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A sandwich won’t sway a doctor.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

From the Chief Executive

Pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals collaborate on clinical research, share knowledge and support education to ensure that medicines are constantly improving and are used safely and appropriately by health care professionals and their patients.

Our members are proud of the work that we do to ensure that the public can continue to have confidence in our local medicines industry. We consider transparency to be a key component of the bond of trust with the Australian public.

Engagement with pharmaceutical companies is an important and legitimate part of a medical practitioner’s ongoing education; foremost, because patients want to be sure that their doctors know how to use the medicines they’re being prescribed.

The developers of these medicines are the highest authority on how a medicine works, its interactions with other compounds, its efficacy and other information. It stands to reason that a medical practitioner would consider information from the maker of the medicine when making an informed decision about prescribing a medicine. It’s not however, the only source. Medical practitioners do their own research, network with their peers, consult with other clinical experts, read independent medical journals and receive information from independent bodies such as NPS MedicineWise.

It’s ludicrous to suggest that a sandwich and a soda water would sway the opinions of medical practitioners. Suggestions like the one published in the Conversation and in the BMJ article do nothing but undermine a patient’s confidence in a robust and accountable system, and call healthcare professionals into disrepute.

Moreover, when a doctor is working a 12 hour day, and uses their lunchbreak to inform themselves of the latest developments in medicines, it seems appropriate that they be provided with lunch.

It’s also important to note, the 18th Edition of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct clearly states:

Any meals or beverages offered by companies to healthcare professionals must be secondary to the educational content. Meals and beverages must be appropriate for the educational content and duration of the meeting and should not be excessive.

The maximum cost of a meal (including beverages) provided by a company to a healthcare professional within Australia must not exceed $120 (excluding GST and gratuities).

This maximum would only be appropriate in exceptional circumstances, such as a dinner at a learned society conference with substantial educational content. In the majority of circumstances, the cost of a meal (including beverages) should be well below this figure.

For hospitality in association with overseas educational meetings this maximum and/or local guidelines should be used as a guide.

The Code of Conduct is the Australian benchmark for accountability and transparency reporting in the therapeutic goods sector. This is the same standard that pharmaceutical companies are held to in Europe, and significantly more detailed than industry self-regulation in the USA.

Medicines Australia members are proud of their Code of Conduct. They have voluntarily submitted themselves to this significant transparency despite the fact that non-Medicines Australia members do not, that includes generic medicines manufacturers and the makers of medical devices. Our positive experience with increasing transparency of our members should stand as a beacon to others to join us on the journey.

A better informed patient has more confidence in the relationships between doctor and company. They are more likely to understand the value of these relationships in the development of better medicines and devices, including a doctor’s or patient’s participation in Australian-based clinical trials.

Australian patients should be assured that their medical practitioners are keeping up to date with the latest innovation in medicines and the sharing of knowledge so that medical practitioners can determine the best outcomes for their patients.

More information – Natalie Wimmer – Communications Manager, Medicines Australia – 0450 728 660

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