In what "appears to be a first for a major drug company," according to the New York Times, GlaxoSmithKline will stop paying doctors to promote its drugs under a new plan to be completed by 2016. The company's pharmaceutical sales reps will also no longer be paid based on how many prescriptions doctors write for Glaxo drugs. The AP calls it "a major shift" for the British company, and it's one that basically ends two controversial practices in the industry. The move comes as China investigates Glaxo for allegedly giving illegal payments to doctors and officials in an attempt to boost sales of its products, but the CEO says the decision was not related to that investigation.
The new measures "are designed to bring greater clarity and confidence that whenever we talk to a doctor, nurse, or other prescriber, it is patients’ interests that always come first," he says in a statement. "We recognize that we have an important role to play in providing doctors with information about our medicines, but this must be done clearly, transparently, and without any perception of conflict of interest." (Full statement here.) While doctors will no longer be paid to speak on Glaxo's behalf at conferences or meetings, they will still be paid consulting fees for market research. One critic of the longstanding Big Pharma marketing practices says this is a step in the right direction, but notes that Glaxo will continue to hand out "unsolicited, independent education grants" to educate doctors about its drugs, which could be a cause for concern.