Complaint set to ‘test’ new generics code
SIGMA Pharmaceuticals’ million-dollar pharmacist loyalty program is the subject of the first complaint related to the Generic Medicines Industry Association’s (GMIA) new code of practice.
According to Dr Ken Harvey, senior research fellow at La Trobe University in Victoria, the program is in breach of two sections of the new code. The code states that GMIA members must not engage in activities that “interfere with or impede” the independence of health professionals.
The Sigma Rewards program offers pharmacists “points” for every dollar they spend on products distributed by the company. These points can later be exchanged for rewards such as televisions, sporting equipment and holidays.
“As the GMIA code is only new, I thought it might be a good idea to test [it],” Dr Harvey said. “I am certain that rewarding pharmacists with goodies has got to influence pharmacists with the drugs they recommend.”
But Sigma’s general manager of business development and GMIA board member Robert Ellis defended the program, arguing that as it allowed pharmacists to choose products from a range of brands, it did not constitute a breach.
“There is no differentiation in rewards from one manufacturer to the other,” he said.
“[Our] products make up a very small proportion of those products.”
GMIA CEO Kate Lynch said the industry had received Dr Harvey’s “correspondence” but did not consider it to be an official complaint.
She said as per the process outlined by the code, the correspondence would first be forwarded to Sigma. If the company failed to appropriately respond to the issue within 15 days, Dr Harvey could then refer the complaint to the GMIA Code Complaint Committee.