Thursday, August 17, 2006

How far should you go to prove that you are ethical?

In a ruling that is unprecedented worldwide, Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission has demanded that Australian pharma companies toughen their code of conduct to stop drug firms trying to influence doctors' prescribing by buying them lavish meals and expensive wines.

Apparently, a huge controversy erupted in Australia in July this year over the practices of drug companies in marketing their products, when one of the top national newspapers, The Australian, revealed that the drug giant Roche had spent $65,000 a year earlier, treating 200 cancer specialists to meals and fine wines at Sydney restaurants. That's an average of Australian$325 each, which does seem a tad excessive - though it is not clear whether this figure was only for food and wine or for travel and associated music as well.

However, the industry body Medicines Australia has decided to appeal against the CCC's decision, on the grounds that it would involve too much work.

I agree. It seems to me much simpler to lay down a more modest yet still quite acceptable upper limit of say Australian$250 per person.

Moreover, I can't see how integrity and high standards, or indeed competition, is affected by the practice of lavishing meals and wine on doctors. In my view, doctors are among the most hard-worked sectors of society, and though they are generally well rewarded monetarily for their work, I can't see what harm is done by drug companies taking them out to an extremely lavish meal each year - specially if their competitors are doing similar things anyway.

I expect that the monetary value of any Australian doctor's time is much more than Australian$325. In other words, the doctors are only getting the value of their time (or less).

Moreover, I don't know if it has occured to the CCC that even cancer specialists can only afford nice meals and wine so many times a year - not only their bankers, but also their general physicians will readily agree.

The MA's appeal will be heard by the three-person Australian Competition Tribunal, a process that could take several months.

Rather a waste of time, don't you think?

The story is at:,20867,20155548-2702,00.html Sphere: Related Content

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