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October 21, 2014

"No Advertising Please": Australia Campaign to Stop Pharma Rep Access to Healthcare Professionals

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Australia's industry body Medicines Australia recently got the ball rolling on their own physician payments disclosure policy. We covered Australia’s plan in detail, which will require Medicines Australia's member companies to report on an individual basis a wide range of payments and transfers of value to healthcare professionals, as well as sponsorships of third party educational meetings and symposia. Some Australian doctors do not believe this is going far enough. “No Advertising Please,” is a campaign of a number of healthcare professionals who are urging other doctors to stop seeing sales reps for pharmaceutical companies.

"The pharmaceutical representatives are essentially marketing drugs and what we're after is doctors deciding which drug is best based on the best evidence, as opposed to their best marketing," campaigner Dr. Justin Coleman said.

Also on the campaign, Dr. Geoff Spurling has a dim view of the pharmaceutical sales rep too. “It’s all about the money…Patient safety is quite secondary,” he says. “I think doctors don’t sometimes get that. They kid themselves with the lunches and the little perks, and the nice interaction at morning tea that they’re doing something beneficial for patients, but there’s no evidence for that.” 

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) believes the companies make a valuable contribution to education and research. They are against the campaign. “The pharmaceutical companies are actually a very important source of money for research,” says Dr. Brian Morton of AMA. “So every Australian will benefit from that research and the pharmaceutical promotion.”

There’s very little reps can offer in terms of inducement, and that is a good thing. If it were wine in a hotel lobby that would be “completely inappropriate,” argues Dr. Morton. "A sandwich from a sales rep and a chance to sit with my colleagues and discuss issues allows me to also be educated properly." Dr. Morton thinks the “No Advertising” is “both insulting to doctors, and a bit naïve.”

Like Dr. Morton, Medicines Australia chairman Dr. Martin Cross, believes patients could be worse off if their prescribers don’t have access to the latest medical information. "We've got some of the most highly educated doctors in Australia, these are very clever people, and I can't believe they are going to be influenced by trivial things.”

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