News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

US tackles drug company gifts to doctors

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 12 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:795
  1. Charles Marwick
  1. Washington, DC

    The US government has joined the American Medical Association and the drug industry in efforts to control drug company handouts to the medical profession.

    The recommendations, however, are voluntary. They shy away from any attempt at regulation or enforcement, except in so far as some practices may violate existing statutes, such as those dealing with fraud and abuse.

    The 44 page compliance guidance was issued at the end of September by the inspector general's office of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Essentially the guidance warns drug manufacturers against practices such as paying or otherwise encouraging doctors and pharmacists to switch patients from the products of one company to those of another, offering entertainment, travel, or other benefits for attending drug information programmes, and providing financial incentives to large scale purchasers of drugs.

    Drug firms often engage doctors as consultants to do research, collect data, and serve on advisory boards, the compliance document noted. “While there may be legitimate purposes to these arrangements, they pose substantial risk of fraud and abuse; without appropriate safeguards they can result in payments for referrals.” The compliance guidance outlines ways to prevent these abuses.

    The driving force behind the guidelines is a concern that the drug industry's efforts to promote its products might push up the costs of government insurance programmes such as Medicaid and Medicare.

    Compliance Program Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturersis accessible at

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