No More Gifts For Doctors

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations revised its Code of Ethics on January 1 of this year for the first time in a decade. Under the newly revised Code of Ethics, members of the trade group which represents pharmaceutical companies worldwide may no longer provide “expensive gifts” or paid trips to physicians. While the code allows members to provide physicians with gifts that are related to prescription drugs that are inexpensive such as pens, paperweights, stethoscopes and other de mini’s gifts, the new ethics code prohibits members from providing physicians with money or expensive gifts such as trips to resorts or expensive luxury hotels. The revised ethics code addresses something that has been known for years: expensive gifts and payments to doctors might affect prescription drug selections. Indeed, to the skeptic it would appear that many of the marketing efforts of the pharmaceutical industry have been specifically directed at influencing drug selections by providing extravagant gifts for doctors. While it remains to be seen whether the revised Code of Ethics will work, since obviously it is a voluntary undertaking, nonetheless, we applaud the International Federation for taking this step. Obviously, the suspicion lingers that the amounts of money at issue are so great that the ethics code may be ignored by drug representatives in the field trying to increase sales. Nonetheless, this is a good start for the New Year.