Deloitte ap­pointed to mon­i­tor drug com­pany free­bies

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

Adam Cress­well Health ed­i­tor

PEAK drug in­dus­try body Medicines Aus­tralia has ap­pointed an in­de­pen­dent au­di­tor to over­see the re­port­ing of ed­u­ca­tional events by drug gi­ants. The re­port­ing — which will see drug com­pa­nies dis­close for the first time all the

free­bie’’ en­ter­tain­ments they of­fer doc­tors at ed­u­ca­tional events — will be au­dited by busi­ness con­sult­ing firm Deloitte.

The move is an at­tempt by Medicines Aus­tralia to counter pre­vi­ous ac­cu­sa­tions that its self-reg­u­la­tory sys­tem is in­suf­fi­ciently trans­par­ent, and al­lows drug gi­ants that flout the rules to es­cape with lit­tle more than a slapped wrist.

The re­port­ing of en­ter­tain­ment at ed­u­ca­tional events was or­dered last year by the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion, as a con­di­tion for ap­prov­ing the re­newal of the in­dus­try code for an­other five years. Un­der the terms of the ACCC’s rul­ing, is­sued in June, Medicines Aus­tralia is obliged to pub­lish on its web­site de­tails of drug com­pany-funded hos­pi­tal­ity for doc­tors ev­ery six months.

De­tails that must be dis­closed in­clude the pro­fes­sional sta­tus of at­ten­dees, the en­ter­tain­ment and hos­pi­tal­ity pro­vided, what ed­u­ca­tional con­tent was de­liv­ered and the cost of the func­tion.

Be­fore the ACCC made its rul­ing last year, Medicines Aus­tralia had op­posed the forced dis­clo­sure of en­ter­tain­ment, de­scrib­ing the re­quire­ment as un­duly oner­ous’’.

In June, in­dus­try in­sid­ers spec­u­lated that the new rules could af­fect up to 10,000 in­dus­try-funded func­tions ev­ery year.

The first six-monthly re­port is due to be sub­mit­ted by Deloitte to Medicines Aus­tralia next month.

An­nounc­ing the ap­point­ment of Deloitte, Medicines Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Chalmers said the move went fur­ther than the ACCC had re­quired.

The ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent au­di­tor recog­nises con­cerns held by some in the com­mu­nity that there is a lack of trans­parency in the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and doc­tors,’’ he said in a state­ment.

We have lis­tened to those con­cerns and we’re tak­ing ac­tion. If the au­di­tor con­sid­ers any re­ported events may po­ten­tially be in breach of the code, such cases will be sub­ject to a rig­or­ous, in­de­pen­dent in­ves­tiga­tive process that may, where a breach of the code is con­firmed, cul­mi­nate in sig­nif­i­cant sanc­tions.’’

Hefty six-fig­ure fines are al­ready avail­able un­der the code of con­duct, but crit­ics have been quick to point out that th­ese are rarely im­posed — and then fre­quently greatly re­duced on ap­peal to a dif­fer­ent in­dus­try-run com­mit­tee.

Chalmers said he hoped that peo­ple will recog­nise that th­ese events are im­por­tant in ed­u­cat­ing doc­tors about new medicines and the qual­ity use of medicines’’.

I also hope that this au­dit gives the com­mu­nity con­fi­dence that the man­ner in which th­ese events are con­ducted is closely and ef­fec­tively mon­i­tored.’’

At the time of its rul­ing last year the ACCC jus­ti­fied its move by say­ing that forc­ing com­pa­nies to dis­close their hos­pi­tal­ity would

im­pose its own com­pli­ance con­straint that com­pa­nies con­fer­ring the ben­e­fit will have to be in a po­si­tion to ex­plain and jus­tify it in pub­lic as well as to the (Medicines Aus­tralia) code com­mit­tee’’.

There is a real risk that (in the ab­sence of) any re­quire­ment for reg­u­lar re­port­ing and pub­lic dis­clo­sure pro­posed in the ACCC con­di­tion, some com­pa­nies will test the bound­aries and of­fer in­ap­pro­pri­ate ben­e­fits to health­care pro­fes­sion­als.’’

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