Forget tea and biscuits, why should doctors get any gifts from pharma companies?

Wendy Lipworth, University of Sydney and Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and medical specialist groups are currently debating public disclosure of gifts received by doctors from pharmaceutical companies. The bone of contention is how valuable the freebies need to be before the doctor has to declare them.

The debate has arisen in the context of a review of Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct – a document produced collectively on behalf of the Australian pharmaceutical industry to guide the behaviour of member companies.

In keeping with similar moves overseas, Medicines Australia is proposing to mandate disclosure of gifts and payments to doctors, starting in 2015, and is currently seeking stakeholder input into the technicalities of such a move. Continue reading

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China’s pharma scandal and the ethics of the global drug market

Wendy Lipworth, University of Sydney and Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney

China is in the midst of conducting a series of corruption investigations of pharmaceutical companies that have been operating in the country.

It all started with the investigation of officials from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, who were reportedly engaged in “bribery and corruption” in China. The officials apparently used travel agencies to funnel illegal payments to doctors and government officials.

That was in July. In August, Associated Press reported French drug company Sanofi was being investigated for bribing Chinese doctors in 2007.

And late last week, South China Morning Post reported that German pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer had joined the ranks of companies being investigated by the Chinese. That report mentioned pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, H Lundbeck, AstraZeneca and UCB had also been contacted by Chinese investigators.

This wide-ranging, ongoing scandal highlights the many regulatory and ethical challenges of globalised drug development. Continue reading