GSK ends physician speaking fees

GlaxoSmithKline to End Payments to Prescribing Doctors
GlaxoSmithKline to End Payments to Prescribing Doctors

HealthDay News -- The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) says it will stop paying doctors to market its drugs at conferences and will no longer reward sales agents whose physician customers write the most prescriptions.

Monday's announcement is apparently a first for a major drug company. But other companies may be considering similar moves, The New York Times reported.

One expert called the decision a small step in the right direction. "It's a modest acknowledgment of the fact that learning from a doctor who is paid by a drug company to give a talk about its products isn't the best way for doctors to learn about those products," Jerry Avorn, MD, a professor at Harvard Medical School who has studied the industry's marketing practices, told the Times.

However, Avorn pointed out that the company still planned to offer what GSK termed in a statement "unsolicited, independent educational grants" to inform doctors about its products. This practice in the past has raised questions about whether the grant recipients -- often for-profit companies -- provide independent information.

Under GSK's new plan, which will unfold worldwide by 2016, the company will stop paying doctors to attend medical conferences on its behalf. While this practice is frowned upon in the United States, it is commonplace in other countries, according to the news report.

In the United States, the new Affordable Care Act will require all payments by pharmaceutical companies to doctors be made public starting in 2014.

Starting in 2015, GSK said, its worldwide sales staff will be paid for its service and expertise, not the number of GSK prescriptions that doctors write. The company stopped that practice in the United States in 2011, according to the Times.

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