Pharmaceutical companies paid out 6.6 million euros to doctors last year. These shocking figures emerged from a voluntary disclosure made by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, the industry body that represents the drug companies.
The money will influence how doctors prescribe drugs. There is good evidence of a conflict of interest when medical decisions are corrupted by money.
Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, has examined how drug companies make ‘donation’s for medical research and has shown how they will seek to prevent the publication of negative results of clinical trials. A review of 74 clinical trials for antidepressants, for example, found that 37 of 38 positive studies — that is, studies that showed that a drug was effective — were published. But 33 of 36 negative studies were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome.
The 6.6 million euros that the drugs companies paid out to Irish doctors does not cover the figure for research grants or for ‘consultancy’ work done by medical experts or ‘sweetners’ given to doctors for attending conferences.
Big Pharma uses these donations to promote high drug prices. A recent study by the Department of Public Sector Spending and reform found that ‘Ireland ranked among the highest in terms of pharmaceutical spend per capita’ in OECD countries.
Ireland scores very poorly on its use of generic drugs as these make up only 24% of the drug ‘market’.
There is no legislation in Ireland to force doctors to register donations they receive from the drug companies. Yet even in the USA, doctors must register such an interest under the recently passed Affordable Healthcare Act.
While this act was being discussed, the IPHA rushed in to propose a ‘voluntary disclosure system’.
But this is a farce. 1,819 individual payments to doctors out of the total of 2,837 were not disclosed.
We need a complete ban on any doctor who receives money from the public purse accepting a bribe or ‘donation’ from drug companies.
And everyone else must be legally obliged to immediately register a payment from a drug company.