GlaxoSmithKline: ‘Person’ of Interest?

My previous doctor told me of medical conferences he went to that were highly attended by other medics who showed up, and then played golf for three days. Apparently three conferences per year can be expensed at fifty percent by an Ontario medical doctor.

My writing friends laughed at me when I expressed disbelief in a story. The patient was given four prescriptions plus a sample of each (provided to the doctor for free by the pharmaceutical companies) and told, try them all and fill the prescription you like. Apparently several of those present knew of, or were, someone who’d had a similar offer.

What bothers me about both of these is it looks as though the pharmaceutical company is in effect bribing the doctors to prescribe their products. When in addition they ‘inform’ the medical profession about ‘off label’ uses for prescription drugs, I get nervous.

Well, today, things have apparently started to change. GlaxoSmithKline, commonly referred to as GSK, has decided to stop paying doctors to make speeches. You can find a link to the BBC report here.

You will find these sentences, perhaps, of particular interest:

Earlier this year, Chinese police said GSK had transferred 3bn yuan ($489m; £321m) to travel agencies and consultancies to help bribe doctors.

But the company says the latest measures are not related to that continuing investigation. Instead, it says, they are part of a wider effort to improve transparency.

Hmm. I wonder. Is drug promotion like advertising: you have to do it because your competition is doing it? or has GSK’s top management seen the light?

What do you think?

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