Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Aussie #Pharma-Doctor Transparency Regime Has Loopholes You Can Drive a "Road Train" (Big Long Truck) Through

Aussie #Pharma-Doctor Transparency Regime Has Loopholes You Can Drive a "Road Train" (Big Long Truck) Through | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

By comparison with the US provisions, Australia’s incoming new rules are pusillanimous, with loopholes you could drive a road train through. All payments classified as “research and development” will be excluded, as will all meals under $120. That means your GP could be wined and dined every second week, hearing company-sanctioned spin on the latest drugs and the diseases that go with them, with direct impacts on your care, with no way of you knowing.

Wining and dining is not a thing of the past. In 2014 drug companies provided hospitality for doctors, nurses and pharmacists at more than 30,000 events in Australia: more than 100 events every weekday. While most events took place in hospitals, medical centres and universities, many still happen inside hotels, resorts and desirable restaurants. 

Around this time last year, eight Melbourne GPs settled into a cosy educational session about the dangers of high cholesterol, funded by Pfizer, the manufacturer of one of the world’s most profitable cholesterol-lowering drugs. The classroom was the chic Enoteca restaurant in Church Street, Richmond, where diners can enjoy an entrée of rabbit loin with pancetta and parsnip for $25, and a main of Flinders Island lamb for $42. 

Around the same time, Pfizer treated an even more fortunate group of 12 Sydney GPs to a similar “educational” event about cholesterol, this time at the Banjo Paterson restaurant, which boasts pressed quail and pistachio nut terrine, as well as Dom Perignon at just $270 a bottle. The bill for the night was $1732, or $144 per GP. The speaker was paid $2800 for two hours of content.

We know these events occurred because since 2007 drug companies have been forced by law to disclose them. What we don’t know are the names of the doctors attending. It’s long been anticipated that the new wave of disclosure reforms would force companies to name the doctors receiving free meals – as happens in the US – but following a relentless campaign by both industry and parts of the medical profession in Australia, the guest lists will remain secret. And as part of the recent horse-trading with the ACCC, the 2007 reforms have been dramatically watered down, so drug companies will now no longer even have to reveal the amount they spend on hospitality at these events. 

“Not disclosing meals under $120-a-head is a step in the wrong direction,” says Jureidini. He points out that it’s often not the money that influences doctors’ decision-making about which pill to prescribe you, but the feeling of goodwill that creates the need to reciprocate. “Some of the most dangerous perks are labelled as the most innocuous,” he says.

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"Free Lunch Flaw" Loophole in Aussie Pharma-Doc Code of Conduct

"Free Lunch Flaw" Loophole in Aussie Pharma-Doc Code of Conduct | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
Patients will find out what payments and "educational" trips their doctors have received from drug companies, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approved a new code of conduct for the pharmaceutical industry.

But in a change criticised by health consumer groups, companies will no longer be required to report how much they spend wining and dining doctors.

The new Medicines Australia code of conduct, which is expected to come into force next month, says companies must not spend more than $120 per person per meal on food and drinks, but does not require the disclosure of this spending, and drops the current requirement for companies to publicly report the total amounts they spend on such hospitality.

The Consumers Health Forum said the more detailed reporting of "transfers of value", which will enable patients to see what individual doctors have received from drug companies in speaking and consulting fees, and flights and accommodation, was an "important step forward." The new code closes a loophole in an earlier draft which would have allowed doctors to opt out of the system.

But chief executive Leanne Wells said by agreeing not to require companies to disclose spending on meals, it had opened a $120 "free lunch flaw".

"That would seem to make it possible for companies to entertain doctors to a decent meal frequently, without the matter coming to the notice of patients or the public," Ms Wells said.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Pharma payments for meals for docs are under the table down under! :-) I wonder if pharma companies in Australia will follow Novartis and entertain physicians at Hooters? (Is there Hooters in Australia?). Read Novartis Wines -- er, Beers -- and Dines Docs at Hooters!  (very funny!)

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