Thursday, October 17, 2013

Drug Money Down Under

I was recently alerted to a series that The Global Mail in Australia has been running during this past year:

The various stories recount how the industry spends its money wining and dining physicians, paying consulting fees to prominent specialists, and lobbying aggressively. No real surprises for those of us who've been following the story all along, but a chance to see what specific issues arise in Australia--and discouraging to learn that some experts there who think things are totally out of control look to the US as a model of much better regulation of industry-professional relationships.

One story that seems particularly worrisome is:

Presumably the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has long had an exemplary ethics committee and democratic review process for its ethical guidelines. As a result, the committee recently proposed new guidelines that came down much harder than previous versions on questionable practices related to the pharmaceutical industry. As was the custom, the proposed changes were put up on the web for public comment. Then in a couple of days, the draft was taken down, and the College announced that it was changing its procedure, to replace the open public comment period with an internal review; and apparently in the process the College also disbanded its ethics committee. It is not clear in the article whether this was a move intended directly to water down the strict guidelines against Pharma conflicts of interest, or just a move by a more corporate, and less professionally-minded organization to exercise tighter control over its own activities.

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