Pharmaceutical companies need to be more transparent - GSK Expert

New Zealand's pharmaceutical industry needs to introduce a policy of greater transparency to benefit Kiwi patients and medical specialists according to one local expert.

Dr Ian Griffiths, Medical Director of GSK New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, makes the comments as his company becomes the first to adopt a new framework for its medical education program; and interactions with healthcare professionals to increase transparency.

The new policies are being implemented to give greater assurance to patients that when a medication is prescribed, experts speaking on behalf of the company are doing so without ethical conflict.

Dr Griffiths says it is important for the reputation of the industry as a whole that a patient’s confidence in their medical advisors is beyond reproach and it is for this reason GSK has initiated a number of pioneering standards.

The three key changes which come into effect on January 1st 2016 represent a fundamental shift in the GSK business model.

  1. Stopping direct payments to healthcare professionals: GSK has now phased out direct payments to healthcare professionals to speak on GSK’s behalf about prescription medicines and vaccines or the diseases they help to treat or prevent. Instead GSK medical staff, as experts on products, will have an increased role in external communication.
  2. Moving to independent medical education: Medical education will continue to be supported by GSK where educational gaps are identified and independent third parties have robust propositions to address them. The main change is that this support will now be at “arm’s length” via medical education partners with no involvement from GSK.
  3. Increasing peer-to-peer discussions with GSK medics: As technical experts on medicines and vaccines GSK says its team is responsible for explaining them. They have increased the number of medical team members to provide educational support.

Dr Griffiths says the the changes are the latest steps in a decade long journey to renew GSK’s business model.

“In order to make informed decisions about patient care, doctors want access to high quality information. When it comes to GSK medicines and vaccines, and particularly new medicines and vaccines, the subject matter expertise and therefore the responsibility to communicate lies with the company.

“While we implement innovative ways to meet the information needs of doctors we need to be mindful that information provided by industry may be perceived as conflicted. We have found that, whenever questions are raised about healthcare professionals receiving money from pharmaceutical companies, there is a perception that inappropriate prescribing may result. We believe that every patient should get the right medicine for their condition. We want as many healthcare professionals as possible to have access to the most current, fair and balanced information they need to choose the right treatment for their patients.

“Strengthening the GSK medical team is an important step in responding to this concern.  Increased transparency around GSK’s promotion of product or third party independent medical education are further steps in the right direction.

“In all of our interactions with healthcare professionals, our priority is to be transparent, operate with integrity, and always put the interests of patients first,” says Dr Griffiths.

Already GSK has removed financial incentives for its medical representatives on individual sales targets.

Instead, sales teams are incentivised based on their technical knowledge, the quality of service they deliver to doctors to support improved patient care and a broader set of business performance measures.

“Healthcare professionals will remain valuable partners for GSK in the long-term in our endeavours to bring new medicines to New Zealand patients.  We will continue to work with and to pay fair market remuneration to doctors and academics for non-promotional activities such as clinical research, provision of expert advice or insights via market research,” says Dr Griffiths.

Enquiries or interview requests please contact:

Kim O'Donohue
Phone: +61 477 322 431

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