June 27, 2011

AstraZeneca stops free trips of doctors

AstraZeneca has created a stir in the pharmaceutical industry by announcing that it is scrapping payments for doctors to attend international medical congresses. However, the company will continue to pay for local educational opportunities for healthcare professionals.

This announcement comes close on the heels of major initiatives by both the US and the UK goverments to tackle corrupt practices of pharma industries especially bribing of doctors to promote their products. In contrast, the government of India, instead of drafting a tough law to curb unethical practices in the drug industry, is drafting a code that will be left to the pharma industry itself to enforce.

As healthcare costs rise worldwide, concern has grown about financial ties between doctors and drugmakers. That has already led to bans on lavish entertainment and the end to a range of free gifts from pens to mugs to computer accessories. AstraZeneca's decision to stop paying for medics to fly to international medical and scientific meetings is said to have taken things to a new level.

In the US, the pharmaceutical industry has paid about $20 billion in penalties over the last two decades for various frauds including paying kickbacks to doctors and for pushing drugs on patients to whom they were not supposed to be prescribed. The industry has been labelled the largest defrauder of the US government, toppling defence industry from top slot. And the US in turn has turned the screws on the industry.

Last year Astrazeneca shelled out the second largest settlement of $520 million for illegally marketing antipsychotic drug.

Link: Original Article

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