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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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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963