GP incentive to sell complementary meds 'disturbing and inappropriate'
THE Greens have labelled as “disturbing” and “completely inappropriate” revelations a complementary medicines company is offering to pay for GPs to do a $675 education course if they sell its products.
The company, Swisse, is emailing health professionals – including GPs – promising for those “who on-sell full sized Swisse Practitioner products [Swisse will] sponsor the full cost for you or one of your staff members to complete an online course in Health and Complementary Medicine by the National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM), valued at $675”.
As a complementary medicines supplier, Swisse is not bound by the Medicines Australia code of conduct, which bans gifts to doctors. The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia is not understood to have such a clause although its code of conduct is under review.
Greens senator and health spokesperson Dr Richard Di Natale said it was “completely inappropriate for Swisse to be offering incentives to doctors for the sale of its vitamin range”.
“The relationship between a doctor and patient is built on trust and should never be compromised by commercial arrangements.”
Swisse said in a statement that even if it was governed by Medicines Australia the offer would be acceptable because education was not counted as a gift.
“Swisse aspire to increase the education levels of health practitioners who sell complementary medicines. We do not hold the view that this is unethical,” the statement said.
“Our offer is intended to increase the knowledge base of practitioners and practices who want to sell our complementary medicine products.
“Considering the rise of medical ‘super clinics’ and an increase in consumer interest in complementary medicines, we chose not to exclude GPs in our communication.”
Dr John Crimmins, the GP behind the ThinkGP website that carried out the Swisse mailout, said the email went to 14,000 GPs. He said his business distributed education information for doctors, and the Swisse mailout was the first such offer it had disseminated.
He said he took the contract “naively” and he would meet with Swisse to discuss better ways of communicating with GPs.
Activist and academic Dr Ken Harvey has lodged a complaint regarding the offer to the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia accusing Swisse of 'unconscionable conduct'.