WA News Letters Doctors aren’t easily bought
Doctors aren’t easily bought
Written by Milton Catelin
Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Dear Editor,

Your correspondent asks whether transparency should be expected from our public officials (August edition editorial). She draws doctors into this equation because they interact with the public. Transparency is a positive pursuit that adds useful information to improve a health care professional’s understanding of the treatments they prescribe.

What a great thing then that pharmaceutical companies have a rigorous code of conduct around their involvement with doctors – one that was not ‘ordered’ by the ACCC, but they have authorised and supports. The AMA fully supports these transparency measures too. In a recent article AMA Vice President Dr Tony Bartone said he “didn’t believe that in Australia there was any adverse impact on prescribing behaviour arising from pharmaceutical company payments or educational events.”

All MA members participate in the Code of Conduct and report on when they support doctors attending educational meetings and symposia, whether organised by companies or by another organisation. If a doctor does not want the general public to know about what support they’re receiving from a MA member, then they can’t receive support – it’s that simple.

Our Code of Conduct was one of the first to introduce these measures worldwide and many other countries have since introduced similar measures. The latest transparency measures – Edition 18 of the Code – reflects a global trend to be open and transparent about interactions with medical professionals.

Support provided to healthcare professionals is consistent with what’s needed to attend a meeting and reflects fair remuneration of speakers.

We believe, and as you’ve reiterated in your article (75% thought educational events sponsored by pharma were needed by the profession), these meetings play an important role in ensuring health care professionals can learn the latest in cutting-edge medicines and clinical treatment, which can only benefit Australian patients.

After all, shouldn’t doctors who prescribe medicines have the latest information about how they should be administered?

Since the time of the Ancient Greeks and the Hippocratic Oath, physicians have been guided by a high standard of ethics which they hold dear. The oath requires a doctor to put the patient first using their training and expertise to administer the most appropriate treatment and, importantly, to cause no harm.

It’s illogical to think that some sushi or a symposium will trump a doctor’s experience and education, or influence them into prescribing something that was not in the best interests of their patient.

Mr Milton Catelin, Chief Executive, Medicines Australia