GlaxoSmithKline to stop paying doctors to promote drugs

Firm also plans to stop tying compensation of sales reps to prescriptions written

GlaxoSmithKline is to stop paying doctors to promote its products, in a move that could be a first for a major drug company. Photo: Bloomberg

GlaxoSmithKline is to stop paying doctors to promote its products, in a move that could be a first for a major drug company. Photo: Bloomberg

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 08:22

GlaxoSmithKline has said it will stop paying doctors to promote its products and tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write.

It also plans to stop payments to healthcare professionals for attendance at medical conferences by the start of 2016.

The move comes amid a major bribery investigation in China, where authorities allege Britain’s biggest drugmaker made corrupt payments to doctors and officials to boost its drug sales.

Chinese police have accused GSK of funneling up to 3 billion yuan (€358 million) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to boost its drug sales. The accusations are the most serious against a multinational in China in years.

Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive, said the proposed changes were unrelated to the investigation in China, but part of an effort to stay in step with how the world is changing.

“We recognise that we have an important role to play in providing doctors with information about our medicines, but this must be done clearly, transparently and without any perception of conflict of interest,”he said.

The initiative marks a first for the global pharmaceuticals industry and represents a bid by Britain’s biggest drugmaker to get ahead of its critics, after being embroiled in a damaging corruption scandal in China this year.

The entire drugs industry has been under fire for aggressive marketing tactics in recent years and in the United States many companies, including GSK, have been fined billions of dollars for improper sales tactics.

The decision to stop payments to doctors for speaking about medicines during meetings with other prescribers marks a big shift for a global industry that has always relied heavily on the influence of experts in promoting products.

GSK said it aimed to implement this move and a related measure to end paying for doctors to attend medical conferences by the start of 2016.

The shift in payments to its sales representatives will be implemented faster, following a successful test-run in the United States, where payments have been decoupled from the number of prescriptions generated since 2011.

The policy of ending individual sales targets will now be rolled out globally. GSK said it planned to implement the new compensation system in all countries by early 2015.

Reuters