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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20457

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Magazine

Kaye B
Senate bill to ban pharma freebies
Medical Observer 2013 Feb 28

Full text:

PHARMACEUTICAL companies would be banned from paying for doctors to attend conferences, banned from sponsoring Australia-centric conferences outside Australia, and barred from giving doctors hospitality worth over $100 under a Greens Senate bill introduced today.

Pharmaceutical companies would also be legally required to report annually on payments made to doctors – including fees, gifts, services including travel and accommodation, donations and research grants – according to Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Pharmaceutical Transparency) Bill 2013, introduced by Senator Richard Di Natale.

These annual reports would be required to individually name doctors who received “largesse” from the companies, Senator Di Natale said in accompanying documents.

Pharmaceutical companies would only be allowed to pay for doctors’ travel and accommodation costs at conferences and educational events if the doctors were representing the company and the payments were reported, he added.

“Doctors need up-to-date information about new therapies that could help their patients,” he said.

“[However] it is important that doctors remain independent from this industry so that clinical judgement is not affected by commercial pressures.”

Senator Di Natale said it was “unthinkable, for instance, that a doctor should receive a commission on each prescription for a certain medicine because, consciously or not, that doctor could be expected to be more vigilant for symptoms that correspond with the more lucrative treatment, potentially at the expense of patients with other maladies”.

He compared the bill to the Sunshine Act recently introduced in the US, which he said contained many similar provisions including enforced disclosure of doctors’ names on industry payrolls.

The bill “ensures that the environment in Australia will keep pace with global best practices” and was “not an attack on the integrity of doctors nor that of the industry”.


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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909