Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Reality Check

Australia moves closer to full disclosure of drug company payments to doctors

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 19 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3960
  1. Ray Moynihan, author, journalist, and senior research fellow, Bond University, Australia
  1. RayMoynihan{at}

Is the UK lagging behind the US and Australia in increasing transparency?

It was one of those small moments that continue to shine through the clouds of memory. At a workshop in Portugal a few years back a participant made a simple comment with chilling clarity. During an intense discussion about pharmaceutical marketing, one of the mild mannered middle aged doctors was becoming increasingly uneasy. Unsettled by emerging evidence that extensive entanglement of doctors and drug companies risked distorting research, education, and practice in unhealthy ways,1 he was reflecting on his own working life and that of his colleagues, characterised by routine interaction with multilayered marketing activities—from accepting food from drug company sales representatives to attending conferences sponsored by the industry. “I just don’t know how to say no,” was his inchoate, honourable sentiment, “It would be considered impolite.” At the heart of his candid response seemed to be bewilderment that the familiar was starting to look so strange and disbelief that things might be any other way.

Disentanglement from the ties of unhealthy marketing may still be some time away, but pressure to publicly …

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