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Revision of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct

There has been considerable debate about the transparency of relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and health professionals, including medical practitioners. The AMA supports transparency of relationships between pharmaceutical companies and health professionals.

02 Sep 2012

There has been considerable debate about the transparency of relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and health professionals, including medical practitioners.

The AMA supports transparency of relationships between pharmaceutical companies and health professionals.

The Medicines Australia Code of Conduct already requires its members to publicly report total payments related to educational events. The revised Code submitted to the ACCC for approval will extend the reporting requirement to total payments to health professionals to attend and/or speak at educational events, to participate on advisory boards, or to provide consulting services.

Medicines Australia recently announced a Working Group to examine a range of models that would increase transparency further. The AMA has been invited to participate and we welcome the opportunity to work with Medicines Australia and the other stakeholders to get an outcome that is respected by consumers and the health care community.

Some commentators have called for transparency measures similar to the Sunshine Act adopted in the US, which requires public reporting of payments or benefits to individually named health professionals.

The US is currently the only country that has taken this step, and it has not been smooth sailing to implement this legislation in practice. Reporting has still not begun more than two years after it was passed.

Other countries are considering models that require each health professional to make information available to their patients that describes any relationship with pharmaceutical companies. This way, relevant information is provided directly to individual patients. This approach appears similar to the current model in Australia. The AMA Code of Ethics requires medical practitioners to disclose relevant financial interests to their patients.

I don’t want to pre-empt the findings of the Working Group, but if individuals were to be named in a public record, there would need to be strong governance arrangements so that it contains only correct, complete and current information which is presented in a way that allows the public to make accurate and informed judgments about individual practitioners.

It must not be forgotten that there is a public benefit in medical practitioners continuing ethical relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

Medical practitioners’ involvement in, and provision of advice about, the development of medicines contributes to a product that is not only efficacious in a laboratory but also in real-life practice settings.

Medical practitioners involved in the development of medicines are often then best placed to pass on knowledge to their colleagues to ensure they are used appropriately.

Pharmaceutical companies also seek medical practitioners to be on clinical advisory committees to ensure they have access to independent advice and medical expertise.

It is in the best interests of patients that medical practitioners are fully informed about new or improved medicines.

Any new transparency model must be appropriately implemented so that it does not risk discouraging legitimate and ethical relationships.

I welcome your views. Please forward them to ama@ama.com.au.


Published: 02 Sep 2012