Glaxo to stop paying doctors to promote drugs

Drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline will stop paying for doctors to attend medical conferences and scrap some sales targets as it seeks to mend its reputation in the wake of a damaging scandal over multimillion-pound bribery claims in China.

CEO Andrew Witty said the changes were about putting the needs of patients first and “meeting the wider expectations of society”, though he did not link them to the allegations.

The firm employs more than 1,600 people in five locations in Ireland including manufacturing sites in Curabinny, Co Cork, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and Co Sligo.

Glaxo said it would stop the practice of paying for healthcare professionals to speak on its behalf about products or diseases to audiences who can prescribe or influence prescribing, as well as no longer footing the bill for individuals to attend conferences.

Instead, it will pay for independent grants to “support fair, balanced and objective medical education” for healthcare professionals, with the changes expected to begin to take effect in January. It will also continue to pay fees to doctors for Glaxo-sponsored clinical research, advisory activities, and research.

Meanwhile, it will abandon individual targets for its sales staff who “work directly with prescribing healthcare professionals” and instead use reward criteria such as quality of service. and technical knowledge.

Glaxo is under pressure to repair its reputation after executives were accused of involvement in a scheme to funnel as much as £324m (€383m) through travel agencies and consultancies to bribe doctors and health officials in China.

Glaxo has expressed regret over the “shameful” alleged practices, which emerged in the summer, and were said to have been carried out to boost sales and raise the price of medicines.

Last year it was fined a total of £1.9bn to settle the largest healthcare fraud in US history as it admitted to mis-promoting two medicines — including trying to persuade doctors to prescribe an anti-depressant drug to children that was not intended for under-18s.

Mr Witty said the new measures were designed to provide “greater clarity and confidence that whenever we talk to a doctor, nurse or other prescriber, it is patients’ interests that always come first”.

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