Calls for ‘Sunshine Act’ as GSK pays doctors to promote drugs again

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will pay some doctors for promoting its drugs reversing its previous policy, sparking new calls for a US-style “Sunshine Act” requiring doctors to declare all payments from pharma.

It is five years since GSK ceased paying doctors to sell the benefits of its drugs to other physicians.

Following a bribery investigation in China in 2013, GSK had hoped to set a transparency precedent that would be followed by other drugmakers, but this did not happen, leaving GSK at a competitive disadvantage.

The UK-based pharma giant said: “We are updating our policy on working with healthcare professionals (HCPs). This policy update is being made to ensure we continue to operate responsibly and improve how we help prescribers to understand new data and clinical experience with our innovative products, so they can deliver better outcomes for patients.

“These changes are being made for a select number of innovative products in a limited number of countries and apply to restricted time periods in a product’s lifecycle.”

It went on to explain that it, in certain circumstances, it will pay global expert practitioners who speak about the new science behind GSK’s innovative products, their associated diseases and clinical practice in promotional settings.

Also, it will pay certain travel costs and expenses, but will not sponsor HCPs to travel to conferences.

GSK pledged to expand its reporting of payments to HCPs and will, starting from next year, disclose individual level payments annually in the US, Japan and other major developed markets in Europe, North America and Asia, where legally permitted.

However, some saw the move as regressive. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ, who praised GSK’s move in 2013, said: “Sadly, this shows again that we can’t rely on industry to do the right thing. We need a Sunshine Act to ensure that payments from industry are publicly declared.

“We also need action from medicine’s leaders – the royal colleges. We don’t let judges or journalists take money from the people they are judging or reporting on: we shouldn’t let doctors do this either. Paid opinion leaders are a blot on medicine’s integrity, and we should make them a thing of the past.”



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