New ethical framework for pharmaceutical physicians

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7548.1034 (Published 27 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1034
  1. Rubin Minhas, general practitioner (rminhas{at}nhs.net)
  1. Sunlight Medical Centre, Gillingham, Kent ME7 1LX

    EDITOR—Lenzer highlighted the helping hand that some US news organisations give to pharmaceutical companies in circumventing the Food and Drug Administration's requirements for fair balance in video news releases.1 An ethical framework of guiding principles for pharmaceutical physicians has recently been published.2 Pharmaceutical physicians should “ensure that expectations are not inappropriately raised as a result of media briefings” and “be involved in the drafting of any briefings about potential therapeutic interventions provided to financial analysts or to the media.” Thus the disproportionate publicity that arose from studies such as ASCOT and ASTEROID—targeted directly at the consumer via the news media—should not occur when other trials are reported.3 4

    The particularly dubious habit of reporting trials that achieve significance only for their secondary end points (ASCOT, PROACTIVE) with the same vigour and publicity as if the primary end point had been achieved should now also be relegated to history.3 5 Details of how deviations from this guidance will be managed are necessary if the proposals are to be effective and taken seriously.

    Thrown into sharp relief is the paucity of guidance for and regulation of health service physicians whose association and financial dependency on the pharmaceutical industry can seemingly approach that of pharmaceutical physicians. The General Medical Council might be best suited to considering these issues, but until this need is identified pharmaceutical physicians may, ostensibly, be held more accountable than their non-pharmaceutical colleagues. Perhaps it is now time to abandon the artificial dichotomy between pharmaceutical physicians and non-pharmaceutical physicians and recognise that similar strictures should apply to all.


    • Competing interests Over the past 10 years RM has attended educational meetings and received travel grants and honorariums for lectures and advisory boards from a number of pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Fournier, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Merck, MSD, and Sanofi-Aventis.


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