Medicines Australia sets world-first in transparency
Medicines Australia today set a global precedent for the pharmaceutical industry by publishing the details of medical education events held or sponsored by its member companies.
The report shows that 14,633 educational events for doctors and other healthcare professionals were held or sponsored by 42 Medicines Australia member companies during the six months to 31 December 2007 (see backgrounder). Subsequent reports will be published every six months.
Medicines Australia chief executive Ian Chalmers said he hoped the publication of the report would help the public better understand the pharmaceutical industry’s role in medical education.
“The Australian pharmaceutical industry is now the global leader in terms of transparency and accountability,” Mr Chalmers said.
“I hope the publication of this report gives the community a better sense of the contribution the pharmaceutical industry makes to our healthcare system by saving, improving or prolonging the lives of Australians.
“Pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to ensure that doctors are kept informed about any new or improved use of prescription medicines. Medicines used properly provide the best patient outcomes.
“No one knows more about pharmaceuticals than the people who make them, so dialogue between those who manufacture medicines and those who prescribe them is critically important to all Australian patients.”
The cost of hospitality (travel, accommodation and catering) listed in the Medicines Australia report is $16.4 million. The total cost of events, including hospitality, speaker costs, event organisational costs, venue hire and other related expenses is $31 million.
The total number of attendances is 385,221, with an average hospitality cost of $43 per head.
All educational events in the Medicines Australia report have been independently reviewed by the international consulting firm Deloitte.
Mr Chalmers announced today that as a result of the independent review, 52 medical education events would be investigated for possible breaches of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct.
Events which have been assessed as potentially in breach of the Code have been forwarded to an independent Code of Conduct Committee for formal investigation.
The result of the independent investigation, together with details of any sanctions imposed on companies, will be made public after the complaints process has been finalised.
“There is a robust and independent complaints process in place, authorised by the ACCC. That process must be allowed to run its course,” Mr Chalmers said.
“Only 52 of more than 14,000 educational events in the report have been referred for independent investigation, which means more than 99.6 per cent of events were compliant with the Code.
“However, Medicines Australia has a zero-tolerance approach to breaches of the Code of Conduct, a position fully supported by every member company. The innovative pharmaceutical industry is committed to the highest standard of corporate ethical behaviour.
“The Code of Conduct is clear on medical education events. Personal gifts are banned. Entertainment is banned. Lavish meals are banned,” Mr Chalmers said.
Companies found to have breached the Code of Conduct face fines of up to $200,000 per breach.
Why pharmaceutical companies provide medical education events
Pharmaceutical companies have an obligation to ensure all healthcare professionals have access to the latest information about prescription medicines.
One of the ways this information is conveyed is though educational events provided for doctors by pharmaceutical companies. These events can range from small meetings in surgeries to evening briefings over dinner, to a weekend conference for hundreds of healthcare professionals.
No one knows medicines as well as those who make them. That is why healthcare decisions affecting Australian patients must be informed by ethical dialogue between those who make pharmaceuticals and those who prescribe, dispense or administer them.
Why Medicines Australia is publishing this information
Medicines Australia has been required by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to publish the detail of educational events provided or sponsored by Medicines Australia member companies. This requirement was a condition of the ACCC in authorising the latest edition of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct.
The transparent reporting of industry-wide data represents a global precedent for the pharmaceutical industry, and one which Medicines Australia fully supports.
Non-members of Medicines Australia were not required to publish the details of their educational events.
Medicines Australia Code of Conduct
All educational events sponsored or provided by Medicines Australia member companies are subject to the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is authorised by the ACCC and is updated regularly. It sets the standard for the ethical marketing and promotion of medicines.
Under the Code, the provision of gifts to doctors is banned. Entertainment is banned. The provision of lavish hospitality is banned.
Breaching the Code of Conduct
Where a breach of the Code of Conduct is suspected, a complaint can be lodged with the Code of Conduct Committee, an independent body chaired by a trade practices lawyer.
Companies found to have breached the Code of Conduct can be fined up to $200,000.
Key industry facts
- The Australian pharmaceuticals industry turned over $17 billion in 2005-06.
- The Australian pharmaceuticals industry invested $752 million in R&D in 2005-06.
- The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme paid $6.45 billion in benefits for listed medicines in 2007.
- More than 2600 prescription medicines are available on the PBS, and advances in medicine are constant.
- In the last two years alone, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recommended 119 items for listing on the PBS (05-06 and 06-07).
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