Ignorance of new treatments would leave patients worse off

A proposed campaign to stop doctors learning about new treatments from medicines companies is misguided and potentially dangerous for patients, the Medicines Australia Chairman Dr Martin Cross has warned.

A small group of physicians, joined by academics and special interest groups, is reportedly planning to encourage blocking all contact between doctors and medicines companies in the mistaken belief that this will improve prescribing practice and cut costs.

“These campaigners must have very low regard for doctors’ ability to clinically assess and prescribe the most suitable treatment for their patients,” Dr Cross said.

“When I’m a patient, I expect my treating health professional to have the latest information about the range of medicines that would work for me.

“By barring contact with company representatives, it would be like having open heart surgery knowing that the surgeon hasn’t been taught how to use the equipment by the people that made it.

“The role of a company representative is to understand and respond to a GP’s needs: product information, therapeutic area information, journal articles, and literature that will assist their patients to properly use the medicines available to them. An important part of this role is to also receive feedback from GPs about use of medicines, including any reports of adverse effects of the medicines.

“There’s a lot of publicly available information on the internet and elsewhere, but there’s no guarantee it’s correct or beneficial to a specific patient. Doctors have access to clinical guidelines to help select the right treatment, and other education sources – but the idea that you can ignore information from a pharmaceutical company that has conducted extensive research and development to help treat disease is laughable at best and negligent at worst.

“Prescription medicines manufacturers cannot, and do not, advertise prescription products to consumers. It is a well-established practice that the person who needs to know about the medicines in the first instance is the doctor, and it is the doctor’s role to educate and inform the patient.

“Where do these special interest groups think that doctors will get new information if no-one who is involved in the scientific discovery, research, and development of a new treatment is allowed to talk to anyone about it?

“Medicines Australia has a strong and effective Code of Conduct that prohibits companies making false or misleading claims about their products or providing unbalanced information.

“The Code is rigorously enforced and contains significant penalties for breaches – it’s among the toughest such Codes in the world, and provides professionals and patients confidence that they are receiving accurate and up-to-date information.

“The fact is, there is no-one that knows more about a medicine than the company that has researched the medicine for over 12 years before it is approved to be prescribed by Australian GPs,” said Dr Cross. “By blocking that flow of information, this minority group would only serve to leave patients at risk of poorer treatment options.”


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Alexia Vlahos
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