the new
Code of Conduct did little to instil consumer
con dence in the pharmaceutical industry.
Unless the industry names individual doctors
and the payments provided to them by
drug companies for particular purposes
MA's announcement rings hollow, Ms
'Consumers want to know that a practitioner
is making a decision in their best healthcare
interests, and that there is not some other
purpose behind it,' she said. 'It is important
the practitioner, amount and source is
identi ed. Until we get to that level of
detail it is not that valuable to consumers,
because it doesn't allow them to make an
For its part, MA was able to announce that
the 'transparent reporting of industry-wide
data represents a global precedent for the
pharmaceutical industry, and one which
Medicines Australia fully supports'.
That's true. And it is indeed a precedent and
a big step for the industry, but it's only a big
step from a long way back down the hall.
However, there will be more steps in the right
direction, Dr Brendan Shaw, chief executive
of Medicines Australia, promised.
MA will form a working party with health
professionals and consumers to consider
further transparency measures, including,
'if and how to name individual doctors' and
the payments provided to them.
'We recognise the community want to do this
and the industry is serious about it, we just
want to make sure it is done in the right way,'
he said, adding that these new changes
should be in place within two years.
Unfortunately for MA, within a week of its
revelations, international pharmaceutical
giant GlaxoSmithKline announced it
would pay $US3 billion in nes following
the biggest case of healthcare fraud in US
history. Not that it had anything to do with
business Down Under, but the public notices
The Greens certainly did, with their health
spokesman Senator Richard Di Natale
foreshadowing a new Greens bill that
would require the recipients of Big Pharma's
largesse to be identi ed.
'While it is perfectly legitimate for health
professionals to do business with the
pharmaceutical industry, full transparency
would allay public suspicions and reduce
the accusations that undermine the integrity
of the health system, the reputations of
doctors and the pharmaceutical industry,'
a spokesman for Dr Di Natale told
Mark Thornton is a Canberra-based
journalist and was a member of
the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery
for many years.
Any opinions expressed are
not necessarily those of PSA,
its Board or staff.
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