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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 5761

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: Journal Article

Burton B.
Drug industry told to disclose details of doctors' events
BMJ 2006 Aug 5; 333:(7562):278

Full text:

News extra

Drug industry told to disclose details of doctors’ events
Canberra Bob Burton

An Australian government regulator has approved a drug industry self regulatory code of conduct on marketing-but only on condition that member companies publicly disclose details of hospitality provided to doctors at medical education events.

Medicines Australia, the main drug industry body, applied for authorisation of a slightly amended version of its current code of conduct. After reviewing submissions from medical groups, consumers, and the industry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which is charged with protecting consumer interests, stated that it doubted that “the code is effectively enforced.” The commission also noted that despite some companies repeatedly breaching the code, the oversight committee “did not impose heavy sanctions in any circumstances.”

The code states that “hospitality” must be “secondary to the educational purpose” of a meeting and that any meals “should not be extravagant.” However, the regulator noted that what was considered “extravagant” could only be judged if the information was publicly available.

The regulator decided that the code should be amended to require companies to submit a monthly report detailing each event, the venue, the purpose of the event, the nature of the hospitality provided, the number of attendees, and the total cost of the function. Twice a year, details of each company’s events will be made publicly available on a website. However, the names of individual doctors attending will not be made public. The code was reauthorised for only three years rather than the industry’s preferred five year lifespan.

After the finalisation of the code, the president of the Australian Medical Association, Mukesh Haikerwal, expressed concern that the disclosure provisions were an unwarranted reaction to revelations that Roche spent more than $A65 000 (£27 000; €39 000; $49 000) on a dinner for doctors at a top Sydney restaurant ( BMJ 2006;333:169, 22 Jul).

Although the drug industry also expressed a similar concern, it had complained that the proposed disclosure amendment would be “an apparently baseless denigration of the character of MA [Medicines Australia] industry executives.” Paul Cross, a spokesman for Medicines Australia from the public relations firm Parker & Partners, declined to comment on whether an appeal against the final code was being considered.

A spokesman for the drug marketing watchdog Healthy Skepticism, Dr Peter Mansfield, argues that, as research indicates that even small gifts affect recipients behaviour, all gifts should be banned.

Dr Ken Harvey, who made several submissions on the code, welcomed increased disclosure but was disappointed that no specific changes were made to ensure that companies that repeatedly breach the code are subject to substantial fines. Nor does the code preclude drug advertisements being included in prescribing software that may be seen by patients ( BMJ 2005;331:177).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s records are available at


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