Pressure on pharma industry to get tougher on code breaches
CRITICS have dismissed Medicine Australia’s review of its industry code of conduct as nothing more than a public relations exercise.
The triennial review began last week, and according to Medicines Australia – which represents the pharmaceutical industry – the aim is to ensure the code remains relevant to the interests of doctors, patients, government and industry.
“Principles of patient safety, quality use of medicines, the appropriate dissemination of information about industry products and the role of industry in complementing the practice of medicine and pharmacy are central to this review,” said CEO Ian Chalmers.
The review is expected to take one year, and more than 200 organisations have already been invited to make submissions and comment.
The previous review saw Medicines Australia members begin mandatory reporting on their involvement in any educational events.
Professor Paul Komesaroff, director of the Monash Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society, advocated voluntary codes wherever possible, but said it was a “major deficiency” that not all pharmaceutical companies were part of Medicines Australia, and therefore not subject to the code.
Consumer watchdog Choice has once again called for an independent body to regulate the industry. Health policy officer Michael Johnston said it was necessary as under the current system, “there’s always conflict between representing the industry and regulating it”.
Doctors Reform Society chairman Dr Tim Woodruff labelled the existing code “pathetic”, noting companies that breached it were handed “laughable” penalties which did not even equate to a slap on the wrist. In particular he called for substantial financial penalties for companies who willingly broke the code’s advertising rules.
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