Deloitte appointed to monitor drug company freebies
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.’’