Pharma concerned as Germany cracks down on doctor bribery

Doctors who accept bribes in return for prescribing drugs could face criminal prosecution under new laws in Germany, prompting concerns from an industry group that pharma companies may unwittingly find themselves dragged into litigation.

Germany’s Bundestag has approved a draft law fighting corruption in the healthcare industry, although there have been significant changes to earlier versions.

However despite revisions which make healthcare professionals liable under unfair competition laws, and not their professional obligations or code of conduct, they could still be imprisoned for up to three years or face a fine.

Discounts or rebates which pharmacists receive as part of the supply of OTC medicines intended to be dispensed in the pharmacy are not captured by the new criminal offence, under the law which legal experts say will likely come into effect very soon.

By contrast, medicinal products or medical devices which are applied directly by the physician shall still be subject to the criminal offence.

The Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG), representing small and medium-sized pharma companies in the UK, said it was interested in the development as policy makers in the UK or other European may consider similar legislation.

The group is concerned that pharma companies may unwittingly fall foul of the legislation through an action considered a bribe under the new law.

EMIG chairman Leslie Galloway added that the law also part of a general drive to limit expenditure on pharmaceuticals. 

Several pharma companies have already been caught in bribery controversies, such as GSK and BMS in China, and Novartis in Turkey.

Related stories:

Novartis faces fresh bribery claims in Turkey

BMS fined $14m for bribery in China

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