Fed Up

Jul 18, 2007

It's official: Australian drug manufacturers will have report on all meetings they provide for healthcare professionals--and what they cost. The Australian industry, through its industry organization Medicines Australia, has been fighting the provision for almost a year, since the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) imposed it as a condition for authorizing the 15th edition of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct. Medicines Australia appealed to the Australian Competition Tribunal (ACT), which late last month ruled against the industry.

Under the new provision, members of Medicines Australia (which represents about 90 percent of the industry) must report twice a year on the type and cost of gifts, meals, and travel they give to health professionals at all educational meetings and symposia. The organization must publish the information on its Web site (omitting the names of individual professionals). It must also review the data internally.

The new rule arose in part from a report last summer that Roche Pharmaceuticals had treated a group of oncologists to a $200-a-person dinner at the tony Guillaume at Bennelong restaurant, located in Sydney's landmark Opera House. The reported $65,000 tab for the event became a public controversy--not least because the Australian government pays for some 90 percent of pharmaceuticals. In any event, Australian pharma's regulation codes were placed under intense scrutiny when the codes of conduct were up for renewal in 2006.

"This follows a trend that's been in place worldwide for the past four years or so," said analyst Todd Clark of VOI Consulting, which tracks international pharma regulation. "I don't think Australia is known for boondoggles any more than anywhere else in the world, but a bad report like the incident at Bennelong drives the need for more disclosure."

Clark said that Medicines Australia did score one win: ACT allowed the code of conduct to be approved for five years--two more years than the timeline requested by the ACCC.