Companies play vital role in doctor education and patient health, ethics seminar told
Medical education provided or sponsored by pharmaceutical companies fosters knowledge of prescription medicines and encourages appropriate prescribing, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw told a health ethics seminar today.
Speaking at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences annual ethics seminar, Dr Shaw said such events must meet the high ethical standard set out by the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct.
“The interaction between pharmaceutical companies and doctors is an important part of ensuring that doctors have up-to-date information on medicines, and patients get the most out of the health system,” Dr Shaw said.
“Doctors attend these events because they derive genuine professional benefit from their engagement with pharmaceutical companies.
“Companies have an obligation to patients to ensure doctors have the latest information about prescription medicines. Healthcare decisions affecting patients must be informed by dialogue between those who make medicines and those who prescribe them.
“You wouldn’t get on an A380 if you knew Qantas hadn’t received any information from Airbus about how to fly it.
“Nor would you want to take a medicine if the prescriber didn’t know how it worked. No one knows more about how medicines work than those who make them.
“But all of these events must adhere to Medicines Australia’s strict Code of Conduct. Gifts are banned, entertainment is banned, lavish hospitality is banned. And information must be balanced, current and in line with Government-approved medicine information.
“Under the Code, the primary purpose of an educational meeting must always be to enhance medical knowledge, and sponsorship must never carry any obligation for the doctor to prescribe a particular medicine.”
Dr Shaw said the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct should apply equally to all manufacturers of prescription medicines, not just to Medicines Australia members.
“It’s disturbing when non-member companies apply a lesser standard – whether by offering Mediterranean cruises or rewards schemes for prescribing and dispensing,” Dr Shaw said.
“That sort of conduct undermines public confidence in the industry.”
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