Monday 3 August 2009

Who pays your doctor?

As I’m enjoying summer in the Swedish archipelago I don’t spend a lot of time blogging. But as I noticed the WSJ blog last week about the new Eli Lilly ”Faculty registry" I had to take some minutes from the sun for it.

For years I have had a problem understanding why pharma companies should not be allowed to communicate directly to the users of their products. Instead patients are supposed to relay on the info they get from their doctor and pharmacists. At the same time the companies are allowed to market in quite intense ways their products towards these groups. Now I don’t have an issue with this. But the hypocrisy around it all I do find a bit much. It’s getting better: new ethical rules limits doctors trips to luxury resorts with nice social programs paid for by the industry.

Still in Europe lots of thing is still not really transparent healthcare policy and practice and one of these things that is the industry system with”consultants”. Basically doctors (and other academic experts) and are paid to be experts for companies besides the salary they already have – in Europe quite often this goes upon what is supposed to be a full time salary decided upon by civil servants and paid by our tax monies. And if you thought this wasn’t much to discuss its worth noticing that the Brittish GSK recently decided cap upon these fees was placed at 150000 US dollars. Not that the pharmaceutical industry is paying the most - the known figures from 2007 in the US for the medtech industry where even higher with amounts up to one million US dollar per year for 40 physicians.

Now in the US there has been more movement on the ethical issues in this case compared to Europe partly due to the work of Republican Senator Chuck Grasseley. In February Pfizer declared their intent to start disclose the payments to consultants etc for 2009. We can expect the first annual report in early 2010. I think this is a really important initiative and hope that it soon will cover not only US payments as the Lilly Faculty registry seems to do!

But most obvious I think it would be if GSK as a UK company took a lead and also added Europe – not the least because in the Netherlands there are already investigations on GSKs payments to academics who sit on an advisory board that recently recommended a Glaxo vaccine. I would like to see all the payments to experts etc concerning their vaccines including the swine flu vaccine.

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