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Pharma giant AstraZeneca will no longer fund doctors' travel to medical congresses, becoming the first leading drugmaker to renounce this common perk.
Announcing the step at an industry conference in Istanbul, that pharma "is a force for good. But if we're honest with ourselves ... we’re often seen as the bad guys."
He cited a recent in the U.S., which found that only 11% of Americans rated big pharma as trustworthy, when even banks had scored 20%. The same poll also found, though he didn't mention it, that pharma, along with oil, was the industry Americans most wanted to regulate more strictly.
His company had resolved to address the problem by "never doing anything that could be misinterpreted," said Mr Brennan. "We have decided that we will no longer pay for doctors to attend international scientific and medical congresses but will instead focus our educational efforts on local educational opportunities for healthcare professionals."
He added an interesting take on the doctor/pharm rep relationship from the other side of the fence: "I know from my own experience as a sales representative, you will encounter people who will ask for gifts, or other inducements. And they will threaten to take their business elsewhere, if you don’t acquiesce ... we have made it clear that our sales force have to say no."
It's likely that other pharma companies will follow AstraZeneca's lead. The industry acted in a fairly coordinated manner in abandoning free gits like mugs and mousepads in recent years. And the announcement carries extra significance because Brennan, the only leading pharm CEO to come from a background in sales rather than medicine or chemistry, is also president of the the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.
The drug industry has come under pressure recently over dealings abroad, particularly with employees of foreign public health services, including doctors. AstraZeneca and other British companies have had to contend with a new bribery act in the UK, while in the United States has been investigating big pharma under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Johnson & Johnson last month to settle British and American charges that it paid kickbacks to win business overseas. AstraZeneca itself is being investigated under FCPA for its dealings in China.
Posted by David Elkins and others at 5:43 PM